Everyone is familiar with the concept of 24/ 7- the shorthand way of referring to every hour of every day, or more concisely: all the time. I was recently introduced to the concept of 25/ 8- the idea that 24/ 7 isn't enough, that as individuals we should strive to live beyond worldly limits and to commit ourselves whole-heartedly to every opportunity and every moment of our lives, not just 24/7, but 25/8.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Saturday, December 7, 2013
"Today we are sad for the death of a great man, a hero of our time. But we also celebrate his life, and all of the lives that he touched."
It surprised me how emotional the following hour turned out to be. I'd expected a few words by our president, perhaps a song, a moment of silence. But, as always at UWC, it is the people, the personal experiences, that make the moment.
We all stood for the South African national anthem. I admit I was surprised by the joy of the song. The anthem of my country calls for solidarity, unity, greatness. The words I heard this evening, in a language I did not understand, called for a simple celebration of life. Perhaps the words change the song, and perhaps the dimness of the room and solemnity of my fellow classmates exacerbated the moment, but nevertheless it was powerful.
Then a song by our African Chorus. Introduced by the story of the same song being sung a world away for the first time. Written for Mandela, and performed, against all social constrains, by a group of both black and white individuals. Performed years later in a small school in New Mexico, celebrating the life of their honorary president.
And then personal accounts. There was one from one of our students who represents South Africa, one from one of our teachers, one from a Swazi student, and another from a teacher. The short account given by J, one of our English teachers stuck with me. He spoke of growing up in Lesotho, a little boy of six who saw the world very simply. He told of growing up and learning that the world he'd thought he lived in, simple and peaceful, was not at all true. He described his friends and caretakers, who'd loved him though he wasn't one of them. And he recounted attending a concert with his black friends, who at the end had stood with a fist raised high in the air. Later he'd seen hundreds and hundreds of fists raised for Mandela. J spoke simply and earnestly and brought tears to everyone's eyes.
It is not that any of my classmates or teachers spoke of anything unusual. In fact, I don't think anyone in the room had even met Nelson Mandela. Yet being reminded of the difficulties this one man had faced, the number of lives he'd touched, how he lived his life knowing what was right and maintained his vision of peace, it was difficult not to feel a deep sense of respect. My peers and I can only dream of living such a life.
After the auditorium, the entire group was led up to our Mandela Peace Garden, guided by a singing African Chorus. The path was lined with candles, as was the entire garden. After a few more words from our president, and some chanting from one of our teachers, we closed the commemoration.
I suppose it wasn't the ceremony that made the time so significant, but rather the notions. Here we were, a bunch of kids hoping to change the world, celebrating a man who had done just that. It was inspiring, and motivating, and I hope that one day we too can serve the world. I felt honored to be present at this celebration, and lucky to be a part of the UWC mission.
Friday, November 8, 2013
Therefore, this is my Official Disclaimer. If you are a potential UWC student, please know that I can only report my own experience; I cannot generalize the entire experience as any other individual might encounter it. And for any current UWCer, especially here at USA, I apologize if you feel I have not accurately illustrated what you consider this experience to be.
But I think this is part of the beauty of UWC. We all come from different backgrounds, different cultures, and different ways of thinking. And we all go through the IB and CAS, but what each of us takes from this adventure is very unique and often very personal.
Today I and three of my co-years sat through a CAS interview, a discussion about the challenges and lessons we've encountered through our leadership CASs. It was extremely interesting. On the one hand, we all admitted to facing some struggles working cohesively with our respective groups, and even more so with the people in the community (particularly middle school kids... let's jut admit that it's an awkward phase in everyone's life), but each of us also had individual stories to relate and had learned and come across various ideas. I was reminded how impressive it is that, being given similar experiences, we all take something different away.
On the greater scale, our lives are just like this. Every person we meet, every place we visit, or even something like every radio commercial that we hear, each changes our life in some small way and creates an infinity of incidents that expand into millions and millions of possible lives. It's difficult to wrap your head around, and beautiful, and incredible.
Alright, alright, I won't get too philosophical or profound; it's just a thought that's been on my mind lately.
In other news, UWC continues to be ever surprising. Last weekend we had two performance events: Halloween Cafe (an informal set performed by any willing students) and our first Castle Concert of the year. Both were full of incredibly talented performers; I never fail to be completely blown away by my peers. We also had some hilarious pass-down performances in the cafe (my personal favorite was the Backstreet Boys). One of the best elements of these performance situations is the atmosphere- there is so much love and support and joy surrounding the talent and creativity demonstrated, and it makes the community feeling so much nicer.
If you'd like to see the Castle Concert, click HERE. It's quite good.
Other than that, we're forging on with Third Semester. There's still a lot of work and life is busy as always, but as the semester moves forward, I'm definitely looking forward to the Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, and hopefully some snow before that. Fingers crossed!
