Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy Holidays

I just wanted to take a moment to wish you all a happy holiday season :)

I'll get back to blogging probably when I get back to school (early January), so until then, warm wishes from Kansas! <3


Monday, December 10, 2012

Let it Snow

It has finally, finally happened. It's snowed. And it is beautiful, and bright, and very, very cold. And, once again, the UWC version of a not so unusual occurrence has been a completely new experience and, quite honestly, one of the best days we, or at least I, have had here. 
     Saturday night the majority of the student population stayed up late for "Blackout"- a party tradition where everyone wears black clothing and the entire party takes place without any (or very minimal) lighting. It was really fun (and dark) and, as a result, most people stayed in bed pretty late on Sunday morning. We did finally roll out of bed for breakfast and all of us looked forward to a full day of prepping for exams. (No, really, so, so excited to study...). But the weather had other plans.
     What started with a few flakes around 1pm ended in more than half a foot of snow. And boy were the students of UWC excited. At the very start of the snowfall, about half of the campus gathered between two of the lower campus dorms to celebrate (or in the case of some of the Caribbeans, Africans, and Asians who'd never seen falling snow or any snow at all or been in such cold temperatures, to lament) and yell and dance around in the snow. This was closely followed by a game of ultimate frisbee out on the field, and then the snow festivities really kicked off.
     Imagine this: you're a student at an international boarding school in the mountains with 200 other teens and you could spend you're afternoon prepping for finals, or you could celebrate the snow. But hmmm... how to do that.... oh. duh, silly me. Let's go to the hot springs! In all honesty, I was completely against the idea in the beginning, but I'm so glad I decided to go- the hot water felt incredible. Some of the braver members of our group even dared to jump into the river several times between soaks (they're crazy, I know). We spent maybe half an hour to forty minutes soaking in the water, which felt heavenly contrasted with the falling snow covering the ground all around us, and then decided to go back to the campus. In the time we'd been chilling (or rather warming), it had snowed a good inch and a half. And our clothing and shoes were sitting out. And they were almost completely covered in snow. And coooold. And we still had to walk all the way back to campus! Oops. (at this point I know that my mother is dismayed and worried that I'll get sick, so I'd just like to take a moment to reassure her that it really wasn't that bad and that we immediately warmed up and put on thick socks and we're eating our vitamins and staying healthy :))
     We did finally make it back to campus, took hot showers, put warm clothing on, and enjoyed some lovely peppermint hot chocolate and watched the snow from the window (which my Bajan roommate much prefers to actually touching it). Oh but wait. That's not all.
     I know I've described some pretty crazy traditions in which we engage here at UWC. Here's another one. But you'll need the back story first: When the school first opened, the dorm that I live in (Kilimanjaro, Kili for short) was a boys dorm and, after the castle was finally restored, Kosciuszko (Kozzy for short) was a girl's dorm. Fairly recently, the boys decided they should be able to live in the castle as well and the dorms switched. So every year, at the first snow, the boys run down and "reclaim" their dorm. Oh but that's not all. For whatever reason the tradition continues with the girls running out of the dorm dressed basically in swimsuits, boots, and coats, into the snow and the boys showering inside the dorm and then running out to ambush the girls. BUT, Denali (another boy's dorm and Kili's "brother" dorm) comes out and attacks the Kozzy boys and protects the Kili girls. At which point the girls run in, hide the boys' clothing, change into regular clothes, and then meet the Kozzy boys (who by now are quite frozen and desperate to get their clothing back) for a nice little reunion and speech. It's hilarious and so fun and a good dorm bonding time. And I can honestly say I'll probably never get to do that anywhere else ever again.
     After my second swimsuit snow run of the day, I was just about ready to climb into bed in fuzzy socks and cuddle up and get a good night's rest for finals. Oh, but that would be too boring, don't you think? Sometime after 11pm I hear a knock on my door and, thinking it's Z or A because usually no one outside our dorm visits me that late, I just yell "yeah! come in!"
And then I was ambushed by snowballs.
In my room.
By four boys.
And there was snow all over my room, and in my bed, and on my desk.
Very funny, boys.
     In actuality, it was quite funny, though quite cold and wet, and a festive end to the day of snow cheer. I even got some studying done for my finals today and I look forward to getting to play in the snow (and maybe cross country ski!) later this afternoon. Yay! :)

 The view from my window last night-

 Post Hot Springs-

Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis the Holiday Season

      In my last post I wrote about Thanksgiving and, just like that, we've now moved into the holiday season. As we're finishing up lessons and preparing for finals, the students of UWC- USA have also been looking ahead to the holidays. There have been several "big" events in the past week to get us in the spirit and we've been reminded again that we live in an extremely diverse community with students from both similar and different backgrounds.
* Dorm Day- On Saturday afternoon each of the six dorms got together for some quality dorm time and to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. My dorm (Kili- the best dorm on campus :)) got together at our RTs (kind of like our dorm parent) house downstairs for some delicious pizza, salad, desserts, and home-made apple cider (yummmm), some campus charades, karaoke, Secret Santa gift exchange, and to share how we celebrate the holiday season at home. It was so fun and a great way to spend time with our dorm-ies. And hearing about the holiday traditions was incredible- I hadn't thought about how many traditions we have around this time of year. We talked about Christmas (and the wide, wide variety of traditions throughout the world), Hanukkah, St. Nicholas Day, New Years, Chinese New Year, Russian Christmas (we celebrate on the old calendar- so on Jan. 7), Diwali,  and others. The most interesting thing was how many of the holidays were based on similar events or principles and yet are celebrated so differently. Once again, a UWC moment of realization :)
* Love Cafe- I've mentioned cafes before. This one is a tradition where each performance is dedicated to an individual or a group. It was really fun and the performances were, for the most part, really good and/or really funny. I performed along with Z, A, and M. We did Dog Days by Florence and the Machine and I will try to post a video when I get it from G.
* Winter Concert- another Castle Concert, but this time with many more group performances and fewer individual performances. They were incredible- as always! And some of the holiday music definitely got us in the holiday spirit. Check out the livestream: 
* St. Nicholas Day- tomorrow at assembly some of the Europeans and I are going to talk about St. Nicholas Day which is celebrated on Dec. 5, 6, and 19 throughout Europe. We'll talk about the traditions surrounding the holiday and the legend behind the saint. Preparing for this has been a great opportunity for me to learn a little about my own culture and tradition and compare it to others', which are both surprisingly similar and surprisingly different. I won't tell you too much about it because it's a surprise for the  rest of the school, but I may fill you all in later.

I hope y'all are also excited for the season- Happy Holidays! :)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Holiday

     Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday with your family and/or friends :)
     This year I have so much to be thankful for- my family, my friends, all of the opportunities I've been granted and especially that of UWC. These past few months have been, as you've all read, incredible. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many interesting, brilliant, funny people who have taught me so much and shared their worlds and perspectives with me. And I have to also thank my family and friends at home, without whom I wouldn't be here and who have supported me throughout this adventure- I'll see you guys in just three short weeks!
     So how exactly does Thanksgiving work at UWC? Well, most of the students here have never celebrated or even heard of the holiday, and even those who have can't completely explain what Thanksgiving is. The week leading up to the break, we discussed as a school what Thanksgiving is, shared a little bit of history (which, let me tell you, I have never heard with so much debate. You would not believe the amount of students who immediately take the Native American's side and fiercely admonish the pilgrims), and shared what a normal Thanksgiving looks like for American families- eating, sleeping, and football.
     Some students stayed on campus but a lot of the American students traveled home for the long weekend and took friends with them. Other students spent the week with their "getaway families" (I think I've mentioned those before- local families who host students for holidays and sometimes take them on outings or just to spend time with a real family). And a few students, myself included, spent the weekend with friends in one of the larger cities nearby.
     Five of my friends and I spent a few days in Albuquerque and had a wonderful time. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in downtown ABQ and spent our time catching up on sleep, eating yummy food (I have to admit, we had Italian food for Thanksgiving dinner. But it was fantastic (and one of the only places open)), doing a little Black Friday shopping (a first for all of us, even the Americans), going to movies, and just walking around the city and having a great time. Being off campus with UWC people was SO MUCH FUN. We all got along really well, were responsible and flexible, and, quite honestly, I'm extremely proud of us. This was the first trip any of us had taken without any adult supervision and we managed to make it through without losing anyone, without anyone getting hurt, without anything being stolen or lost, without arguments, and we even got back to school all by ourselves. And besides, how many high school students have the chance to spend Thanksgiving with friends from Turkey, the UK (x2), and Singapore in the middle of New Mexico. Not many.
     I'm so thankful that the trip went so well, that I could be surrounded by so many good friends, and that I still have a year and a half to have more experiences like this.
Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Class of 2015, We Want YOU!

