If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.
Then he becomes your partner
Nelson Mandela

UWC Maastricht Alumni

Aoife Fleming - UWCM 2016

“The ability to discuss world issues with peers who have first-hand information was eye-opening and very encouraging.”

I am Aoife Fleming, an 18-year old Irish/Brazilian girl who considers herself to be Dutch. I would like to tell you a little about my journey at UWC Maastricht.

The UWC education system that has changed the course my life has taken so far:
Three years ago I started at UWC Maastricht in the Middle Years Programme after coming from a Dutch national education system. As you might expect the difference was large. Despite both schools being located not more than 3 km apart the opportunities provided were completely different. Starting at UWC in the MYP initially meant taking a break for me. From having at least 5 tests a week I now was in a class where tests were rare and knowing facts off by heart even rarer. This change made me worry first whether what I was doing in school was actually valuable, the first few weeks I felt like I didn’t learn anything. But then after a few months I started to see that the team-based projects, presentations, discussions and critical thinking were far more emphasised than I would have ever experienced in my previous school. And of course I started to realize that this is where the power of the IB, and especially UWC model lies. The ability to discuss world issues with peers who have first-hand information was eye-opening and very encouraging. I took part in the debate club, the MUN conferences and I gave a speech at the TEDxYouth@Maastricht event. Starting the diploma programme meant even more excitement to meet so many new students and start new discussions.

One of these discussions during a social entrepreneurship programme that I was selected for led to the agreement that in UWC’s mission statement “a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future” the sustainable part was often left off, despite its roots in many conflicts around the world. Two friends and I agreed that something had to be changed about this and so we decided that a Youth Environmental Sustainability Conference (YES-Conference) should be established within the school. About a year later, the weekend before the start of COP21 this resolution came true. Together with a small group of first years we held a two-day conference for students of UWCM as well as other UWCs nearby. The conference resulted in small-scale change; many students took up various challenges from not using the tumble dryer to becoming vegetarian.

The YES-Conference was one of the projects that initiated me to think more about the humanities rather than the natural sciences, which my academics have been very focused on. As a matter of fact I am hoping to study international relations at IE University in Madrid next year, in order to continue exploring new perspectives, talk about global issues and slowly build towards having a bigger positive impact in the world. Without a UWC education this would have never happened and I am truly grateful for the opportunity that I have been given. I will not let it go to waste, and hope to give back one day what has been given to me.

March 2016
Aoife received the “Davis-Mahindra International Scholar” award in 2016 and will be studying for her undergraduate degree at IE University in Spain.

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