Lydia Bernard-Jones - UWCM 2015
Leaving home for the first time to attend United World College Maastricht, I cannot count the number of times I was asked by family and friends in Sierra Leone how it felt to live in Europe, miles and miles away from home. They expected me to comment on the quality of life: there is constant electricity and water supply; the education system is much better; and I enjoy fast and unlimited access to the internet. I often added that the weather is cold – so-o-o-o cold!! These are all true but the most impactful aspect of my UWC experience which has made the IB worth bearing has been my exposure to students from diverse cultures and our shared urge to change the world.
I have been exposed to students who have had first-hand experience of some of the most remarking events in the world. I have explored the Iraqi conflict with an Iraqi who grew up in the midst of it all, learned about the El Salvadorian war which I had never heard about before and had to explain over and over again that the Sierra Leonean war ended 10 years ago. These highlights I’ve experienced through UWC also rank alongside some seemingly small moments like the astonishment I felt when I met a Syrian who was a Christian and spoke Arabic and an African who could not dance to save her life. These little stories as we say "from the horses’ mouth" have challenged my world view at once confirming and breaking stereotypes. There is no simple truth about the world we live in. I got to meet people from so many countries under one umbrella - UWC, and hear their stories, all of which are similar and quite different from what I expected.
Aside from how challenging the IB was, my proudest moments at UWC Maastricht were doing my extended essay in Chemistry and donating 14 boxes worth of clothing, toiletries and books to children orphaned by the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, both which would not have been possible without the support of my school community. Attending UWC Maastricht, in The Netherlands, has been the biggest change and the best change in my life. I am currently at Skidmore College hoping to continue making an impact in my community, to make the world a better place.