Anna Petraskova UWCM 2016
It is hard to remember the person I was when I arrived at UWC Maastricht in August 2014. Throughout the two years of UWC experience and the nearly a year of adventures after it, that person has explored and struggled and grown into who she is now - a person who has friends across the world, managed to travel a half of it and is determined to make at least a piece of it a better place. If UWC Maastricht was not for two years the place I lived and studied at, the person in this paragraph could hardly be me.
UWC Maastricht has given me a great push into the life of an active citizen – the best push I could have ever asked for. When I arrived at UWC Maastricht in August 2014, I expected to find a perfect place consisting of perfect people and perfect both academic and social life. I did not find any of these but instead of that unrealistic perfection, I found something even more valuable – an environment in which people support each other to improve their communities and in which people never stop striving for that perfection, even if a small step towards it is the maximum that’s possible to achieve. I was lucky enough to live and study at UWC Maastricht when there were many initiatives already established but also at time during which many new ones were born – Student Council, Global Café, CAS Support Team and many others. I saw many positive changes occurring in my own community - UWC community, which gave me the inspiration to make a positive change in the places I get to be in the future. Thanks to opportunities like social entrepreneurship training programme and the many insightful talks of active UWC alumni, I also got practical skills and ideas on how to go about making an impact.
Having the opportunity to meet people from all over the world was the source of the second greatest impact of UWC Maastricht on my life. Living and studying with people of different nationalities has made me both more aware and more empathetic of issues occurring in countries other than my own. It might sound like a terrible cliché that every UWC alumni says but I cannot emphasize enough how important the core idea of UWC movement was in shaping my perspective on the world and in determining my future role in it. The vision of UWC movement may sometimes seem vague and too idealistic but from my experience, I can only say that I am convinced that if more people had the opportunity to interact with people from outside of their communities, this world would be a much better place.
My two amazing years at UWC Maastricht have ended nearly a year ago but the exciting life-long journey of exploration and learning has only began. I took a gap year and ended up having another truly transformative year of my life. I got the chance to work and volunteer back home in the Czech Republic, catch up with my friends and family and reconnect with myself by taking some time on my own. Thanks to the Davis Scholarship for UWC students, I have had the incredible opportunity to participate in Semester at Sea, which is a study abroad university programme lasting for three and a half months and consisting of studying on a ship and travelling to ten different countries around the world. Thanks to this programme, I have had the opportunity to see and experience some of the countries my UWC friends come from and increased my understanding of the issues these countries are dealing with. It has made me feel truly grateful for all the opportunities I have had in my life and it turned my motivation to make an impact into a permanent feeling of the need to make this world a better place.
In the upcoming Fall, I will be starting my next life chapter at Northwestern University in the USA. I often realize this statement would again not be referring to me if it was not for the generous Davis Scholarship and for my two years at UWC Maastricht. However, I will not leave this realization just hanging in the air. Instead, I plan to use it to keep striving for creating an impact and making this world a better place. I will look forward to seeing all of you during that exciting journey!