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How can there be peace without people understanding each other, and how can this be if they don’t know each other?

Lester B.Pearson

Early supporter of Pearson College, former Prime Minister of Canada, and Nobel Peace Laureate

The striking feature of the UWC is that they embrace the entire world. They are unique and they are conscious of their responsibilities.

Nelson Mandela

Late Honorary President of UWC, Former President of South Africa

We have realized our dream to create a dream school for you. Please go out and realize your dream and other’s dreams.

Wesley Chiu,

Member of UWC National Committee of China, board member of UWC Changshu China

The sense of idealism and a purposeful life really makes the UWC experience unique and its impact life-long.

Wang Yi

Co-Founder, Vice Chairman of Board and Executive Director of Harvard Centre Shanghai. Pearson 89-91

UWC was one of the ten members of the international schools association that created the International Baccalaureate Organization in Geneva in 1963 … today, they are taken in over 4,000 schools worldwide and have become the gold standard for university entrance.

Sir John Daniel

Chair of UWC International Board and International Council 

I regard it as the foremost task of education to ensure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self-denial and above all, compassion.

Kurt Hahn

German Educator, Founder of United World Colleges

Education Changes My Life

Issue date:2023-09-27

My story is humble. I embarked on the journey with nothing but sincerity and passion.   Throughout the journey, I have been given so much help and surrounded by so many warm-hearted people, I would like to takethis chance to express my gratitude to those who not only inspired me to pursuemy dream but also provided me with the strength and support along myjourney. Because of you, step by step I am going forward tosuch a faraway destination I could never have imagined.

I come from a village of the Yi ethnic minorityin Daliang Mountain, Sichuan Province, southwest China. When electricity was installed in my cityfive years ago, paraffin lamps were phased out of use. With the opening of roads two years ago motorbikes and tricycles replaced horses.


Farming with my family

I felt so grateful to have the chance to study at UWC Changshu China and upon graduation, memories of all the kindness, love, struggles, and appreciation from my journey flooded my mind like a dream.

1. Choice

When I was at Grade 9, I learned about UWC through ShanghaiBloom Education Foundation, and I began to explore a path that was very new to me. I gradually became fascinated by UWC's unique educational philosophy and what was sure to be a challenging life. I decided to start applying.

The support provided by UWC Changshu China and the Shanghai Bloom Educational Foundation made it possible for me to be shortlisted to participate in the Selection Day for the final round of selection. This was the first time I stepped out of the Daliang Mountains. I was longing not only for UWC but also for the chance to see the outside world.

It was the first time I felt the power of high technology. I couldbuy a ticket and take a taxi entirely through the apps on my mobile phone, and it took only a few hours to Changshu by plane flying over thousands of miles, all of which I had only seen on TV before.

Shocked by the modern development,when I got to the campus of UWC Changshu, I wasstruck by the campus facilities, the colourfulnational flags in the canteen and the different colours of the people on campus. My previous abstract perception of UWC as a "mini-United Nations" became tangible. I admired the confidence with which everyone spoke, the fluency of their English compared to my Mandarin, and the divergent and creative thinking. I felt I had entered a new world with what I've seen and heard.

I was so lucky to be admitted by UWC Changshu with a full scholarship.

Nevertheless, I had a choice between the two options. At that time, a local high school in Liangshan had already offered me early entrance. I had to choose between going the way things had always been done or taking on the exciting and unknown adventure of international high school education. Eventually, my family's trust and support made me more determined, "The whole point of having you study is to give you the opportunity and ability to choose, and we will support you in whatever choice you make".

It has never been my character to follow the usual way and I didn't want to trap myself in a small world and lose my curiosity about the big one. I am determined to try, venture out, be reckless while young, follow my heart, and enjoy the journey.


UWC Changshu campus

I began my journey with UWC, but leaving my village was bittersweet. I said goodbye to my parents and quickly got into the car, avoiding looking back. Despite others' doubts, I wanted to build a bridge between Liangshan and the outside world. To accomplish this, I needed to learn new techniques and find materials not available in my village. Ultimately, my goal was to leave in order to return home with newfound knowledge and skills.

2. The Pain of Struggle

According to the Yi proverb, "Don't underestimate a seedling, for it will grow." Challenges are a natural part of the growth process for a young seedling, as it experiences both highs and lows during its transition.