     I hope that from all of my crazy anecdotes you have all gathered that I absolutely LOVE UWC and that this is one of the best experiences I have ever had or will ever have. And I want to share it. The Class of 2015 applications have just come out and I strongly, strongly encourage all of you to tell your children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, friends, neighbors, classmates, coworker's friend's children's classmates, dogs, and anyone else you can possibly think of. (Actually though, sorry, we do not, yet, accept dogs. So don't tell your dogs, we don't want to hurt their feelings.) But seriously. Facebook, tweet, instagram, blog, email, text, call, message, pin, tumble, and any other form of social media you can use, use it- get the word out!

You can find information about UWC here:

Info about UWC-USA here:

And the APPLICATION info here:
and here:

And I would especially love to have a state-mate, language-mate, or country-mate so if you're from Kansas, speak Russian, or are from Ukraine, I'm talking to you! :)

Please apply, it can't hurt, and it really is such an incredible program! If you need any help or advice feel free to email or facebook me or just comment here. Best of luck!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


     A couple things happened last week that made me realize how close of a family we are here at UWC and just how much I love it.

Contacts, Elephant Poop, and The Wizard of Oz
     Once upon a time, in a land far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far, far away (so in New Mexico) there was this amazing school with lots of cool kids. One day, two of the students, Z and J, decided to play a joke and steal S's contacts so that he would have to wear his glasses the next day. It was all fun and games until S recruited A1 and A2 to exact revenge. The three boys stole whole bags and boxes of Z and J's things as well as Z's $10,000 cello. The girls got it back, but knew they would have to retaliate. But how to do so without making the whole thing escalate even more? Hmmm.... what could be better than physically messing with the boys...? Yup, that's right- psychological warfare (MWAHAHAHAHA). So the girls baked the boys perfectly good chocolate chip cookies and gave A1 and S the cookies. But the boys, having eaten the cookies and tricked by Z and J's mad acting skills, threatened that if the cookies made them sick they would come poop on the girls' floors. But the girls weren't worried. There was nothing in the cookies, so there should have been no problem, right?
     The boys, and you have to give them a little credit, were pretty creative. They sent the girls a little... "present" in the mail. 
     One Saturday morning, about a week later, J went to the post office and was surprised to receive a package. She was really excited because hey, getting mail is fun, but when she opened the package she was really confused. It contained a plastic baggy full of some unknown brown and green stuff and was labeled "Elephant Poop-". 
     (I'm not even kidding. Look it up, you can send cow, elephant, and gorilla poop in different quantities. Yeah, I know, who in the world thinks of this kind of stuff?!)
     So anyways, J received this completely anonymous gift. Her roommate T said she knew who had sent it and wouldn't tell but confirmed it was someone on campus. Z received an identical package two days later (which we've hidden for emergency revenge purposes, so watch your backs.... :)). Now, unfortunately, S and A1 are pretty good actors too and swore they hadn't sent the poop. 
     Conveniently, about another week later, J had to go home for a bit, but very few people on campus actually knew why. So Z and J came up with a brilliant plan- spread the story that J was leaving because she was feeling bullied. The culprits would feel guilty and come confess. (I know, we're devious and brilliant, what can I say?) Now, Z and J fully expected the pranksters to come forward sometime within the following week. But, thanks to the wonderful gossiping skills of 200 teenagers, it took only two hours. 
     S and A approached the girls as they were walking up to the castle. They were distraught and beseeched J not to leave because of their silly joke. They swore they meant no harm, that they'd write letters to J's parents, and begged she stay. Have I mentioned Z and J are brilliant actresses? Mhmm. 
     But after about an hour they felt really guilty so they explained it all and the boys took it well and agreed the girls had won this one. 
     Have I confused you enough yet? I said this was an example of the UWC family, right? Hold on, we're getting there.
     While J was home, she received a message from one of the boys saying they'd gotten her something else. She was terrified. (well not really, but come on, that sounds a little more dramatic.) Had they gotten 100 bugs to set free in her room? More poop? Stink bombs? 
     They approached J in the caf one day when she was finally back and said "There's a present waiting for you in your room, and its even better that your dorm's water system is broken, hahaha". WHAT. J ran to her room. And do you know what she found?

Yup. So it turned out that the evil boys actually did have hearts and were really sweet and creative :)

Thanks S and A- yall are awesome and its so good to be "home"!

Family Looks Out for Each Other
     This one's a little different and can't really be told as a fairytale story.
     Last week a bunch of us students took the usual Wednesday bus to Wal-Mart to stock up on necessities (mac n cheese... nail polish... ya know, things we really just can't live without). The trip was pretty normal and everything was going well until we got to the check out and went outside. A man, dressed all in dark clothing covered in a trench coat kept walking around. He didn't have any items from the store, walked in and out of the checkout aisles a few times and, when we were all standing around outside waiting for the bus to come back, kept walking up to the group. Now, maybe there wasn't really any need for alarm, but you would not believe how well the group responded. The bigger boys fanned out nonchalantly, making sure no one was by themselves (One of the boys, L, who was near me was one of the first to notice and said dutifully, almost resignedly, "I'll go stand by B" (a girl who was sitting by herself near where the man was)), everyone tightened up the cluster, watching the man's every move. I don't think he was completely well, as he mentioned some rather disturbing information about a younger brother, and I can tell you a lot of us were a little spooked, but just to see all of the students ready to protect each other was incredible. We really are a family and family looks out for each other. Love you guys :)

Monday, November 12, 2012


     If I have talked to you at all in the past month or so, there is a good possibility that I've mentioned NAD. Here at UWC we are all about sharing our cultures with each other, so each of the five regions puts together a cultural day. The five regions are North America (NAD- the "D" stands for "day"), the Caribbean and Latin America (CLAD), Europe (END), Africa (AND), and the Middle East, Asia, and Australia (MAAD). Over the course of the two years, each region is celebrated and the festivities include events throughout the week (movies, dances, for NAD this week showing the election), Global Issues (presentations and discussions about current issues in the region or/and on the global level), a dinner, a show, and a party. All of this is organized almost completely by the students from the respective region, with two faculty supervisors who basically make sure we don't kill each other or offend anyone, and the kitchen staff who makes sure we don't burn the castle down. Because, ya know, that would be bad. It's a LOT of work and a LOT of fun.
     I was really lucky, especially as a first year, to get to act as a general leader for the show. We've been working on NAD since September and, through all of the meetings, rehearsals, "disagreements", and sleepless nights, it's been tough. But I am so, so, so proud of all of our hard work because the entire week was incredible.
     We did a "walk-in" on Monday night where all of the students involved made an entrance into the dining hall during dinner. We had a guy dress up as an astronaut and walk in to the caf with an American flag and plant it like Neil Armstrong did on the moon. Canada followed carrying a flag on two hockey sticks. The Bahamas carried their flag on a fishing pole. (Yes, sometimes its fun to uphold stereotypes.) Then everyone else ran in and danced around for a while. It was fun!
     Tuesday we watched the elections, of course. You can go back to my last post and read all about that.
     Wednesday the movie Forrest Gump was shown in the IT Center.
     Thursday we held a "Dance Fun". I think I've already explained that, but as a quick recap its basically an event to teach everyone specific, usually cultural/popular dances. We taught Soulja Boy (more than just the one part everyone knows) and Cadillac Ranch, which is a Canadian line dance.
     Friday was Global Issues. We got to hear some students speak about their families' immigration stories. It was so cool- I'd had no idea that some of the students had such diverse backgrounds! Of the six students who spoke, they represented Ireland and the UK, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Colombia, and Mexico but were all representing the U.S. here at school. They also discussed the trends and general experiences of these nationalities' immigration to the U.S. and how their families' stories have influenced them. Seriously, I love this school.
     Saturday was the culmination of all of the hard work and included the dinner, the show, and the party. For the dinner, the food leaders organized a '50s diner theme and cooked (for >300 people, mind you) mac n cheese, rice and jambalaya, chili, corn chowder, corn bread, apple pie, pecan pie, and rootbeer floats. The dining hall was decorated like a diner, a couple waiters moved around on skates, everyone dressed up (which was awesome, you'd be surprised how well 200 kids in the middle of nowhere can throw together historically accurate outfits within half an hour), there were music and swing dance performances, and it was just SO FUN. They really pulled it off well.
     And the show? Well I am completely biased but, in my opinion as well as from a lot of audience members and teachers, it was the best NAD ever and one of the best cultural shows too. The show was recorded so I'm including the link if y'all wanna watch :) The streaming quality isn't the best but there's some really great skits in the show and I totally encourage you guys to watch some of it (it's a little long so you may not get through all of it in one sitting). There's humour, and talent, and thought-provoking stuff all combined and it just ended up so well. YAY!

