The Transformative Power of UWC Education|My UWC StoryIssue date：2020-06-10
The Class of 2020 is a very special class. Given the many difficulties and challenges due to the pandemic, you could not spend the last semester on the beautiful campus as planned, and celebrate your graduation together with all your classmates and teachers you love so much. Nevertheless, you still look back with gratitude and look forward to your new journey with optimism. No matter where you go or what you will do with many uncertainties ahead, wish you can continue to pursue your dreams and exert your influence for world peace and a sustainable future.
In this unusual graduation season, Joy, a member of Class of 2020 of UWC Changshu China shared her reflections on UWC education. Joy is passinoate for linguistics, and UWC provides her with an excellent environment to pursue her passion. Joy's efforts, dedication and all round growth enabled her to receive offers from prestigious universities, including Northwestern University, Duke University, Cornell University and Cambridge University.
Class of 2020
Is this the end?
Staring into the small phone screen while a classsmate of mine was packing for me in my dorm, I kept asking myself. The duct tape creaked, as if reluctantly sealing all my memories and belongings at UWC into this cardboard box. The sunshine and guitar strums kept lingering. I know I can't go back to that time, but my UWC experience will always help me to move forward into the unknown.
My five years at a Chinese public school before UWC were a fulfilling yet tiring experience. Top GPA was the only goal. No "distracting" music. No "useless" accent studies. No books "beyond the syllabi." My life was filled with endless facts and figures, words and phrases. The sense of achievement was more solid than ever, but I knew something was missing. I was looking for something exciting beyond repetition and confined boxes even when writing creative essays.
And UWC came up to me and put an end to this unstoppable surf in the robotic learning. Almost two years later, I am still surprised at the transformative power of UWC life. I was introduced to a realm of diverse perspectives and critical thinking, a world where I could truly be myself.
I still vividly remember the first English FOA for my English Language and Literature class. I chose a news article on Argentina's abortion laws as my primary text. Normally, this kind of analysis is only feasible from an academic perspective, which means all content comes from online research and personal interpretation. However, at UWC, academic exploration is not limited to textbooks and the Internet. Topics like abortion rights have become our everyday conversations.
On an ordinary evening, I sat down on the floor with classmates from all over the world for a workshop on abortion. I listened carefully to my Irish and Argentine classmates, absorbing stories of abortion in their countries. It was the first time that I realized the seemingly distant countries and news reports can be so alive and close to my heart.
Before my FOA presentation, I even borrowed a green handkerchief representing "Pro-life" from an Argentine classmate. I wanted to convey these stories as vividly and clearly as possible to my audience, an important lesson I learned from my time at UWC.
Learning by doing
As many UWCers say, UWC life starts as soon as IB classes end every day. This is the start of Zhi Xing activities and time for our passions. Throughout the two years, I was glad to enjoy this freedom, especially in the world of music and linguistics.
Choir ‘the Moon Represents my Heart’
At UWC's choir, I had a new understanding of "nation" and "world." My most memorable performance was a Kenyan song: not the final performance, but the process of understanding the lyrics and rehearsing with friends every stump and clap. I also remember sharing my own culture with choir members who don't speak Chinese. As I was teaching them the pronunciation of a Chinese song, the Moon Represents my Heart. I gradually came to realize the uniqueness of UWC's diversity in songs that represent one distinctive culture. During each performance, everyone wears their national costume, but these different colors and cultures represent the world's harmony as we put together one performance. "Of the nation, of the world."
Besides world music, UWC also gives me the freedom to create and discuss music with my friends or to sing alone behind my curtain. I will never forget the evenings when quirky ideas became reality, the impromptu chord progressions in my dorm, and the happiness and sadness hidden in our music. After almost having to give up music for several years, I could finally pick up the creativity and emotions at UWC and open up to the world with them.
International Linguistic Olympiad
What I value the most in my time at UWC is the Linguistics Zhi Xing. I have always wanted to use linguistics to explore and share the link between languages and cultures. However, linguistics is not a popular subject, so our promotion is practically harder than any other Zhi Xings. When I took over the Linguistics Zhi Xing, there were less than ten members, most of whom were here to prepare for the International Linguistics Olympiad instead of learning linguistics. We had great competition results, but there was an ignorance of actual linguistics knowledge.
Starting from last August, I tried my best to promote the Zhi Xing and revolutionize our activity content. On the first Zhi Xing session, I was surprised and touched to see more than 20 students in the classroom. I became more prompted to prepare for linguistic lectures for my Zhi Xing members.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, I have been organizing a linguistics competition open to the public with other linguistics fans, aiming to add cultural diversity into the study of linguistics. Difficult as this path is, I am grateful that UWC empowered me to dive deep into what I love.
Academic freedom and resources
The IB curriculum allowed me to freely explore diverse subjects and studying methods, and the academic resources that UWC gave me made my IB journey exciting and fulfilling. I chose UWC in the first place because of my love for languages and cultures. I wanted to be immersed in a multi-cultural setting while being able to approach my native language, Mandarin, from an international perspective. I was also longing for an opportunity to continue French, a language I'd been studying for five years. UWC was a perfect match for me.
UWC presented me with all education possibilities. At first, students couldn't choose three languages at the same time because of a clash in our timetable. However, after negotiation with the academic department, this unusual academic combination was made possible. Thanks to this, I was more driven to explore my academic passions.
My lovely teachers made my IB life exciting and memorable, and I learned much more than textbook knowledge with them. Up till now, every thought-provoking conversation with my Chinese teacher Stacey still leaves me a deep impression. In and outside of the classroom, she always tried to bring new perspectives to the study of language and literature. I also remember being at the library after check to attend my Chemistry teacher Nian's study sessions. I could finally step out of the "French" way of learning the French language, thanks to my Mauritian teacher Nadine who brought me to the entire Francophone world. My Geography teacher Cassie always brought her understanding of UWC and global education to our classes. I would also like to thank Anto, Pippa, Teodora, Li Dan Laoshi, my house mentor Manjusha, my college counselor Martyn, and my advisor Shi Jian Laoshi. I can't imagine my IB journey without their help and care.
In our last Chinese class, Stacey invited us to look back and into the future and asked us thought provoking questions about UWC experience, about education and about life long learning. Covid-19 coincides with our once-in-a-life-time graduation and final exam, adding more twists to my UWC experience. Alone at home, listening to those familiar voices, all their faces came up to my mind as little fragments of UWC. Friends and classmates, roommates and teachers, ayis and nurses…… My UWC experience was complete because of them, even though it ended so abruptly due to the coronavirus.
In the past application season, all these stories came through naturally in my college essays. Eventually, I got accepted to colleges such as Northwestern, Duke, Cambridge, Cornell, etc, and I chose Northwestern to continue all my passions.
As I look into the future, I believe that the sense of idealism that UWC gave me will always accompany me as I fly farther away.