Although I could write in English, speaking the language was initially a challenge for me since Yi is my native language. During my first year at UWC Changshu, I had roommates from Mexico and Albania, and most of my teachers were foreigners. This made me feel uncomfortable, so I tended to avoid eye contact with them. As a result, I became more introverted and less outgoing. Despite the support I received from my "Liangshan brother" Ma Hai (Mahai Geizuo, UWC Changshu China, Class of 2022) and my friends at school, I preferred to be alone most of the time, spending a lot of time in the bathroom or by the lake.


Kayaking with classmates and teachers

When I arrived at UWC Changshu, I finally had the freedom to decide how to spend my time after class and how much time I can surfing the internet. However, I ended up spending too much time on my phone instead of socializing, which was contrary to my original intention. Being taught in an all-English environment was difficult, and the language barrier caused me to doubt myself and my abilities. This led to a cycle of pessimism that was hard to break.

Sometimes I broke down over exam results, not only because of my lack of ability but also because of the guilt of failing my teachers' and friends' help. I am stubborn and strong in my character. I almost forgot when I was ever so depressed and crying so hard before.

In Yi culture and Liangshan's educational system, being reserved is considered the norm, and discussing sex is a taboo subject. However, at UWC Changshu, there is a willingness to talk openly and rationally about topics related to the body and sexuality. Growing up in a culture that values shyness has left me self-conscious, but being around the outspoken and modern urban teenagers at UWC Changshu has made me uncomfortable.

The most painful period lasted about two months, but they got progressively less painful until the pain completely vanished.

3. Surrounded by Love

Thankfully, I was surrounded by supportive friends and family at UWC Changshu, who were always there for me when times became tough. Mr. Lu was my advisor. His optimism and guidance on course choices and helpfulness in finding off-campus housing for the summer made me feel more at ease in this unfamiliar setting.



UWC Day with classmates and Mr. Lu (far right)

During my time at UWC Changshu, my Head of House. Ramie, who is from the US was very caring and helped me adapt to the new environment despite of his not-so-fluent Chinese. I received additional support from my teachers in various subjects and was always grateful for my friends' help in my personal and academic life. My teachers also introduced me to clothing donation channels, and my peers generously donated their "slightly flawed" clothing to me. Thanks to the Bloom Education Foundationand community members, I only had to purchase one pair of basketball shoes during my entire time at the school.

When it was school holiday, the teachers in charge of student life would ask me if I needed assistance so that my family and I could stop struggling with financial hardship and concentrate more on my academics and self-improvement. During my later years, Rich, my advisor, provided me with support and encouragement, which significantly impacted my UWC journey. Additionally, Ms. Chen, my university counsellor, was exceptionally supportive and helpful during the challenging university application stage. She took the time to guide me in revising my paperwork, listen to my requests, and help me through the challenging process.

4. Rebuilding Confidence

Immersed in kindness and care, I was able to regain my confidence and discover my true self. I worked on enhancing my strengths and overcoming my weaknesses, which helped me continue my UWC journey in a positive direction.

I used to wonder why international students whose Chinese was not as good as my English could confidently communicate and study in Chinese. What I needed was to build up the confidence to speak English. I realized that the function and purpose of language are to communicate and understand each other without caring too much about grammar or accent. Then I started to look for opportunities to interact with foreign friends and teachers.

The opportunity to study with students from all over the world has been my most valuable asset and resource. I implicitly assigned myself a daily objective of interacting with others.  I celebrated Ghost Day with my Mexican roommates, learning about the symbolism of the strange stickers; I taught them Chinese, and they taught me English and Spanish; I learned about the history and culture my Panamanian classmates, as well as what they think of China and the rest of the world. Thus, diversity carries with it a more substantive significance.


With my classmates

At UWC Changshu, you can always see a group of individuals seated together, joking and grinning. I gradually came to enjoy the atmosphere of learning where people communicate freely and treat each other sincerely. It's sharing, learning, and a process of growth. I appreciate having control over my time and energy and enjoy speaking with young people who care about the world and society. These are the gifts I have received from UWC and the motivation for me to come out of my dilemma.

5. Living the mission

Over the past few years, I've been exploring various activities like kayaking, tennis, fitness, dragon dance, cycling, and charity work. I've discovered a strong interest and passion for cultural exchange. My friend Mahai and I often host events where we discuss different aspects of our culture with people from around the world, including food, philosophy, history, childhood stories, and identity. We even took community members to experience the Yi Water Festival and Yi costumes. Sharing our culture allows us to gain insights from diverse perspectives and reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of our own traditions.