     After the show all of the students headed up to the student center. Guess what the party theme was? '50s Diner? No. Party in the USA? Nope. '80s?  Uh-uh. Carnival? Nah. Beach Party? Try again.
Out of guesses? That's ok, you'll never guess :)
Not even kidding. I have NO idea how administration allowed this, but they did. Now you're probably thinking "ha, jokes on them, must have been a disaster". Give us some credit, we're more than just a bunch of crazy- sleepdeprived- teenagers- who- have- been- cooped- up- for- weeks- working- on- a- show- and- just- need- to- let- out- a- little- stress- and- who- were- handed- bottles- of- paint- and- set- loose- on- each- other- in- a- castle- that- took- $10.5- million- to- restore.
Wait. No, that sounds about right.
But let me explain how we pulled it off- one part of the student center was completely sheathed in plastic. Like completely. There was only one way to get in or out, the paint was brought out in small quantities staggered, it was all water-based and watered down so that it dried fast and should come out of clothing (I haven't tried to wash my clothes yet...), and students weren't allowed to leave without toweling down. IT. WAS. A. BLAST. and the cleanup only took about 20 min. I know, surprise!
     So you have to admit, you wish you'd been here because NAD sounds like it was amazing. Well, what can I say, it kinda actually was :) Don't get me wrong, it really took a lot of work, a lot of time, and there was no dearth of stress, emotional breakdowns, or power struggles. But in the end, UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. And I think we not only showed this and pulled it off, but really rocked the whole thing :) NAD 2012!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


     So I'm sure many of you are currently sitting in front of your TVs watching the votes come in or hitting refresh on your computer screens. Whether you're voting blue or red, you have to admit this whole election process is pretty exciting, confusing and/or frustrating maybe, but exciting. But I have to say, I'm a little sorry for you- you don't get to watch this whole process surrounded by 200 brilliant, politically-aware young minds. This school prepares us to be the leaders of tomorrow, and there can be no dissension to the fact that we're interested in our leaders today.
     Students have been discussing and debating the elections since the beginning of the semester. It's been intense. With 98% of the campus vehemently democratic, the republicans have been trying to make themselves heard, and both sides have been campaigning with the party offices in town. There are probably hundreds of _____ for Obama posters around campus, and maybe a couple Romney posters too.
     It's extremely interesting to hear the opinions of students who will actually be affected by the changes that occur after this election. Both the foreign and education policies affect individuals on campus, and, being so close to college and legal adulthood, there's a lot of concern about the results.
     Speaking of results, we heard a presentation this morning about how we actually get the results- mainly dealing with the extremely strange American system of the electoral college. I'll be totally honest, I've never really understood how the whole things works, especially how a candidate can win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote, but I think I understand it a little better now. And so do a lot of the international students.
     Ohp, the votes just came in for the west coast and its looking like Obama may just win this time around. Surprise!
     I guess we'll keep watching and hopefully know soon.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A New Perspective

     As many of you know, this past week I've been at home. I had to come back to deal with some medical problems, but I'm doing much better now (thanks largely to all of the support provided by my wonderful family and friends- thanks, love you guys!) and absolutely cannot wait to get back to school!
     I've been asked several times how it feels to be back home, and quite honestly.... its extremely weird. For one, I wasn't supposed to be home until Christmas, so I was mentally prepared for that and now that I'm home it feels like it should be winter and smell like peppermint and cinnamon everywhere. (Instead its nearly 80* outside...) It's been like a reverse culture shock. I've gotten so used to being surrounded by 210 kids from 84 different countries speaking something like 50 different languages, in a castle in the mountains, with a very structured schedule and a day that never ends (25/8!). Here I've been largely home-bound, I've seen some friends, but not very many and for short periods of time, and, with everyone at work and school during the day, I have been out of my mind bored- not that all the homework I brought with me isn't riveting material....
     And I know I shouldn't be complaining, a lot of the kids at school would kill to go home for a week. I realize I'm lucky to even have had the opportunity to come home and be treated and see my family, and it's been good- there are definitely things I've missed. Besides family and friends, my doggy, having my own room (not that I don't love my roomie, even when she steals my mac 'n cheese ;)), home-cooked food, being able to use a stove (have I told you guys we don't have stoves on campus? At least not in the dorms- its a fire hazard), having time to watch tv and sleep. There are definitely some pros.
     But I've realized that, even though it feels like nothing has changed here, a lot has changed. My family has a new routine, the church got new icons and there are people I've never seen before, my friends have new inside jokes and talk about games, dances, and parties that I didn't attend. It's weird. I left and life moved on. As it should and as, in theory, I knew it would. In practice it's a little harder to grasp.
     But I've also realized just how much UWC and all of my new friends have become a part of my life and that I have changed. I'd been told I would, but in just two months I didn't think I could become so different. It's not that I'm really different,  maybe just that different things are important to me and, as my mom says, my world got a little bigger.
     So it's definitely been an interesting experience, but I can say without a doubt that I am ready to get back to UWC life, as crazy and busy as it may be!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Council Moon Cafe

     As I mentioned in my last post, this past week UWC-USA has been hosting the International Council and the heads of each of the colleges. And it has been incredible! Not only has it been fun for us as an international community to get to interact with others, but it's been like a mini experiment on the students. When my mom came to visit a couple weeks ago she said something along the lines of "I just can't believe that everyone here is so friendly and so willing to stop, introduce themselves, and speak with you. At your old school, this never would have happened; the kids shied away from strange adults as though they were aliens." (That's paraphrased, but you get the idea) This in no way is meant to reflect poorly on my old school, just to point out that UWC is a very different community. 
     Meeting people from across the globe is no big deal here, we're very good at it; and in a community of about 250, it's exciting to meet new friends and share stories! And we do, all the time. Students were more than happy to converse and share with our guests, and we learned as much about the adults as they learned from us. I met individuals from six continents, of different ages, backgrounds, and positions; one of them had even been to Wichita! As our VP says "we're the coolest school in America!", because, hey, where else could this happen?
     One of the ways that the students wanted to share our community with our guests was by putting on a "cafe". Every so often, students organize informal performances called "cafes" (with a moon theme- so the first one was "new moon" and the last one of the  year will be "blue moon") where anyone who wants to can perform anything they choose. And you would not believe how much talent we have on campus!
     So we organized "Council Moon Cafe" last weekend and I, along with six other students, performed a song- Something Salty, Something Sweet. We had voice, cello, drums, an electric guitar, an acoustic guitar, a bass, and piano. We didn't have too much prep, at most 24 hours and at least 20 min. (no joke, the bass joined two hours before and the acoustic guitar joined twenty minutes before the show), but, if I may say so myself, the result was pretty decent. And we weren't the only ones. There were 15 performances total and they were all really impressive. I'm including our video- so that y'all can have a taste of UWC talent. Enjoy :)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Let's Play Catch (Up)

     The past couple of weeks have been CRAZY on campus and between classes, activities, and sleep (or lack thereof) I haven't had any time to sit down and fill you guys in (sorry). So here goes:

Southwest Studies: I went on the food and culture trip to Santa Fe with ten other students and it was really fun, even better than I expected!
* drove to Santa Fe- It is such a pretty drive!! Our campus is right on the edge of the mountains and forest, and as you drive West it just gets better and better.
* Once we got there we visited two international markets, Target, and Starbucks (STARBUCKS!!!!! It was really exciting).
*We made fajitas for dinner (yummm)
* first stop: Farmer's Market- really cool, there were some seriously delicious foods and A and I met this really sweet woman from the UK who gave us a jar of organic lavender honey that was wonderful.
* Drove to Albuquerque to visit Talin, another international market. it. was. HUGE. I even found some Russian treats :)
* lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant- boy have I missed hummus!
* drove back
* dinner- Caribbean Macaroni Pie- yummmm
* Morning shopping trip and more Starbucks (!!!!)
* Lunch- Senegalese dish with rice, fish, and vegetables- really good, and I don't even like fish, so that's saying something
* Two more international markets
* Protest at the Roundhouse (the Capitol) for shutting down the San Juan plant here in NM. It's a big energy plant which uses coal and lets out a TON of emissions which are not only bad for the environment but also for the local people. It was really cool, I've never been to anything like that. We also got to see a lot of the second years and some other first years and it was really exciting. I hadn't realized how close we'd all gotten in one month and how weird it was to not see people for just two days. I don't know what we're going to do over Christmas...
* Movie night!
* Morning of Service at the Food Bank- it was fun and we were very productive!
* Senegalese lunch- another rice dish with vegetables and shrimp, but different from the first- also really good
* shopping!!! (we went a little crazy... but hey, it's our only chance to shop this semester!)
* Dinner- Indonesian fried rice and apple cobbler- yummm 
* Cleaned up the house we rented
* A's birthday- I baked her brownies :)
* some more shopping at the outlet mall. two words- NIKE OUTLET.
* lunch at an Indian restaurant
* drove back

So basically we did a lot of cooking, eating, and shopping, but I think we all learned a lot about each other's foods and a little about New Mexican culture. It was good!

