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

Isaac McGirr UWCM 2017

I know that my experience at UWC has enabled me to make the commitment to have a long lasting impact in the world and for its people.

My name is Isaac McGirr and I am in my second year at UWC Maastricht.  

I left home at the age of 16 for a life-changing international educational experience at United World College Maastricht, Netherlands. I have always been passionate about people, as well as being curious and adventurous.  Sadly, I didn’t receive a scholarship to attend a UWC, but because my family was so committed to the ethos, values and potential impact of the UWC, they have done all they can to enable me to be part of this astonishing movement.  Now, I live with over 100 nationalities, with different political views, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I know I was accepted because of the alignment of my values with UWC’s values. I live and breathe these every day.  I have learnt on my own how to balance studying for my IB with extra-curricular activities and community work. I throw myself into sports- football, street hockey, basketball. I am part of the Environmental Action Group: a sustainable future is important to me and I run Global Cafe giving people opportunity to discuss global issues.

I am fascinated by people and culture, and UWC is a melting pot of diversity. I observe people's body language and actions, comparing them to mine or others. I then ask- why? Why is someone acting like that, what are the deeper motives and reasons behind it, how much of this is environmental, cultural or political? What impact does this person have on our globalized world? When I set out to discover answers to questions like this, I learn the most interesting things. Questions are important but I have learnt that solutions are too. UWC has allowed me to develop as a social entrepreneur who is creative and is able to think outside of the box. I founded a project called The Journey, a publication that contains stories, poems, paintings and photos, by and about refugees. In particular, their unexpected journey to Europe. This social enterprise uses the proceeds from sales of the publication to meet the needs of those caught up in the refugee crisis. In addition, it helps Europeans understand the circumstances of the arrival of refugees in their country and the hardships they've experienced. In doing so, I seek a long-term impact by increasing acceptance and cooperation between the people of Europe and refugees. I have spent the last year gathering content for the book - interviewing refugees, contacting organisations and getting involved with a local refugee centre as well as working in a refugee camp in Serbia. I have made many friends along the way and I have big hopes for the project and am now building it sustainably.

I have had a number of leadership roles at UWC. I am now 1 of a 5 person elected Student Council. I have led initiatives to improve student's lives (including the redesign and development of food provision - essential in a residential setting) and to bring the UWC values into action. This has developed my organisational skills and my ability to work in a team for example, in recommending a new Principle to the Board, a duty that would affect students for years to come.
 
I have now been awarded a scholarship for the gap year program, Global Citizen Year, which I am honoured to receive. It allows me to live in Ecuador, contribute to local projects and experience the culture first hand.  I then plan to return to the UK to study sustainable global development - I am glad to say that I have offers from four world class universities. I know that my experience at UWC has enabled me to make the commitment to have a long lasting impact in the world and for its people. For that, I am ceaselessly grateful. 

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