Performing the traditional Yi ritual "Wazi Ritual" with Ma Hai at CCE

At UWC Changshu, I noticed that environmental protection was mostly in theory. Hiking and camping which are what we do at Liangshan regularly are popular activities for my peersI started organizing frequent weekend hikes. These outings helped to connect community members with nature and demonstrated the practical benefits of environmental conservation.

The Yi community believes that humans borrowresources from nature temporarily, and thus, it is vital to protect the environment. According to a Yi proverb, "Plant before you cut down a tree; dig up the grass without digging up the roots". During hiking and camping trips,we carried rubbish bags with us.  While initially, only a few individuals used to collect trash along the way, eventually, everyone joined in. Although our impact is limited, it is meaningful to do what we can to help protect the environment and promote an environmentally friendly living. These activities have not only helped me improve my communication, language, and leadership skills, but it is also vital to put into practice the ideas that UWC promotes to make a difference.

Over the years, I have also focused on learning about and popularising first aid. The prevalence of first aid skills in China is very low and far less in Liangshan. As the student club leader and mentor for the American Heart Association, I have worked with my fellow students to educate community members and society about first aid skills.


Teaching First aid skills in a Suzhou community during Project Week

Besides the importance of saving life, my involvement in first aid was also out of my willingness to serve others. I would like to contribute to the community in any way possible, as I have received so much assistance and support. I have assisted students in my hometown in registering for summer camp scholarships for the past several summers. I want them to experience the outside world and acquire new skills and knowledge. Helping the children back home, who are just like me, is my lifelong mission, as I am aware that efforts to eliminate inequality in educational resources must be carried out in the long run. I feel lucky that with my personal growth at UWC, I am able to put into practice and take practical action through the platform of Bloom and UWC.


Participating and sharing as a volunteer in summer camp activities

Since then, everything goton track. I have gone from being an unconfident person form the mountainous area to someone who dares to express himself, from someone who only cares about his surroundings to a thinker who cares about all humanity. During my years here, from the perspective and experience of anethnic minority in China, I have seen a more diverse culture in the world.Together with Mahai, I have also been committed to introducing my ethnic culture to the world and bringing the world back home. As a window of communication, I was working to eliminate racial stereotypes and discrimination, which is also the mission that UWC has given me.

6.A rainbow after the storm

Looking back at these experiences mixed with ups and downs, it's more about growth.

Over the years, I alwayscare about the world. Too many people have helped me pursue my dream, and the only way I can repay them is by giving as much as I can back to the world. I am aware that there are still many people in this world who suffer from a shortage of food and clothing, unrest, and fear: many children are dying from malnutrition and a lack of clean water; many children are unable to attend school due to poverty and a lack of resources. If more individuals care about the state of the world, there would be less tragedy.

Studying at UWC has greatly enhanced my critical thinking skills, allowing me to see that there are often multiple perspectives to take into consideration. While I have opinions and insights about many issues, I avoid making arbitrary judgments. I have developed a strong motivation to study hard and an insatiable curiosity to learn more about the world around me. This drive to acquire new skills, grow, and find balance extends beyond academics and is a personal passion that brings hope and purpose to my life. Overall, the process of learning is both fascinating and rewarding.



Climbing with classmates

Initially, I often envied others for their confidence, talents and up to native level fluency in English. I compared myself to others, then got into self-imposed closure and self-denial. But thankfully, the environment makes a massive difference to people. Living with a group of optimistic people always gives me a lot of positive energy. The atmosphere at UWC has subconsciously made me realize that constantly comparing myself to others is harmful and unnecessary. Everyone has their own unique upbringing, family culture, personality and experiences.

If we are preoccupied with paying attention to other people, we will reduce the amount of time we spend looking inward at ourselves. The most important thing we can do for ourselves is to concentrate on improving ourselves with each passing day.


Kayaking with classmates and teachers to an unnamed island for a picnic

The ploughman believes every drop of his sweat brings hope and a future. The journey has been a stormy one, but thankfully, the hard work has paid off.

When I received a full scholarship to attend Bates College in the United States, I didn't expect it to be an immensely excitingmoment. However, when I did click on the webpage, all the challenges and hardships I had overcome became fond memories and valuable experiences in my personal growth. Whenever I feel lost, I often visited the shores of Lake Kuncheng, where I could gaze into the distance and ponder about my future.