Oscar Olivera is a Bolivian activist working for the de-privitization of water in Bolivia. He visited out school last week and spoke about his experience. Basically, the government sold the water companies to private groups, who pushed the prices to extremes- as far as 1/5 of a family's income goes to water costs! It's crazy (they even made collecting rain water illegal) and has caused a lot of health problems and deaths in the country. Olivera and his organization have been fighting this for years and, though it's been a long and hard fight, they have made some progress and hope for more just conditions in the future. He also spoke completely in Spanish and I was excited because I actually understood almost all of it!

Family! My mother and little sister had the opportunity to come out and visit me here at school and it was soooo great to see them! I stayed the night with them once and filled them in on a lot of funny stories and crazy personalities that we have here at school and they were happy to meet a lot of my friends and teachers throughout their stay. They also brought me some Russian food from home and honestly, I never appreciated home food as much as when I didn't have it anymore. It. Was. Wonderful.
     I gave them a tour and they loved the campus and surrounding area- it really is beautiful, I invite all of you to come visit! It ended up raining pouring/hailing/storming the first day, so we drove to Santa Fe and did a little shopping ( sounds like that's all I've done lately, but I promise it isn't!). Saturday we participated in Crop Walk, a local event where individuals raise money for global hunger by hiking through the canyon next to our school. Again, my mom was very impressed with our campus :) We spent the rest of the day in town, where we have a cute little square in the middle of historic Las Vegas.
     Sunday we drove back to Santa Fe for church. Sash and I had gone there before with my godparents and we were very, very warmly received by the community- it was incredible and I realized it was another experience I missed from home. Just walking into the building and smelling the incense nearly stopped me in my tracks. And the people were so nice; they've offered to set up a system to pick up me and the other two Orthodox students on campus once in a while. It was great!
     Unfortunately, I had to say good-bye "see you later" to my family, but I am so grateful that they came to visit, love you guys!

Buddy Dance- This is UWC-USA tradition and its a little crazy, but really fun! Basically second years pick a first year (boys pick girls and vice versa) who they don't really know and get to know them! The process involves submitting to two second year planners a list of 5 first years, then you're assigned one of those. BUT the first years don't know who their buddy is until the night of, and half the fun is sending/receiving hints/presents/"assignments" to/from your buddy. For example, the week before Buddy Dance I received a spongebob party hat in my mailbox and had to wear it to dinner one night, take a picture with it and some kool-aid i got, and I got several emails and some chocolate. So the whole week everyone's going crazy wondering who their buddy is and then... the night finally arrives! Most of the second years sent their first years on scavenger hunts around the campus to find clues about where to meet our second years (this was NOT fun in the dark in high heels). My buddy (E, and several of his friends) decorated a room in the castle and made us all dinner (which was really rather impressive for teenage boys) and we played games and hung out before going to the dance. It was really fun and definitely a great way of getting to know people you may otherwise never have talked to!

The Council- Every year the entire UWC International Council and all of the UWC Heads get together in a big meeting. They alternate locations and this year its USA's turn! Since Tuesday, guests have been arriving and it has been really fun. While they're pretty busy throughout the day, the council members have meals with us and sit and talk and are really interested in this college as well as us as individuals. I've met one woman who's British and went to Atlantic College but lives in Spain, the Headmaster of Costa Rica and his family, and the Executive Director of UWC International (he sat next to me at dinner and I didn't even know who he was until afterwards!) as well as many others in passing. They all have great stories and experiences to share and its fun, as always, to share our school with others :)

So it really has been a very busy couple of weeks (this week is midterms too :P) but now you know what's been going on. Hope all of you are well!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fear Not

Hey, everyone!
   I've heard back from several people that they've visited the blog and I haven't posted in a couple weeks now; I know, sorry! It's just been really crazy here in the Land of Enchantment, but I pinky promise to do my best to post soon and catch y'all up :)
Thanks for being patient!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Southwest Studies

     This week every first year on campus is embarking on an adventure- a set of trips we refer to as "Southwest Studies". While the second years stay on campus and work on their extended essays ("EE"- a 4,000 word paper we all have to write for IB), college apps, SAT prep, and college interviews, the first year class will be exploring our local area in several different ways. The trips include hiking in the Grand Canyon, some hard-core adventures like spelunking, and several others just exploring New Mexican history and culture. My trip is Cooking; we're spending several days in Santa Fe cooking dishes from our cultures, sleeping, shopping, going to the movies, and visiting culturally diverse cuisine places- it's gonna be great :) I'm excited to eat some real (and international) food, get some rest, and augment my wardrobe a little!
     Some of the trips have already left and since the second years have been busy, the last couple of days have been fairly boring. As a result I have acquired some interesting first-hand knowledge of the campus and castle, though unfortunately I can't share them here (sorry, I hate to pique your curiosity and then leave you hanging).
     At the moment I can't think of anything too exciting to share, but I'm sure I'll have some new stories after this week!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012


     Those of you who know me well and/or have spent a lot of time with me (family, GF, KB, HV, you all know who you are) know that I'm always hungry. I LOVE food. And especially dessert. Like ice cream :) (GC, HK, PP) And let me tell you, nothing's changed. Granted the food here is cafeteria food and not nearly as good as at home (though I appreciate all of the work the staff puts in, really I do, but its just not home food), I still gotta eat.
     Ok, so what?
     Here at UWC we believe in seizing every opportunity and challenging ourselves. Which is great and all, I'm very competitive and love beating challenges. But when I'm hungry and/or half-asleep in the morning I'm not really a big fan of exercise like, oh, I don't know, stairs? And I most definitely do not want to climb a minimum of 90 steps just to eat. And yet, such is life- bummer. 
     I think I've mentioned before that our campus is located in the foot-hills of the Rockies, or as my environmental systems teacher would point out, specifically, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. And if you read my post about the castle's history, you'll know that when the current castle was first built in 1884, it was built atop a hill to maximize air flow and minimize fires. But that means we have to climb up to the castle somehow. And, quite unfortunately (in my opinion), escalators and elevators just aren't practical for outdoor use. So we have stairs. And they're not just little baby stairs; we have the real deal.
     There are two ways to get up to the castle, one on each side of campus:

1) This lovely set of stairs is at least 70 steps long (not counting the other two flights you have to go up just to get over here and the set to get into the castle) and leads up from the dorms and field house.

2) Our next image depicts the fantastic set of stairs leading up from the IT center, Science Building, Old Stone, and Auditorium. I have no idea how many steps it includes, definitely more than the first set and far too many for my taste.

    Now, you're probably thinking "wow, these lazy kids, it's just some steps". But you're forgetting that we have to climb these at least three times a day to eat, four if you choose to go to break, and more if you have classes up in the castle. And we have to lug our backpacks around. And we're 7,000 ft. up and in a drought. Not such a fun combination for our lungs.
    Don't get me wrong, the location really is gorgeous and I wouldn't want you to get the idea that I've just written this entire blog to whine. I just wanted to share one of the lovely parts of our campus. And, if you think about it, these are really a good workout- each time you want to eat you have to earn it. So in that respect I may owe some gratitude to these stairs for providing some exercise.
     On the other hand, I'm sure the school would be happy to accept any donations for the purpose of building some nice escalators and slides into the landscape :)

Also, I'll include a picture of our castle, which really is pretty! This is the view from that second set of stairs, it's a side of the castle.

 Impressive, no?

