Info Sessions VR campus tour Admissions Apply Online Visit Close
中文 Contact Employment
Donation School Calendar Visit
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

Learning from Failure is the Most Valuable Lesson I Had at UWC

Issue date:2018-03-07


During the weekend of 10-11th Feb., over 50 UWC alumni travelled all the way to UWC Changshu China at their own cost, to help with the biggest selection of the year as volunteers. They helped interview 320 students from 190 secondary schools from 70 different cities and provinces.  Admission officers from UWC Japan and alumni who are members of the National Committee of Cambodia also joined. 

Nora Wu, who wrote this article, was one of the volunteers.  She felt excited having the opportunity to contribute to UWC.  Nora studied at Red Cross Nordic United World College from 2011-2013, and then at Macalester College. She has worked atthe Admissions throughout her four years at the University, serving as the Global Ambassadors Program coordinator and Senior Admissions Intern. Now she is working at a think tank and a research & innovation lab in Washington DC area. She helped to develop the Global Women’s Leadership Index in collaboration with UNDP. She has been admitted to the International Education Policy Program of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Seven years ago, I attended Red Cross Nordic UWC in Norway. At that time, it was just the start of UWC China National Committee which was purely run by alumni volunteers. At that time, WeChat was hardly known. I had very little knowledge about Norway; neither did I know much what would come ahead of me.

Fast forward, seven years after, here I am – visiting UWC Changshu China for the first time and volunteering for the Selection Day.  Flying all the way from the US, the evening when I arrived Changshu, I had just landed China a few hours ago and was still battling with jetlag. I thought that I would probably fall asleep at the Chinese Culture Evening – and of course, I didn’t. It was an amazing performance. The talents, passion and creativity have made it not just a cultural celebration, but a dedicated and profound showcase of Chinese culture. It also brought me back to my student time - my first time to choreograph, my first struggle on how to deliver a rich performance despite of language barriers, my first time to organize the Asian Show…Looking back, that was one of the very first time that I learned that learning doesn’t just happen in classrooms. I learned the importance of working with others, developed the confidence in organization as well as the incredible experience of exploring arts in a dynamic and international setting. 

And it didn’t stop after UWC. I became very involved in performing and organizing the Asia-Pacific Awareness Showcases at my university in the United States, as well as leading workshops and discussions at International Roundtables and other occasions as I continued with higher education. This November, I helped organize the 2017 World Bank Youth Summit on Technology and Innovation for Impact. It was the largest event at the World Bank focusing on youth and attracted more than 2,500 applications across the globe. We also had a strong UWC presence among selected participants and organizers. Out of four people in the content team designing for topics related to“jobs and skills for the future”, three of us were UWC alumni.

During my four years working at the Admissions in the States, I had the opportunity to interview American and international applicants for college admissions. Yet, the interview experience in Changshu was totally different. The students were much younger and were assessed in a language that is not their mother tongue. They impressed us with their excellent command of English, well-established experiences and passion to be part of the movement. Sometimes we asked tricky questions, questions that came out of the blue and may make them uncomfortable, and most of them handled so well.

I still remember one of the students nervously asked at the end of the interview, “What is the criteria to be selected as a student in UWC?” I am sure it is the question, if not asked on the front, was studied over and over again. There is not one single criteria to be a UWCer - it is not a GaoKao. On the other hand, I believe one of the beauties of UWC is the power of diversity. In my own experience, I had classmates who were children of diplomats, Prime Ministers, as well as refugees and those who barely spoke English at the beginning. Even among friends and alumni graduated from UWC, we are pursuing different academic and professional paths. Some studied engineering, some studied finance, some work in education, some became doctors and some work in NGO. However, we are all pursuing the mission of UWC and it's the mission that brought us together to Changshu. Studying at UWC had taught me that life path is not always linear, and often, it might start unfairly. Yet, what determined one’s life is not always the starting point, rather the turning points.

In my opinion, getting into UWC doesn’t mean you will have a smooth sailing all the way and not getting into UWC doesn’t mean you will not have the chance to succeed. Studying in UWC can be challenging and demanding. You might face many problems and challenges that you had never encountered or even thought of before - whether it was a stereotype based on your race, nationality, and gender,  or a disagreement on current affairs, or could be even the weather     adjustment.  Sure, it has changed many lives (including mine), but changes are never easy. You must learn to take the risks and not afraid of failing. 

Being part of the selection weekend, overseeing students activities and reflections made me think of the topic a lot. I can see the eagerness in many applicants, as well as the fear. I know it is easy to say as someone who had gone to UWC and supported the education. Trust me, when I was younger, it was much worse.

Learning from failure is probably one of the hardest things I learned during my time in UWC, and it was one of the most valuable lessons.  In the last year of my high school, I was recommended by my high school to take part in a student selection exam through which if  I could pass, I could get admitted by the University without having to take the nation-wide university entrance exam. However, I failed that exam.  It was a heavy blow to me. By chance, I heard about UWC. There were very few people around me who could give me advice on UWC at that time. Even though I eventually I received a full scholarship from UWC Red Cross Nordic of Norway, I still didn't get much support. “As a girl, why repeating two year high school?”, “You might try go to a top university in China, why Norway?” People kept questioning me. Not only that, there was also concern about the risks of failing to get a visa and being late for school.  When I resisted external pressure and decided to go to Norway, I gradually realized, I shouldn't let an exam, failure, or a comment to define my own value. Looking back, I felt fortunate that I made the right decision to study at UWC.  UWC broadened my horizon and gave me the strength to forge ahead.

And believe it or not, some of the most powerful people have had major failures too. I remember attending a public-private partnership summit during the week of United Nations General Assembly in New York, where I helped to organize a panel and heard the discussion of gender parity and the first ever index measuring global women’s leadership by country - which I had contributed in its development in collaboration with UNDP. The panel was joined by the managing director of International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde. Besides discussing the value of the index, she also talked about the danger of a narrow definition of success and shared her own failure. She had tried to apply an elite university in France and got rejected twice. Twenty years after, when the President of that French university invited her for a speech, he was seemingly joking with her, that if she had passed the exam and attended their university, she might not be who she is today. 

Last, to all the participants during the selection weekend, you made a full day of intense tasks and should be very proud of yourself for what you have achieved. I hope you have developed friendship and bonds with your peers, come to know better about yourself, the UWC movement and are able to bring back from what you learned and experienced in that one full day to your own communities.

Seven years ago, UWC China National Committee was still in its early stage and I had not even heard of UWC Changshu China.  Today, the facilities, the resources and experiences that UWC Changshu have got are awesome and admirable, but the passion and dynamics of the students impressed me the most.  May UWC Changshu China continue to be a force to provide access to education to many well-deserved students in China, and to make greater contribution to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.

Copyright © 2016 UWC Changshu China. All rights reserved. ©2016 常熟世联高级中学