Critical Engagement 2022 by UWCM alumni

December 13, 2022

Just as every year the first year students, the Year 12 students as we call them now, went through the Critical Engagement (CE) experience in October. This year there were 4 UWC Maastricht alumni in the facilitator team: Siem van de Kar (2018), Xinge X Ju (2020), Tina Alise Drupa (2018) and Hazel Mehta (2018). We were lucky to get to talk with X and Gana (UWC Adriatic 2018) about their experience with CE as their way of giving back to the UWC movement.


You just finished facilitating the Critical Engagement (CE) at UWCM, before we talk about what CE actually is, can you please tell us who you are.

X: I am X, it’s obviously not my real name but I go by X. I graduated from UWC Maastricht in 2020 and currently I am studying fashion design in Florence, Italy. And this was my third time doing the CE programme.

G: My name is Gana, I am from Bulgaria. I attended UWC Adriatic in Italy and graduated in 2018. I then moved to the Netherlands to study a bachelor programme focused on international development studies, and I graduated in September 2022. It is my fifth time delivering the CE, and third time at UWC Maastricht.


Please tell those of us who do not know – what is Critical Engagement?

G: Let me give you a brief explanation, the more extensive one can be easily found on the CE website, the programme started about 13 years ago by a couple of alumni from UWC Atlantic. They felt that sometimes it is difficult for UWC students to navigate topics such as diversity and social responsibility and dealing with the challenge of understanding who you really are once you meet so many people that are different from you.

X: I believe that their initial aim was to put experiential education regarding the UWC values in practice. CE gives a different, fresh, platform to talk about a number of often difficult topics and for some students it serves as a valuable conversation starter as indeed many talks continue later on in the common rooms or in the mensa in the evenings.


What is your motivation for repeatedly joining CE and donating your free time?

X: I believe that it is a valuable experience. When I was a student, I missed half of the CE because I was sick but then when I was talking with my friends I was really sad that I did not get the full experience. However, I only fully understood the importance of CE when I became one of the CE facilitators at UWC Changshu China. In my opinion,  it was there where it was especially important to bring students’ focus to the topics of identity, social responsibility, etc. as many students there are more interested in the solely academic part of the UWC experience. It was wonderful to see there how the students suddenly started to care and showed interest in the discussions. It led to some meaningful and ever so important conversations among the students.

G: For me UWC is such an important part of my life, UWC gave me so much and this is my way of giving back to what the UWC community gave me. Coming to a UWC campus  is always coming to my happy place, I love the energy, meeting the students and facilitators. It is also so interesting to see how the different generations of students change, for example the students who I interacted with at UWC Maastricht this past week use terms that I learned about only once when I was at university.


Would you recommend other alumni to join CE and also become facilitators?

X: You should join if you are passionate about the movement. It is the passion that drives us to do this, nothing else. It is not skills or academic expertise. We have some facilitators with experience in social justice, but for example I study fashion design and still very much enjoy delivering the programme and being part of the CE team. It is also a nice way to take a break from your post-UWC world and reconnect with other UWCers and like minded people with similar values

G: To be fair, it is not an easy programme, the facilitation can be challenging. At the end of the day, you work with teenagers. Although they are UWC teenagers, they are still teenagers. In a nutshell, join if you are passionate, like to try new things and you want to come back to the UWC movement.