And a quick shout-out to EG and CG for the cute card I got in the mail today- it made me smile!! Thanks :)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


     Today is a very special day for us here on the UWC-USA campus. It is the 50th Anniversary of the UWC movement and of the very first college in Wales (Atlantic College), the 30th Anniversary of our own college here in the U.S., and exactly one month that the first years have been UWC students.
     We're celebrating the anniversaries of our school and of the movement all this week, a celebration we call "30/50". This morning all of the UWCs around the world watched a live broadcast from Atlantic, during which the president of Atlantic, an alum from one of the first classes, and Queen Noor of Jordan spoke. It was interesting and cool that we all shared that experience, but quite honestly, mostly just amusing because the president made a lot of funny faces at funny times. The festivities continued in the afternoon with a "day of service", during which every student and a good portion of the teachers went out into the community and worked in some way to help the community.
     This weekend we're holding a big party on Saturday out on the lawn. There will be performances, games, cultural demonstrations, discussions, food, and lots of fun. We're expecting a lot of guests- parents, getaways, people from town- including one alum from every single graduating class from UWC. Isn't that awesome?! Some of the alums will be holding discussions Friday night too. Should be exciting!
     And finally- one month since we've been here. This is hard to believe- it's gone by fast, but at the same time I feel like I've been here forever. I've done SOOO much, learned so much, met so many people, shared so many stories. UWC is such a unique place and such a special experience and I am so grateful to be here and look forward to so many more months!
     Speaking of being grateful to be here, Shelby Davis, the man who provides full scholarships to all American students at all of the UWCs around the world, is coming to campus on Saturday and we're going to get to meet him! Yay!
     Ok, I have to run, lots more to do today! Hope all of you are well, and don't forget to wish any UWCers you may know a "Happy Anniversary!"

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Castle

     It's been a busy week, let me tell you. Between classes, CASs, OPAs, music, homework, and sleep, I haven't had the chance to sit down and write a blog. But have no fear, a new blog is here! :)
     So last week I mentioned that one of my CAS activities is Castle Tours. Today I lead another tour, this time for a group of about twenty individuals from the Santa Fe area who work with a charity program called Kitchen Angels. The charity finds interesting places around New Mexico and offers individuals "adventures" to these places for a fee, which is used for their program. Kitchen Angels provides meals for those unable to leave the house (age, physically disabilities, etc.) It's a pretty cool fundraising idea
     Anyways, so today a group of "donors" came for an adventure at the UWC castle. It was really fun; they were all interested and curious, ooh-ing at the right times and laughing at my jokes. A (a different A than I mentioned last time) and I took them through the main highlights of the campus and then got to have lunch with the group on the veranda (a happy surprise, because the kitchen prepares better food for guests, yummm) It's really fun to share the history with people and watch their awe and excitement of being in a castle. Now, while you guys can't actually come visit me (or have yet to), I thought I'd share some of the cooler history of the castle. Off we go.

* The whole reason why you can find our campus  where it is is because of the hot springs. The area has been considered a medicinal place for ages. There is a legend that the Aztec king Montezuma was born out of the hot springs and carried to Mexico by golden eagles. So they're old (and that's why our town is called Montezuma). The Santa Fe Railroad thought they could profit off of the many people coming to the springs and built a hotel right next to them. This original hotel was built in 1879 and is still on our campus. We call it the Old Stone Hotel and it is now used as administrative offices and classrooms. Much of the building is original.
* The first "castle" was constructed in 1882 as a more luxurious hotel, not far from the original. Unfortunately, it burned down two years later in 1884. There were no deaths.
* That same year the second castle was constructed, further up on the hill, where our castle is today. This hotel was called "The Castle on the Hill" and was considered fireproof because of its architecture and location. The idea was that the building could maximize the fresh air intake from atop the hill and this prevent fire.
* That building burned down just four months after it was built, on August 8. Portions of the first and second floors remained.
* The hotel was rebuilt once more, this time as "The Phoenix". It was the first building in the Southwest to have electricity and the first in New Mexico to have an elevator. The grounds had an exotic animal zoo, fountains, exotic plants, tennis courts, a bowling alley, and a shop called Chinese Curiosities.Guests could also have hot water pumped up from the springs to their bathrooms.
* Famous guests include Ulysses S. Grant, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Theodore Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid (who was reportedly shot in Las Vegas). More recently, Queen Noor of Jordan (an honorary president of the UWC movement) has visited the castle, as has Prince Charles of Wales (another honorary president) and the Beach Boys.
* The Railroad started losing money and sold the property to the YMCA for $1.
* Between 1914 and 1972 the grounds were used for, first, a Baptist college and, later, a Jesuit seminary. Armand Hammer purchased the grounds in 1972, but they lay dormant until 1981.
* The school opened in 1982 but the castle was not used, as it was in terrible condition due to old age, having been used in a movie (The Evil) during which many of the "special effects" involved actually destroying the building, and having been looted throughout its dormancy.
* The building was remodeled between 1999-2001 for $10.5 million, mostly thanks to donations from Shelby Davis, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland (1969-1975). Much of the woodwork and stained glass is original. The rest of the restoration was completed as accurately as possible based on photographs and forensic research.
* Our dining hall houses two Chihuly Glass Sculptures, each with about 500 pieces and weighing 650 lbs each. Dale Chihuly was present for the installation of the pieces.
* The castle boasts a spiral staircase that is an architectural feat. It ascends counterclockwise and is self-supporting and was originally constructed out of only one piece of wood (It is three stories high). It has been restored and, though no longer one single piece of wood, the staircase remains completely constructed of wood (no screws or bolts). Their are only a couple staircases in the world like this, one being in Santa Fe, but ours is the only one still in use.
* A ghost story- An opera singer reportedly died in the castle and students and staff have reported hearing her sing. Two years ago a student was walking down the staircase and heard singing. Having heard the legend he ran back up to the dorm and got several other students. They followed the sound down the stairs. The noise grew louder in the lobby. Pressing their ears to the door of the dining hall, they heard the singing crescendo. They opened the first doors and the sound got louder. So they opened the second doors. And.... it was the school's choir rehearsing. :)

Aaaaaaand that's about all I can share without actually showing you certain pieces. We also detour to the Dwan Light Sanctuary. The walls and roof have prisms which spin at different rates and in different directions and produce really pretty rainbows all over the room. It's soooo cool.

Hope you enjoyed your tour of the Montezuma Castle, come back and visit :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Weekend

     One rather interesting aspect of my UWC experience is that, thus far, I have only spent one weekend on campus. That's right, three weeks and one weekend. And while both off-campus trips were wonderful, my co-years and I were really very excited for this new experience. And oooooh boy was it a weekend.
     Saturday morning I started one of my CASs (CAS= Creativity, Action, Service. Mandatory categories of activities in which we participate. I have soccer (which is my OPA, Organized Physical Activity), library assistant (Campus Care), Castle Tours (CE- Community Engagement), Peer Mediation (CEC- Constructive Engagement of Conflict), Jewelry Making (a club), and Wellness and Wilderness (which are mandatory for all first years for the first semester). Basically we're BUSY) Anyways, Saturday was my first time with Castle Tours and it was so cool! As many of you know, I go to school in a castle, but what you don't know is that we have a lot of really cool history. Maybe I'll do a specific post on all the info, it's really interesting. Plus we also get to go into some areas of the school off limit to most students (mwahahaha :D).
     Then Saturday afternoon we had our first of, what we call, Dorm Days. Basically its an afternoon set aside for each dorm (we have 6) to do activities together. Now, all week long our second-years kept telling us S (our RT- Resident Tutor, the adult responsible for making sure we're all alive) was really angry with us because the dorm was a mess and we were loud and so she was going to make us spend all afternoon cleaning. Which, to be fair, is actually not too far from the truth- we are fairly messy and not the quietest bunch of coconuts (I totally just made that expression up... it made me laugh). So anyways, we all convene for Dorm Day, completely prepared to work for several hours. And the meeting begins, S walks in, looking all solemn, and tells us we're going to take care of some things today and that the second years know what to do. So they take over and start explaining how we're going to scrub the carpets with soap, clean out the showers and the drains, and scrub the outside of the building, and wait.... one more thing... *t-shirts all come off to reveal swimsuits* POOL PARTY!!!!
     WHOA. wait, WHAT?! No, i know, I was completely caught off guard and totally clueless for maybe 5 seconds. And then I realized we didn't have to clean- whoooooo!!!! It was really fun, we just hung out at the pool and had snacks and then afterwards the school got a moon-bounce and we had a barbecue. Yay dorm days!
     And that's only through Saturday afternoon.
     Saturday evening we had what we call the "Patio Party". In front of our Field House there's this rather large "patio" where there was basically a big dance party Saturday evening. Now, while I love dancing, I hate dances. But most people had fun, so that's good.
     Sunday morning we engaged in another tradition: the First Year V. Second Year Soccer Game. It was INTENSE. and really fun :) The second years won, no surprise, but we, if I may say so myself, put on a great show and played really well. And we stayed within our goal (ahaha, see what I did there?) (only losing by 5 or less) as the score was 7-2. No worries, we're going to improve and the next time this tradition roles around, we'll be ready!
    Sunday afternoon there was an ice cream social for families in the Las Vegas area who host UWC students in their homes as "get-aways" (basically students can get off campus and spend time with a surrogate family for a bit). I got to lead a castle tour, which was really fun, and good experience.
     And did I do any homework this weekend?
     Just kidding, I'm a responsible student. And also a teenager who did only just what I needed to for my classes today. I've got it down to a science ;)
     So it was a pretty good, and extremely busy, weekend. And this is just the beginning of the year. You just wait....

