Alum Lochlann doing a master’s in ToK

December 11, 2023


Please introduce yourself!

I am Lochlann and I am from Ireland. I graduated from UWC Maastricht in 2016, which now feels like a very long time ago. 

If you think of UWCM, what comes to your mind? 

I would say, for some reason, the air. I know it sounds very weird but it felt very cold and misty most of the time, very atmospheric. The island and its architecture combined with the mist made it feel like an empty canvas for us to create something new. I also remember cycling to town and the cold and also the warm and sunny days and the turbulence and the angst of the time when one is a teenager. 

And of course, I think of the people, the friendships, the sense of community and especially how it felt remarkably isolated and at the same time connected to the surroundings. I remember the closeness with each other. Also, I appreciated being close to the countryside as well as the city of Maastricht. It is very symbolic as the UWCM campus was really this inbetween space where something was happening all the time. 

What do you miss the most?

I was recently talking with my co-years and friends Roan and Lucas about this. At UWC,  you are with the same group of people for each of the years and you live so close to each other in the rather small space. You bump into each other all the time, there are all these random yet intense conversations and interactions. There is such a strong sense of community. After the two years, it ends so quickly as all the people fly all across the world. I miss the people I really care about, I want them to be in my life but we can’t have that as much as we’d like because of the geography. I miss the spontaneity and independence we were given as teenagers. For many of us it was the first time we were given such independence. We learned that if we wanted something to happen, it was in our hands to make it happen. We were creating our very own UWC experience. 

What have you been up to since graduation?

Following my graduation from UWCM, I studied philosophy in Edinburgh, Scotland, for 4 years. While I was there, I gradually became interested in education, and social sciences. I felt that I wanted to do something useful rather than just studying ancient Greek man and what they said. I got introduced to interesting approaches such as feminist and social philosophy and explored how one can use philosophical skills for socially consequential things. I then spent one year at UWC Atlantic as a co-coordinator of the Lighthouse programme which focused on systematising the school’s support for students’ project ideas, promoting skills relating to project management and social entrepreneurship, as well as awarding significant funding to promising projects.  Then I moved to London for the Teach First programme and now I am starting my masters in education focused on knowledge, power and politics. I often add that it’s basically a masters in ToK and that I haven’t made much progress at all.

How have you been living the UWC mission? 

In my second year at UWCM, I discovered Teach First thanks to a presentation given by Rebecca Warren, an alum from UWC AC who used to work at UWCM. I still vividly remember sitting in the Atrium and thinking “wow, that’s cool”. It was on hold for a while but once I finished my undergrad studies, I decided to indeed apply for Teach First which for me has been one of the ways I continued to live the UWC mission and values and really put it all to a test. I was very keen to get some real experience, which was really important for me personally, because of how comparatively sheltered I had been until that point. I say that I care about social inequality and fairness but I had been mostly reading about it in books and talking about it than actually knowing what it really is about. This changed when I , thanks to Teach First, moved to London and was placed in a school in the very north of London in a comprehensive school that was part of a multi-academy trust with a very diverse and socially challenged student population. It was a wonderful journey that taught me a lot about myself and the world. I  finished the programme in July 2023. Right now I am in Cambridge doing my masters in education and I am enormously grateful that I first got to try out what it is like to teach a bunch of kids. I am thinking about later on going into the direction of policy but I would also be happy to return to teaching. 

In what ways have you been giving back to the UWC movement? 

I actually returned to the UWCM campus a couple of times. I came back to Maastricht to facilitate Critical Engagement and I also volunteered for the ELL UWCM summer school in 2017. 

In addition, I got to spend a year at UWC Atlantic College as a part of the Lighthouse programme during the COVID times. It was then that the AC campus became a bubble and although life there mostly went on as usual, it was still fairly challenging. However, my time there really helped me to learn more about education and how it could be combined with the sustainable development goals. I also appreciated that I was being useful and could give a different perspective to the current students there while I was still rather close to them in age. And, I also got to teach some ToK while there.  

When I think about my national committee, I feel like I am not doing enough. I helped with selections in 2018 when I was around and available. The last two years when I was with Teach First were very intense. I hope that now, or after I complete my masters, I will have more flexibility and will be able to reconnect with the NC. I am really interested in helping to diversify the applicant pool in the UK and Ireland as these are the two contexts that I know and understand. 

What would you recommend to alumni who wish to reconnect with the movement but are not sure how to go about it? 

I would say that if any alumni feel like education might be their thing and want to learn more about the ‘real world’, I recommend that they look into the Teach First programme or its version in their own country. It is a wonderful way to keep living the UWC mission and really have an impact on a community. It is a fantastic programme, and I have grown immensely from this experience. I am a much better person, more humble and realistic and a lot less naive about things like the UWC values. In a way, if you think about it, there are only a few thousand UWC students in the schools and colleges each year, but there are hundreds of millions of children in national education systems. It was so invaluable for me to be in the front lines of education and be incredibly challenged and at times not knowing what it is that I am doing but still persisting and doing my best to teach the students and contribute to improving their lives.  One last but important reflection I have is that one of the main ways those years in Maastricht made me a better person was by encouraging me to view the world through a critically constructive lens and by asking questions like “how can systems be made more inclusive and fair?”. So rather than exempting UWC from this, I think that when wondering how we can give back to the UWC movement it’s essential that we do so through such a lens and by asking these kinds of questions.