7. The Place Where Dreams Begin

I had always thought that on graduation day, I would quietly look back at this place where my dreams began and calmly say goodbye. But when the day did come, my mind was filled with memories of the unforgettable moments I had during these years at UWC that I could hardly tear myself away from the island.

My journey is one of luck and gratitude.

My father exerted great effort to enroll me in the elementary school in my hometown where education was not a priority. People at the time believed he was imprudent for sending his children to school. It was believed that children should assist with farm chores and raising livestock. In response to such scepticism, my father frequently lamented, "The reality here is at least a generation away from the outside world." The fact that he only attended school for a few years was something he regretted, so he did not want the same for his offspring. My parents unanimously believed that "we must alter our futures by having good education." It was also their unwavering support that kept me going.

The support and dedication of my family helped illuminate my journey. My brother attended school in the village as a child, and after junior high school, he graduated and moved on to high school, but he chose vocational high school because it was tuition-free. Even though he struggled to meet basic needs as an adolescent, he decided to save money for the education of his younger siblings. Our elders care about other family members more than themselves, but I wish they also had their own lives.


Ploughing in my hometown

The summer after primary school, I got admitted into the local secondary school. We were digging potatoes far away at noon that day, and my father was informed that he had to come around nine o'clock the next day to fill in the relevant documents and pay the deposit. The entire family was more excited than I was as if their efforts had finally paid off. However, by then, the shuttle bus from the village to the county had already departed, so we had to hike four hours up the mountain to another village to find a bus. My father accompanied me over mountains and through flooded marshes due to the heavy rain out of concern that we would be late and miss the shuttle bus. He ran quickly ahead of me as if leading me through every moment of his life. It was a life he ran through, not daring to halt because there was just too much burden on his shoulder.  How much I hope that I could grow up to be a bigger tree, to be his shade in the storm and rain.

In Liangshan, education was once disregarded, but under the tide of the time, people also began to understand the need of going to school. My parents were no longer the so-called "dumb" ones. From then on, I was envied by the local people for being one of the top achievers in our village.

I initially resisted this 'envy', which I interpreted as 'jealousy'.Those comments seemed to attribute all my efforts to being an 'early learner' and having smart parents. I struggled to shake off the 'role model' label at that time, as it was mixed with various positive and negative voices. This was not very friendly to me as a youngster, as immaturity would lead me to try to live up to the judgement of others rather than my own.

However, as I grew up, I gradually realized that the sun shines every morning and lights up the world.  What I am doing is not just for myself but also influencing the kids around me.    In the mountainous areas, my peers need a thorough change of understanding of the importance of education.  I will do my best to make an impact and push for such a change.

8."Bloom" and Liangshan

Without Shanghai Bloom Education Foundation's support and help, I would have missed out on the good things that have happened along the way. Bloom's financial support to me made me feel that I have a second home other than UWC. Bloom's volunteer teachers helped me with my schoolwork. Bloom’s summer camps and other activities not only allowed me to grow and develop but also allowed the children of Liangshan to go out and see and be exposed to a new world. Bloom's Ms. Shen acted as my parent/guardian at UWC because my parents couldn't communicate in either Chinese or English. She was like a mentor as well as a life coach.


Summer Camp in Bloom

My family and friends in Liangshan are the ones I have to thank for. The Yi ethnic group people are a closely-knit society that put priority on family and kinship culture. My aunt's family helped us a lot, and that's why we could keep up with our schoolwork. Mr Yang Chao, my school tutor, and my junior high school were also very helpful, supporting me to go to Changshu for interview. My life's journey has been pleasant because I have been given a lot of the love and care.

9. The Power of Love and Education

I am about to graduate from high school and begin a new journey.

When I first came to UWC Changshu with the intention of giving it a try, the admission officers gave me the utmost trust and encouragement. Perhaps they saw a fearless mind for the future and a strong belief in changing destiny through education. Today, "give it a try" is still what keeps me going forward, and apart from the same sincerity, I have become more confident and mature. I will always keep the UWC mission and values deep in my heart, cherish and live them in my daily life.

Thanks to everyone I have met at UWC, my friends, my teachers, and those who have been so kind to me. Thanks to UWC forallowing me to grow in my own way. It is difficult to express all my heartfelt gratitude in words, but gratitude is always in my heart and will be treasured forever.

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