Friday, September 7, 2012


     UWC makes an effort to invite and host really great speaker several times a year, and a couple days ago I got to hear a really interesting presentation. 
     We heard from Amos Guiora; here's the info we got in the email:

"Guiora is a progessor of law at The S. J. Quinney College of Law, University of Utah where he teaches Criminal Law, Global Perspectives on Counter-terrorism, Religion and Terrorism and National Security Law. Professor Guiora served for 19 years in the Israel Defense Forces Judge Advocate General's Corps. During his military service, Professor Guiora was involved in important legal and policy-making issues, including the capture of the PLO weapons ship Karine A, implementation of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement, the Israeli- Palistinian Interim Agreement, and  "The Safe Passage" between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
As an expert commentator, he is frequently interviewed and quoted and has been published in the national and international media, including CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, BBC, C-Span, and The Wall Street Journal."

     IT WAS SO INTERESTING!!! Guiora spoke about his career in counter-terrorism and his struggle to teach morality to young men- how to do so in a creative, effective, and lasting manner (apparently Hollywood movies have been the primary method, interesting, huh?). He also discussed the repercussions of this idea; one example dealt with the deaths of two young men, killed because they followed their morality training and respected a religious artifact, in which was hidden the gun that killed them. How can we promote morality in a world where each individual plays by their own rules and that moral compass becomes a handicap? Can we ever live 100% morally? 
     Guiora also shared his experience with the "Safe Passage" act. What should have been an overnight project for him stretched into a struggle over many years, because of a linguistic/translation discrepancy, and he shared his thoughts on the impact the Palestinian/Israeli conflict had on the manner and vice versa. 
     Really, it was fascinating. You guys should check some of this stuff out, its something I'd never really heard anything about, but a topic that is so pertinent in our world today. And just because we're not faced with such urgent issues daily doesn't mean we can't still act "morally", and maybe start making a difference one by one.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Hold the Applause

     When I came to UWC, I knew to expect a tight community. With only 211 students and maybe 30 teachers, all on one campus in the middle of nowhere, it's difficult to not interact with nearly everyone, everyday. What I didn't realize was just how tight it would be.
     Relationships on campus are very informal. Everyone calls everyone by their first name, even teachers. Within the first 30 seconds of meeting my Spanish teacher, I used the formal "usted" out of respect and was corrected. While respect is an extremely important aspect of campus life, the idea is that students and teachers are on the same level, without formality blocking individuals from interacting and learning from each other. First years and second years and teachers and staff are on the same level, none of this separation silliness.
     As such, everyone gets along so easily. In the cafeteria anyone can sit anywhere with anyone. And it actually happens, all the time. Its so fun. I think I've sat with at least one new person every meal, and its such an easy way to get to know people, to find common ground, and to just have fun. Another fun thing about dinner is birthdays. At dinner, the entire cafeteria sings for the birthday girl/guy and then bangs on the tables and whoops and yells; it's so cool! (Also, today is Z's birthday- Happy Birthday!!)
     And the community doesn't just stop there. One thing that happens here ALL THE TIME (and the title of this post) is applause. We applaud EVERYTHING. We sing for your birthday at dinner? Applause. You say there's a soccer game this weekend? Applause. You're announcing what time your club is meeting? Applause. You flipped over your chair at lunch by accident? Applause (and whooping). There's an assembly? We're going to applaud every time a speaker finishes their announcement. We, quite literally, applaud everything. It's hilarious.
     All of the positivity and support on campus makes for an incredible environment. I've experienced this kind of community before, mostly at church events and at camp. But those events are usually cut fairly short, at most maybe a week and then everyone spreads out around the country. Here we have a community 24/7 (or as I like to think of it, 25/8), so we can continue to build on our friendships and inside jokes, get to know each other better, find new commonalities, discuss cultural differences. And every day it just gets better, I can't believe we're only a couple weeks in! It's soooo cool, I love it :)

Also, I'd love to hear back from you guys. I'm not really sure how many people are actually reading this (which is fine, it's fun for me to just write it) and some of you have talked to me on facebook, but feel free to comment here and let me know what you think or if you have any questions, comments, concerns, ideas, suggestions, emotions, really anything. I look forward to hearing from you guys!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Braving the Wilderness

     Those of you who know me at all probably know that I am not a big "wilderness" person. I don't like bugs, I'm terrified of snakes, and I make my younger sister come kill spiders for me. Before this past weekend, I had never been camping, hiking, backpacking, or anything of the sort. And I was planning on keeping it that way. No such luck.
     Turns out that an essential aspect of UWC- USA life is wilderness. Each student is required to take 2.5 wilderness trips (the .5 being a day hike), and I am proud to say that I have now accomplished 40% of that requirement and not only lived to tell the tale, but actually kind of enjoyed the experience.
     This weekend I trekked across the Mesa de las Viejas and on the CDT (Continental Divide Trail). What I expected to be a miserable trip full of snakes, beating sunshine, bears, terrible food, and utter boredom, was completely the opposite. I was part of a great group of people, 1 guide, 3 second-year leaders, and 6 firsties. Everyone got along really well and we worked together as a team all weekend long. We didn't see any bears or snakes (though I did wake up in the middle of the first night convinced a warthog was going to charge us. Turns out someone in the group snores), and there weren't too many bugs either. The food was surprisingly good; over the weekend we had pasta and cheese, hot sweet rice, quesadillas with salsa, rice with veggies and beans and curry powder, super oats with hot chocolate, and lots of snacks: pretzals, dried mango, Oreos, MnMs, gold fish, and a jar of Nutella. Altogether quite yummy, especially after a day of hiking. And the view? Absolutely incredible. The landscape is full of mountains (including a rock sculpture made famous by Georgia O'Keeffe's paintings) a lake, a river (which we got to jump in on our last day), and a surprising amount of greenery. It was really, really beautiful.
     Now don't get the wrong idea, I'm not planning on making a habit of these kinds of adventures, but I can honestly say that I gained an appreciation for the experience (and running water) and made another check on the life list, yay!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

4 to 1

     They say you learn something new everyday.
     Here's what I learned yesterday: "UWC is located about 7,000 ft. above sea level. For every breath taken at sea level, four are necessary here to acquire the same amount of oxygen."
     Here's what I learned today: THIS IS SO TRUE. 
     I bet I can guess what you were doing at 5:30am this morning. Like most sane people, you were probably asleep. But I bet you can't guess what I was doing this morning.
     "Were you asleep?"  No.
     "Were you getting ready for school?"  No.
     "Were you lying awake staring at the ceiling and discovering the meaning of life?"  No.
     "Were you hiking up a hill to look across the valley at the sunrise?"  No.
     "Were you riding a bike to Wal-Mart?"  Yes.
     That's right, ladies and gentlemen. This morning, at 5:20am, Z and I were awake and ready to brave the 11 miles to Wal-Mart and back.
     Now, usually, here at UWC, students don't have to embark on such a strenuous (I'll explain in a minute) journey for supplies. Usually we have a lovely bus, four times a week, that takes us straight to Wal-Mart. However, if you are a first year student lucky enough to be "exploring the wilderness" this weekend, then you didn't get to take the bus to Wal-Mart today because you had to go pack your enormous hiking pack and are out of luck.
     Unless you have a B-Code Free-Code (yes, it rhymes, I know!) on Wednesday mornings and are motivated enough to wake up and face treacherous deserts, fire-breathing dragons, and Mt. Everest.
     Ok, so it wasn't thaaaat bad. We are kind of in a desert, but it's actually really pretty, especially at sunrise. And the dogs chasing us weren't fire-breathing so I guess that's a plus. And we didn't bike Mt. Everest, but with our full backpacks of Wal-Mart provisions and being 7,000 feet up (remember that whole 4:1 oxygen ration? Yeah, it takes your breath away (ahaha, see what I did there?)) we had quite the work-out. But we actually made really great time. Google maps estimated that, by bike, the ~5.4 miles would take us 26 min. We made it in 20. WHOOOOOO! We felt very accomplished :)
     All day long we've been receiving congratulations on our feat. I'm not kidding. Both of our room-mates fully expected us to either a) get eaten by dogs b) get lost c) miss class d) get abducted or e) a combination of these. And no one thought we could make it so fast; 20 min is the fastest anyone's ever made it. Yay for self-motivated, independent, responsible first-years!! YAY!
     So that's what I've learned and accomplished in the past couple of days. We've also started classes, more on that later, it's time for this biker to catch up on her sleep. Good night :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Mac 'N Cheese

