Sofia, Class 2019, giving back to UWCM and living the mission

July 13, 2022

Can you please introduce yourself?

My name is Sofia but people call me Sofi. I’m Chilean and I graduated from UWC Maastricht in 2019. I currently live and study at Quest University, in Canada.

What have you been up to since graduating from UWCM?

Life was very eventful for the first semester of university. During my third week in Canada, I got into a bike accident and half of my face was paralyzed for three months. I didn’t really know people at Quest but gladly, so many of my UWC friends from Maastricht were here. Waka, Siem, Sacha, Luana, and Marion were all taking such good care of me.
Once I got better, I finally started taking classes. At that time, there was a lot of political unrest back home. Me and other people who were living outside of Chile started a database of all the videos of human right violations and started collecting them. We also started writing updates about what was happening in Chile in English and other languages. This way people could share them from outside the country and spread the word about the situation. That’s what I did for three months. It was very exhausting, looking at all this information, summarising, and translating. Then, I needed to take a step back from it because I realised that I couldn’t keep doing that and studying at the same time and I eventually decided to focus on my classes.

You have mentioned a number of times in your story that the UWC community stepped up to help which is very nice. Now, I’m curious in what ways have you been giving back to the UWC movement?

I really enjoy the UWC networking and helping out whenever possible. I’m active in different Facebook groups, I answer questions that I know the answer to every time I see someone asking. I’ve been contacted many times for interviews about my experience with activism by UWC students and alumni who are writing about social movements. Also, I’ve been helping people who are coming to Vancouver and don’t know the city and how things work around here.

What about your involvement in the Anti-Racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ARDEI) at UWC? What do you do? Why do you think that UWC needs such a group?

It is a steering group put together by UWC International focusing on anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion within the UWC movement. We are a very diverse group but at the same time all of us are alumni or teachers who are working at one of the UWC colleges. We revise policies on anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion of the different UWC schools and colleges. I was nominated by someone anonymously, and then I thought if somebody believes in me, I should be able to do something and so I applied. I decided to join this group because I have experience with activism and revising policy from my work for Amnesty International prior to coming to UWC and I think it is good way to give back to the UWC movement.

What should alumni know about this group and how can they support it?

I think it is important to know that this ARDEI group exists and is doing something, but remember that change can sometimes happen slowly. This group consists of volunteers, all of the members have other jobs, yet they are contributing with their time and energy. We are advocating for structural changes within the UWC movement and for that, we need the support of NCs, short courses, heads, tutors, staff, current students, and of course also alumni. Because even if we change the policies, if the rest of the UWC community is not on board, things are going to change very slowly.

Are there any memories or experiences from your time at UWCM that motivated you to join?

I sometimes felt uncomfortable with some comments from my peers or teachers. I wish I had someone in my NC to tell me that it’s ok to feel uncomfortable and ask me if I was feeling safe.

In what ways do you think you live the UWC mission and values?

I think that I live the mission through trusting and opening my resources and space to other people. It’s something very UWC-like. I know that any of my friends can reach out to me and be like “hey, my friend is going there but doesn’t really know anyone, can you hang out with them?” That’s something I realise that is not a default for many people, and it is one of the big things that stays with me from the UWC values. I think by trusting and believing other people, your approach to life is very different.

What would be your advice for alumni who are thinking about reconnecting with the UWC movement and giving back?

I would say spending your time and energy is worth it. At least for me, it is worth it so that the next generations can go to a UWC and enjoy their UWC experience too. Right now, being in the group that has a connection with the international office and knowing what my NC is doing, I’m like “oh wow, if all these people didn’t do their jobs, UWC wouldn’t happen.”