Sahar Thomson, Class 2016

March 24, 2022

Sahar Thomson, Class 2016

Sahar, your co-year Tomasz Bazant who was featured in the last alumni newsletter, nominated you for an interview because of your work on the Global Citizen Year.

Before we talk about that, can you please introduce yourself for those who have not met you while at UWCM?

My name is Sahar. I was born and raised on St Maarten in the Dutch Caribbean. I left the island when I was 16 to go to UWC Maastricht and I graduated from there in 2016. In my head I never imagined I would be returning back to St Maarten because it always seemed that life is happening everywhere else but 7 years after I left I find myself here again and I loving it.


What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of UWC Maastricht? 

I am trying not to overthink it… I think the first thing that comes to my mind  is “community”! I am an only child and  it was in Maastricht when I was for the first time surrounded by people of my age all the time. I really had to learn how to be with people 24/7 in such a large community and that’s what I eventually loved about the experience the most. I often miss the big fun family of UWCM. 


What is your most fond memory of your time at UWC Maastricht? 

There are many little moments and memories from UWCM that I treasure. I really enjoyed that I could really be myself there, that I could laugh and cry in front of and together with the people around me. I remember the first time I cried in front of my good friend and roommate Aniba and the way she showed support by patting my shoulder. At UWC I knew that when I am sad, someone will show up and make me laugh. I ended up laughing so much in that situation with Aniba. It’s the little moments like this that I loved the most about my time at UWCM.


What have you been up to since graduating from UWC Maastricht? 

I initially did a gap year with the Global Citizen Year as I was fortunate to receive a scholarship to go to Ecuador. I stayed there with a host family in a rural community and only spoke Spanish for a year. While there I did an apprenticeship on a farm run solely by local women and then in a small local high school where I taught English. Ecuador was a place where I was confronted with my ego because I was the only new person in the community, there was nobody else who looked like me and this experience has really taught me a lot. 

The reason I took the gap year was because we often spent the first 18 years of our life somewhat going with the flow, we do what they tell us, and I just wanted some time to pause and reflect on who I was and where I was heading in my life. It was great to have this time to process the things that I had in my head after UWC like the amazing network and all the things and concepts that I learned inside and outside of the classroom. 

After the gap year, I went to Quest University in Canada. I thought that it would be the easiest transition because I spoke English and used to watch a lot of North American TV but how wrong I was, it was actually the hardest move of all. It was not like UWC where everyone is away from home for the first time and super welcoming and kind. Somehow most of my friends in Canada eventually ended up being UWCers too. I finished my studies in Quest in December 2020 and after doing an internship I got a job online with the Global Citizen Year.  


Could you please tell us more about GCY? 

Global Citizen Year is a structured gap year opportunity which gives young people from the USA or UWC a pause after their graduation to think about who they are and how they want to contribute to the world. As I said earlier, at UWC we touch upon so many big topics and concepts but do not always have the time to fully explore them and the GCY gave me this much needed time. In my third year at university, I got back in touch with GCY, started interning with them and eventually started working for them mostly focusing on the GCY Academy. The GCY Academy includes all the leadership and mentorship components in a 3 months-long online programme which is open to anyone in the world from the age of 17 to 21 years old, so some of the younger UWCM alumni should definitely check it out! 


In what way have you kept the UWC spirit alive since graduation? 

The mission of GCY is very close to that of UWC as also GCY values sustainability and equity. I continue to appreciate the intercultural discussions with students in the GCY programme. And I enjoy being part of a community which wants to reimagine education and give young people an opportunity to broaden their perspective of what the world could be. My UWC time was a great preparation for my work. One of the things I learned in Maastricht and I now use every day is the ability to be open to global perspectives and find ways to celebrate this diversity in a meaningful way. It might sound like a cliche but it is so true


Have there been any other ways how you stayed connected with the UWC movement?.  

I also worked for the national committee of UWC the Netherlands for a bit right after my UWC graduation, helping them with fundraising. It was interesting to see how much time and effort goes into securing scholarships for UWC students. While in Canada I attended a number of UWC gatherings. And right now I am working on a video for the Dutch NC on how to apply to UWC and how to have a global network. I will share it once it’s ready! 🙂