     This post was initially titled "Seeing Double", but because I'm enjoying some mac n cheese courtesy of the dayroom microwave, and because it still fits the subject, I'm going with it :)
      There's a theory that everyone has a "twin", someone who either looks or acts very much like them, or complements them perfectly- like mac 'n cheese :) I, personally, have found mine, her name starts with an A and I can't even count the number of times people have confused us or we have thought we were each other in pictures. Once I even glanced in the mirror and thought it was her. No joke.
     This weekend my orientation group went on a retreat and this idea became even more solidified in mind. The retreat was at a christain campsite and, though the scenery and activities were different, I couldn't help thinking how similar it was to CSR, the camp I go to every summer. Almost identical ropes course, living in cabins, even the smell. We did a lot of really fun activities (ropes course, tie-dye, salsa dancing, and this game with pool balls, during which I expressed my very competitive nature) and had a number of workshops meant to make us more comfortable with each other and with the UWC mission. It was really cool and I had a chance to meet and get to know a lot great people. And I couldn't help thinking how much some people reminded me of people at home.
     This isn't the first time this happened. When I was in Spain with the Oxbridge Program two years ago I made the same observation. Several of the people had extremely similar personalities and appearances to friends back home, and two even had the same name. It's kind of crazy. With 7 billion people on the planet and an infinite number of possible genetic combinations for appearance and personality, how can people be the same everywhere? And what are the odds they find each other?
     So that was my interesting observation of the weekend that I thought I'd share with you guys :) I really am having fun here, though we'll see if that changes tomorrow when classes start.
     Also, a shout-out to my friends from home who have been keeping in touch- y'all are great!
     Aaaand on a completely unrelated note, I love getting mail and I'd love to hear from everyone! So send me a letter:

Jessika Nebrat
PO Box 417
Montezuma, NM 87731

Thanks! :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Under the Big Blue Sky

     Have I mentioned how beautiful it is here? Today I discovered a new place, probably the prettiest by far. Our campus is in the foothills of the Rockies, so it is surrounded by several small mountains/big hills. Up on top of one of the hills is a cross, to which you can hike. So, in a very random, self-motivated-exercising mood I suggested a couple of us hike up there. Z and A (I'll leave people's names out in case they'd rather not be directly mentioned) and I hiked up there and it was SO PRETTY.
     A priest asked us once if we'd ever had an experience through which God's glory was evident; this was definitely one of those moments. At the top of the hill you can see miles and miles away and it is so incredibly quiet. Not just quiet, a specific kind of quiet, when you can almost here the expanse stretching out to the horizon and the wind moving through the evergreens. I don't even know how to describe the sound, literally just like hearing space.
     One of the things I love about Kansas is how big the sky is. Up on the hill the sky is also really big, both similar and different to our sky. I think it's more colorful here, but that might just be because we're in the "monsoon" season. It's rained every day so far, which apparently is really unusual, but a nice change from the heat.
     Today we also had "Intro to Wilderness", where we learned some of the essential aspects for camping (an "adventure" I'll be forced to experience next weekend...). We learned how to pack, cook, and sleep, among other things. We also learned how to act if we see a bear. Want to know how? Well, here in New Mexico we don't have grizzlies (for those you play dead), we have black bears. So if you see one, you put your arms up, kind of pretending to be a bear, and making yourself big, and say (loudly) "HEY BEAR!", and then back away slowly. Not even kidding, "HEY BEAR". And if it attacks? You fight back. Yeah, I am just so excited to experience the wilderness....
     So that's a couple neat experiences for the day (oh and did I mention I got to break in my pink hiking boots? definitely an exciting moment). I'm getting better at remembering names and faces, which is also good. Tomorrow we're leaving for an off-campus trip, so I may not have a chance to post for a couple days, but I'll come back with lots of fun stories about ropes courses, group bonding, tie-dying, and hopefully nothing about rattle snakes or bears. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tower of Babel

     A lot of you know that I like languages. Learning them, knowing them, hearing them, anything. Language is such an incredible connection between peoples of the world and I think they're really fun!
     I myself know English (obviously), Russian (from my parents), and Spanish and French (from school). Yesterday the school conducted placement tests for math and languages and I had a really cool experience.  The math test was first and it was ok. I placed where I wanted to, but there were definitely some intimidating students. One of the questions looked like this:

    S E N D               <--- Each letter represents a digit. Solve for each letter.
+ M O R E

     While my math skills aren't too terrible, I didn't have enough time to solve this problem, and as far as I've heard, no one else did either. But one of the girls in my hallway went back to the dorm and did solve it. Just goes to show that we each have our own strengths and that there are a lot of really talented people here!
(Also, I challenge someone to solve it :) I'll let you know if you get it right)
     Anyways, that's not even the cool experience I mentioned. After the math test, there were Spanish and French placement tests. And, being the over-achieving, multiple-language learning, IB student that I am, I was kind of in a bind: I had to be two places at once. And while UWC does have many Hogwarts-esque elements (did I mention that the third floor corridor is off limits to students? It is. Seriously.), being in two places at once is impossible.
     I had to go talk to the language teachers ahead of time; they were all so nice and easy-going and happy to work with me! We decided I'd take the Spanish test first and then the French. When I walked into the Spanish room I was really confused. There were no chairs. Not one. Just a bunch of desks pushed against the wall and yoga balls. No, really. The teacher believes students should be comfortable, and apparently yoga balls inspire creativity and a yearn for learning. It was so cool!
     Still not to the cool part. After Spanish I headed down the hall to French. All the students who had completed their respective language tests were standing around chatting. And I don't even know how many languages were being spoken. Several times over the weekend I've seen people find their language-mates and you should see them light up, both becoming much more animated and excited- it is so cool! Yesterday we also had an all-school assembly and to begin some of the students read the mission statement in their native language. I counted at least twenty, no joke. And the vice president told us that there are at least forty languages studied here over the year. Isn't that amazing?!
     I've even gotten to participate in the fun! Someone in the language hall noticed me taking both tests and, after hearing me speak Spanish with the teachers, started talking to me in French (his native tongue), testing whether I really had studied it before. Apparently I passed his assessment :) I've also found someone who speaks Russian, though only one person. This girl's linguistic abilities are also really impressive. She's Austrian  but has studied in Spain and Russia and speaks several languages as well. It's so exciting to speak with someone in a different language!! There's kind of a unique connection formed, and I can't wait to improve my skills and have the chance to speak more!
     One more thing- in the evening yesterday we had what's called "Dance Fun", basically an event where all of the first years learn several of the cultural dances used throughout the year. It was SO FUN. Each time we had to pick a new partner, first-years with second-years, and we spent about half an hour on each dance. There were three- one from Latin America, one from India, and one from Africa. Dance is really big here, and everyone had a blast just being together and sharing cultures.
     Ok, enough of my excited-ness about all the multicultural aspects of UWC, though I'm sure you'll hear more about it later :) Hope all of you at home are doing well!

