My Journey From a Small City to a Bigger World|My UWC Story
My Journey From a Small City to a Bigger World|My UWC Story

I am Sam Ma, a DP2 student currently studying at UWC Changshu China. I come from a small but beautiful coastal city in the northern part of China - Qinhuangdao in Hebei Province.


"Where is UWC located? How did you get in?" "Where're you going after graduation? " In my hometown, no matter with whom I'm chatting, whether my neighbors, old friends, or relatives, inquiries like these are very common. In Qinhuangdao, "world" is still a vague and abstract concept for most people, and "united" is nothing more than a specific term used in news broadcasts. Everyone in this small town lives a comfortable, yet slightly homely life.



Subtly influenced by the environment around me, when the kids in metropolitan cities were learning a variety of foreign languages and doing STEM projects, I was still thinking about how to sneak out from my classroom to play table tennis. When straight-A-students in Beijing and Shanghai had passed rigorous tests and entered nationally renowned academies, I was standing at the gate of my new middle school, praying that I would be accepted by a high school after graduation. At that time, the future I was drawing for myself was: get a high school diploma, find a stable job, stay in this small town and enjoy life.

  • Representing UWC, winning 2nd place in Envirothon competition, (author, 1st on the right)


While I was at the 2nd year of my secondary school, one teacher's words inspired me to step out of my small town. "As a man we always should walk into the distance and explore the world." My curiosity and imagination of the world motivated me to pursue a bigger dream. Upon my graduation from middle school, I not only reached the goal of "being accepted by a high school", but also received unconditional admissions from all the top 5 prestigious high schools of Hebei Province. This truly mattered a lot to me as now doors opened for me to explore much bigger cities, away from my hometown. Shanghai and Suzhou were no longer just cities on postcards I collected, they were destinations on an ever broadening horizon.


My high school life went smoothly. Out of the blue, a school named UWC caught my attention and its unique mission and values were so appealing to me. I curiously attended an Info Session organized by the Admission Office of UWC Changshu China to get to know more about UWC. At the end of the session, many other attendees walked to the Admission Officer, Tim, and talked to him in fluent English, but, due to my introverted personality and weakness in oral English, I just stayed at the corner of the room. However, some remarks during the presentation encouraged me to apply for UWC: "UWC would also be happy with accepting applicants who are from ordinary background but are ambitious and aspiring." I kept those words in my heart, and believed that I was the type of person who will be a good fit for the UWC movement. I was surprised that I received an offer from UWC Changshu China in the spring of 2017. I felt so lucky!
  • In a basketball match


Perhaps many people might think that entering UWC was a perfect ending of my story: from a small coastal town, I went to bigger cities in China, and finally became a global citizen. In fact, I would say, entering UWC marked only the beginning of my story. UWC inspired me to start bringing this vast world to thousands of Chinese teenagers from ordinary background, students who are just like me.

  • Performing at Chinese Cultural Evening 2019 (CCE)


Before UWC, I worked hard in order to improve myself and get myself an opportunity to see the bigger world. Studying in UWC, my goal is not only to be a better person myself, but also to share what I've discovered and learned with thousands of teenagers, who don't have access to high-quality education resources. In addition to my academics, I have joined, organized, and led various "Zhi Xing"(learning through doing) activities. The extracurricular experiences have enriched my school life and taught me to learn as much from my mistakes as from my successes.


I remember during the orientation week, Kokming Lee, Dean of Studies talked about UWC's mission with pride. What resonated most with me was UWC's esteem for social responsibility. The education I previously had received for more than a decade had been more advocating "using education to change my own destiny", and I had therefore paid too much attention to my achievements and my own status, without much empathy for others. UWC's diverse student body gave me the opportunity to directly and truly understand the joys and sorrows of people from every corner of the world, and feel strongly that we can contribute our bit to making the world a better place. UWC's education encourages us to "get out of the comfort zone" and to learn by doing. I spent my vacation time to do internships in the non-government charity organization "Love Save Pneumoconiosis" as a means to put my sense of social responsibility into practice. 

  • Giving a speech to students at Siyuan School during the Project Week


In November 2018, after the Project Week in Henan Siyuan Schools, located in relatively poor regions of China, I was moved to do more. With the purpose of having a long-term influence on the kids there, my classmates and I successfully created the "Siyuan Inspirational Education Platform". We were able to record online courses for thousands of Siyuan students to watch and learn from online. Recollecting my previous education experiences, I realized that although I have built solid foundation on some basic subjects, such as Chinese and mathematics, I have hardly learned anything on humanistic sensibilities and civic responsibilities, nor gained an appreciation for arts. Moreover, teenagers in small and underdeveloped places may face difficulties when developing their systematic methodologies of studying since there won't be that much guidance for them from their immediate environment. In response to these disadvantages, I have designed series of courses with different topics for students to choose from, including but not limited to: existentialism and contemporary society, environmental philosophy and civic responsibility, visual art and the colorful world, and let seniors help you —— sharing successful methodologies of learning & test taking of middle school subjects. Course contents are clear and understandable, which have attracted tens of thousands of viewers. All the courses I run are under the theme "inspiring change". They aren't confined to textbooks, nor do they just rigidly provide knowledge. They focus more on inspiring students and broadening their horizons. 

  • Giving an online class to Siyuan students


UWC education encourages me to pursue a sense of idealism, and enables small-town teenagers like me to have the courage to embrace a bigger world. I'm eager to share what I have learned in this diversified community with those teenagers living in small places, and encourage them to dream big. UWC has taken me to a bigger world, and I'm bringing the bigger world back to my coastal small town.