Ever since I got back home for the summer, I’ve had the chance to reunite with old friends, meet family friends, and attend numerous gatherings. Dozens of gatherings later, I noticed a striking similarity between all of them. I was posed with these three questions wherever I went (literally no matter where):
What is UWC?
Why did you decide to move? / Why leave South Island School?
What makes Li Po Chun United World College or any other UWC different from other schools?
When I first decided to apply to the UWC movement, I wasn’t close to aware of the fact that Li Po Chun United World College was foreign to the buzzing city of Hong Kong. I was constantly under the impression it was well-known (which it is, in most parts of the world, ironically, except in Hong Kong). Later when accepted, I remember seeing the baffled looks on the faces of my friends, family and mainly several Indian aunties. All of whom curiously searched up the terms “UWC”, “Ma On Shan” and “Li Po Chun”. I can remember the three questions above ringing regularly in my ears the following months. One year later, people persistently ask me the same three questions.
I want to share with you, the story of a sixteen year old South Indian girl who decided at the age of 12 that she would be attending a United World College. I share with you a journey, a challenge, a learning experience (bound by my experiences and only mine) – one that was not always smooth, but will also remain an integral part to the person I’m shaped (still shaping, would say!) into, today.
Where did it all start?
I was 11 years old then. My best friend’s mother was a social worker who spent majority of her time working with providing equal opportunities to ethnic minorities children in Hong Kong and exposing them to a world that most of us live in (something they were sheld away from). She was a very inspiring woman and it was an honour to always be around her.
One particular day, LPCUWC was hosting a day camp – specifically for ethnic minority children in Hong Kong. She was looking for a few of us to help facilitate the younger kids (since there were so many) that were going, so my best friend and I decided to help her mum out. That was my first time at 10 Lok Wo Sha Lane. Although I was just 11, I realized I had stumbled upon a world that was completely different from the one that I was growing up in. LPC was a school that emphasised not only academia but on indispensable values that shape students into mindful people. This struck me very hard. Living in Asia all my life had made me realise the significance of numbers and using that as a foundation to base someone’s ability. It was the constant feeling of never being good enough, whether you were a high achievers or on average.
These students were not only inclusive but also open-minded and caring. They had the ability to use their experiences to recreate a special bond with one another to give back to people who might not have the same. It was also the day when I figured out that there was a country called Bosnia that existed (hehehe Amina). That was when my dream started. That was when I decided no matter what, 5 years later, this would be my future home.
What is UWC?
I’m only going to offer a brief overview since all of it can be found on the UWC website itself. The United World Colleges is a global education movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
They now have 17 schools and colleges on 4 continents. The educational concept itself was founded by Kurt Hahn, a German educationalist who believed that education was more than just about attaining grades and getting into top universities, rather it was “preparation for life” and that “education should help students to develop resilience and ability to experience both failure and success”. He was inspired through World War II.
“UWC students are selected domestically, in more than 155 countries, through UWC’s unique national committee system. Selection is based on demonstrated promise and potential.” The most important part of this ideology is that “education should be independent of the student’s socioeconomic means“. An aspect I can take pride in because this has given me the ability to go to school with refugees, people from conflict nations and minority groups – all of whom possessing incredible talents.
Why did you decide to move? / Why leave South Island School?
Throughout my life, I’ve always been a person who enjoyed challenging myself. Monotony; one word that I can never stand. I always found a thrill in trying something new and to delve into new adventures. I embrace adrenaline rush with both arms. Simply put – this was a fascinating opportunity, leaving me with no choice but to grab it. As an individual, I have always appreciated the process of nurturing, open-mindedness, values and diversity. This put UWC and I on the same pedestal since they embody the same.
Moving to LPCUWC had absolutely nothing to do with any problem, difficulties or my experience at South Island School. In fact, if it weren’t for the strong foundation I received during my 7 years there, I would have never been able to get into a UWC. South Island School echoes many strong values and academic experiences that will take an individual far in life, however 7 years later, something was still missing, gaps were to be filled.
What makes LPCUWC or any UWC different from any other school?
Diversity – a key element of UWCs. Speaking within the context of LPC, 56% of students are from overseas – making it one of the most diverse schools in Hong Kong. You learn so much from these people whom you call your friends, community and everything for two years. Status or socioeconomic means have no hinderance within the community – this is a factor you won’t find in other places. I believe this element has allowed the movement to bring together such culturally different students with disparate mindsets from around the world – all of whom you can learn something from and not discriminate.
Trust me when I say you won’t need new channels such as the BBC or the CNN to ponder upon what’s going on around the world, a knock on your neighbours door for an update on their country will serve the same purpose!
Moreover, the genuinely accepting environment has allowed people to be themselves and this is an aspect that has always been a posing problem for people growing up. Everyone is tied down because of what society believes as right or wrong, UWCs challenge this motive in having belief in ones’ opinion and respecting that. Essentially, everyone is right (just in their own way). Plus, there is no one to please, except yourself (and maybe your parents).
LPCUWC wholeheartedly opens its door to the LGBT+ community and giving a voice to under-represented and mis-represented countries in the public eye.
There is an overwhelming amount of elements that I could address about UWCs or LPCUWC that I’d be more than happy to share with you.
It is important to not be consumed by idealism. Like ALL schools, UWCs have their own flaws. It is often posed as a dream world but it’s always a rough ride. Like I mentioned in one of my earlier posts, these schools aren’t for everyone. You may attend one of them thinking it is going to be like you expected and it may turn out the complete opposite. If you are accepted, do not be overly optimistic, instead, be open-minded and be ready to challenge yourself, your ideals and the opinions of others.
To be entirely honest, both first and second term were overwhelming. First term being all about introductions, meanwhile second term, all about IB. By October, I was exhausted by repeating the same phrases “Hey, my name is Snehaa, I’m from Hong Kong/India”. I felt confronted with obscure feelings: walking into a room filled with special people who had so much to share, being able to feel secure within the community, and also feeling like an outsider (ALL at the same time).
By the end of the first month, I no longer felt special. I no longer felt like I had something worthy to share and I no longer feel indifferent. Several times, I’d envy the captivating stories of my peers about their home countries. I’d envy that I no longer had something worthy of sharing or of one’s interest. You’d enter class or Quan Cai assuming you were excelled in the subject or activity. “After all, you were the best at it in your old school, right?”.
YOU are wrong – there is always someone better and also within a 10 cm radius. BUT it wasn’t a race OR about who was best. Rather it was THE LEARNING PROCESS. This made me feel integrated. I was always able to takeaway and give back. This made me feel like a valuable member of the community. With that – I’m looking forward for another year of challenges, questionings, bubble tea runs and occasional confinements in the library.
Rest assured, it will be an experience that is worthwhile (has been so far). If you made it to the end of this post and would like to know more, I’d be more than delighted to share with you my experiences, hardships, learning experiences and more. Feel free to email me at email@example.com or PM me.