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm Not in Kansas Anymore

     Well, it's official- I am a UWC student living in Montezuma, New Mexico.
     In the past 24 hours or so I have met probably about 200 different people and re-met at least half of them. It is so hard to remember so many new faces and names! But everyone is so, so friendly and so happy to help in any way possible to make this experience incredible. What makes it even harder is trying to remember where everyone is from. And then having to explain what Kansas is. Let me give you a couple examples of conversations:

A) The People Who Have Never in their Entire Lives Ever Heard of Kansas
"Hi! I'm _____ from _____"
"Hi, I'm Jessika from Kansas, it's so nice to meet you!"
"Kansas? Where is that?"
"It's here in the U.S., right in the middle of the country."
"Oh, ok, I've never heard of it. What's it like?"
"Um, well... it's very flat? There's a lot of farmland, but I live in a city"

Those aren't very interesting conversations. I never know how to describe Kansas. The next one's a little more interesting and even has some alternate endings! (Yeah, I know, get excited ;))

B) The People Who Have Actually Heard of Kansas. They Know All the Stereotypes. All. Of. Them.
"Hi! I'm ____ from ____"
"Hi! I'm Jessika from Kansas, it's so nice to meet you!"
   i) "Oh, cool! So like, the Wizard of Oz! Do you have red slippers? Have you traveled the yellow brick road? Do you know the Wicked Witch of the West? Oh, oh, wait! Guess what, you're not in Kansas anymore!"
   ii) "Oh, Kansas! So like, do you live on a farm? How big is your town? Do you have, like, horses and chickens? Have you been cow-tipping? Do you drive a tractor?"
   iii) "Oh my gosh no way! Do you get tornadoes all the time? That must be so scary, I can't even imagine. I saw this show once on TV about tornadoes and how they demolished this entire town, it was awful."

Seriously. It's pretty amusing.
     But I'm quite sure everyone is having similar conversations about their respective corners of the world. You would not believe how many countries are represented here, it's crazy! I've met students from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, Bosnia, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados (where my roommate is from- her name is Tanya and she's great!), China, Japan, Malaysia, India, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Ghana, Sudan, South Africa, and so many more.  It's like a mini- World.
     Dad calls it a fairy-tale. And I can see why, it has all of the makings of a pretty story:
a) The school is a castle. Seriously. In the beautiful mountains of New Mexico, surrounded by forests, a river, hot springs, etc.
b) Individuals from all over the world come together in one place with a common goal- to learn and share their talents with the world in an effort to improve it.
c) Everyone is so nice. And enthusiastic. And helpful. When Dad and I pulled up to the school we were greeted by more than 50 students cheering and introducing themselves and immediately ready to help me unpack and get situated. You can stop anyone and strike up a conversation, and they're happy to learn about where you're from, how you came to UWC and what you're most excited about.
     It really is exciting. And it's only been one day! We have orientation activities all this week, so I'm sure I'll meet and re-meet many more people and have a lot more stories to share! Get ready :)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bye, Bye, Bye

Today I was completely blindsided by something.
     Well, actually, two somethings. And the first one hit me like a ton of bricks. No, really. I ran into a brick wall, much to my friends' amusement. Turns out when you don't visit a place for a while, your old school for example, you start to forget where things are, important things even, like walls. Ouch.
     But wait. Why was I at my old school? Well, while writing that post yesterday, I had some time to really mull some things over. I decided UWC just wasn't for me, so I'm going to return to EHS and pick up right where I left off! So the purpose of this post is to say, as 'N Sync would put it, "bye, bye, bye" to this blog. Hope you guys enjoyed reading!
     Just kidding, you're not getting off so easily.
     I was at East to see everyone once more and say "see you later" (none of this "good-bye" nonsense, it's too sad). Which leads me to my second "blindsiding": I am really, really going to miss everyone. While I am super excited to begin this next chapter of my life, and I know that UWC will be an incredible experience, I still have to leave behind all of my friends.
     Over the past few years I've had the opportunity to spend time with and get to know some really wonderful people. I've been taught by outstanding teachers, a couple of which have been extremely influential in several of my adventures, and who have supported me throughout the entire UWC application and preparation experience. (You know who you are, thank you SO much!) And I've made friends who I hope will last me a lifetime. From riding the bus as little sixth graders, to a whole list of bio adventures, to all the laughs at pommies, to competing in Spanish, to joint sweet sixteens, to so many more.
     And I haven't even started on those outside of school. My church family especially is hard to leave. Through the church I have met some of the most awesome people and best friends you can imagine. Seriously. I cannot say thank you enough to my priests, my youth director, and everyone else who has helped teach and guide me over the past seventeen years.
     To all of you- you guys have been great and I want to thank you for not only the laughs and memories along the way, but also for helping make me who I am today. I'll be a little farther away now, but that doesn't mean we can't still stay in touch; thank goodness for all of the technology to which we have access- phones, texting, skype! We can even send letters, because who doesn't love receiving mail? I look forward to sharing this adventure with you, and maybe even getting closer because of it.
     So, it's not "good-bye". Just "see you later". I'll miss you guys!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How It All Began

     I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that each moment of our lives, each obstacle, each celebration, each victory, prepares us for the next challenge that life will throw our way. We may not always understand why we find ourselves where we are, but if we trust that that is where we are meant to be, and that God will help us navigate our way through any adversity, then we are unstoppable.
      About ten months ago, I received a nondescript envelope in the mail. Printed with the name of an institution I'd never heard of and with an address from New Mexico (a place I thought I had absolutely no desire to ever live), that envelope had all the makings of one that I would have picked up, glanced at, and immediately discarded. But if that were the case then, of course, you wouldn't be reading this now. So why did I open that particular envelope?
     Honestly, I have absolutely no idea. Really, not one. It was like my hands just did it, without reporting back to my brain. So there I was all of a sudden, staring blankly at a pamphlet labeled UWC- USA, embellished with a collage of photos depicting smiling students and a castle.
     Wait, what? A castle? No, you read that correctly. Well ok, now they had my attention and our adventure begins. The next two hours can only be described as a marathon searching session during which my mother and I read just about every single word published on the world wide web about a certain international education program. Which, you know, is saying a lot.
     And that's how I learned about United World College.
     I won't overwhelm you with two hours worth of information, if you desire such an undertaking, you're quite welcome to visit the UWC website. Basically, the UWC program is one that strives to unite students all over the world through education. It follows the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IB), a rigorous, internationally recognized curriculum, and incorporates elements of sport, service, and wilderness into education. There are thirteen locations in all, located in the USA, Canada, Costa Rica, Wales, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Norway, the Netherlands, Swaziland, China, Singapore, India, and Venezuela. One must be accepted to attend and there is quite a lengthy application process, after which the student is assigned to one of these locations. All in all it's a really, really cool program. And right up my alley.
     You've already guessed I applied, because otherwise, again, you wouldn't be reading this. Here's the part where I have to trust the philosophy I outlined in that first paragraph. I wanted so badly to be assigned to Wales. Every time I prayed and every time 11:11 came around, I thought, "and please, please, please, let me be accepted to UWC Wales". Wale, no such luck (see what I did there? Wales ---> Wale/Well, get it...? Ok, never mind).
     I was accepted and assigned to UWC- USA, located in Montezuma. New Mexico. Yeah, you've never heard of it. It's in the middle of nowhere. I was a mess at youth group that night.
     "Jess! What's wrong?!"
     "I heard back from UWC."
     "Aww, honey, I'm so sorry. You didn't get in?"
     "No," (sniffles), "I did."
     *Confused expression*
     Yeah, no joke. But wait, that's not all, folks! Since that fateful April day, I've done some more research about the USA location, and I'm really excited. Each location has its own flavor, and the USA school has a strong focus on International Relations, the field in which I'd like to work. Life works itself out in interesting ways, and I'm really looking forward to attending such an amazing program. Two hundred students from all over the world will come together in one really amazing place (Or so I've heard, I haven't actually been there yet; but it really is in a castle, in the mountains, surrounded by forests, with hot springs on campus. Have I enticed you yet? :) I know, doesn't sound all that bad.) I'll be taught by amazing professors, have opportunities to learn new skills, and experience new adventures (including the New Mexican wilderness... I should probably mention now that I am NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, what you'd call an outdoorsy girl. I've never been camping, or hiking, and I'm terrified of snakes and spiders and other creepy crawly things.But it's a required element of the program.) It's going to be amazing.
     So, why am I telling you all this? The idea is to keep this blog as an account of all that happens this year. Many of you are probably friends and family from back home (Wichita, KS) who are curious about all that I've gotten myself into, though some of you may have just come across this blog randomly. Either way, I hope you'll forgive my lack of blogging experience and understand that I really just want to share my experience. Thanks for reading, and I hope you'll stick with me through this amazing adventure!
     I go to school in just three days (Aug. 19, 2012)- wish me luck!