Minouka Kuipers - UWCM 2016
Coming to and leaving UWC is kind of the same thing. You arrive not really knowing what you are getting yourself into, stepping out of a comfort zone into a whole new and different world. When you leave, you have to step out of a zone again, yet now you have grown up as a person, taking so many experiences with you that allow you to see the world a little differently than before.
That is what my UWC experience was like for me. A change in perspective, growing as a person, learning from others, becoming more open-minded and making long-lasting friendships with people from across the world.
One of the most surprising things I experienced in my first months at UWC (as a MYP student) was that nobody judges you for who you are. Coming from a school in the Ardennes (Belgium) where looks and “correct behaviour” were very important, UWC finally made me feel more accepted. It does not matter whether your hair is pink, whether you are gay or believe abortion is a good thing. People will accept your opinions. Yes, they may challenge you in thinking more carefully about your thoughts but they will never judge you for believing what you believe.
Although, I did not speak any English before coming to UWC and this was an extreme challenge both socially and academically, I am still surprised about how quickly I have been able to adapt to it. I also realised how apart from the struggles the IB program brings, it also gives you a different insight as the knowledge you learn about is not simply a theory you will never apply but it is information you are intrigued and interested in.
The most important thing I learnt during my time as a UWC student is the ongoing battle between me and the 24 hour cycle in a day. There simply was never enough time to do all the things I wanted and needed to do. From homework to CAS, from self-organised projects to weekly conferences and events, from quality time with family and friends to sleeping enough hours at night. However, I am incredibly happy that I have taken part in them and I am proud of what I have accomplished during my 4 year experience. It is something I would have definitely not been able to do at any other school.
In the near future, I hope to inspire more people to join the UWC movement by telling them about my experiences and by showing them what I have gained from it.
I do not think I would be able to go into the world like I am going today if I had not been at UWC, as a critical thinker, a person who will always keep pushing herself further, celebrate difference, fight for climate change, care for others, cross borders and always keep growing as a person by taking up challenges.