Monday, October 28, 2013
The Other Reason
Living on a closed campus with 250 people can be difficult sometimes. We're still normal human beings, we still have conflicts, and, especially as teenagers, we sometimes get a little hard to handle. But for the most part, I'd bet you could ask anyone on campus and they'll tell you they've made lifelong friends here. Living together 24/7 (or 25/8!) means that we see each other in all of our stages, the good ones- happy, excited, proud- but also the not so good ones- sick, tired, post-workout, sleepy. It means that we know each other very well. When someone looks out of sorts, we notice, and we're there to support that person.
Recently I've been reflecting on my friendships here. This year started out a little roughly. It was much more difficult than I expected to return to a place so full of memories, but empty of half of the people who had made it so special. Top that with 100 new indiviudals, with two very strong, but dynamically different class personalities, and there were a lot of people, including me, feeling a little lost.
Swamped with work and big decisions, I've found myself spending much of my time alone, sitting in my room working. It's important, yes, but also exhausting. Luckily, I can honestly say that I am surrounded by incredible friends who have shared both the highs and lows, and with whom I continue to laugh and make memories. I am so grateful to have such a strong class full of classmates who are interesting, talented, caring, fun, and who, together, make up such a great group.
But there's another group of people who I should also mention and who I've recently come to appreciate a little more. Our first years. Quite honestly, guys, y'all were a handful in the beginning. I mean that in the most loving way, of course. We didn't expect for you to be so self-sufficient and cogent, and I think that threw us off a bit. Also, in case you hadn't noticed, you have some very... "big" characters in your class who initially overshadowed the diversity. But lately I've had the chance to get to know many of you, and I am so glad I have. You guys have a lot to offer, besides being just really great individuals, and I look forward to spending more time talking with you, or playing silly games in the castle, or working together in CAS.
Oh, really quickly, one more thing from the first years. I guess I knew people were reading my blog, but I figured it was mostly my family and friends, or random strangers who accidentally stumbled across the webpage and didn't really read it. I was apparently wrong. Twice this year, first years approached me and told me they'd been reading my blog before they came to UWC. Turns out they were both surprised to meet me as one thought I'd graduated and the other wasn't completely sure I was a real person (or at least that's what I understood). C and O, you girls made me happy to know I'm actually being read and I'm glad that you're here and that I get to know you.
Alright, what do you say, enough mushy friend stuff? OK. Basically, I'm just really grateful for the friendships I have- thank you :)
Sunday, October 27, 2013
I've explained cultural days before, so you've heard about NAD and CLAD. This time, it was END- European National Day. The evening started off with a lovely dinner, themed "Opera", including Spanish gazpacho, Hungarian goulash, German schnitzel, Polish pierogi, French crepes, and Italian tiramisu. Altogether the food and entertainment were magnificent. Following dinner, everyone moved to the auditorium for the show.
I have to say, going into the END experience, I was skeptical. Biased, having led NAD, and beside the fact that I am actually European and was part of the show, I wasn't expecting anything too outstanding. But with hearty congratulations, I have to admit that I was very, very wrong. The show was really impressive. With a good mix of humor, depth, and variety, I think everyone left the auditorium feeling both more educated about European culture, as well as reflective. Check out the link below to see the performances (and see if you can spot me in the Language Tree skit and Jumpstyle, the dance with lights).
Though the party- themed "apres-ski"- was hindered by technical issues, the evening overall was really fun and impressive. It reminded me of the bigger picture: why I'm here, where I want to go, and of all of the incredibly intelligent, talented people with whom I get to share this experience.
With college application deadlines drawing near, I look forward to having a bit more free time to make the most of my UWC opportunities and return to learning about the world from its citizens.
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Second Year Survival Week
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Aren't we in a Drought?
But if you've been paying attention to the news this past week, you might know that New Mexico is experiencing extreme rain and flood conditions, something that hasn't been seen here in over fifty years. Our school sits above a river (more of a small stream most of the year) that has now flooded and completely closed down any access into or out of the school. Some are joking that we now have a moat for our castle.
On a serious note, the huge surge of water has actually caused quite a bit of damage. One of the farms next to the school lost all of their animals and I was told some people were evacuated from the area.
As we're cut off, no one can get on campus. Though we were all kind of worried about this at first, it's turned out to be kind of nice. The kitchen isn't staffed, so teachers are being asked to help cook, and the 6 dorms are rotating through cleaning duties. It has actually created a very nice sense of community, and, unexpectedly, we've had awesome food. I, one of our RTs from Palestine, cooked dinner last night and it was incredible; definitely the best caf food we've had.
So, if you're a parent, don't worry, your child is safe and very well fed! We're riding out the storm, hoping it won't rain any more, and waiting for the sun to come back. On the bright side, maybe we're finally out of the drought stages, yeah?
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
The UWC Conversation
Sunday, August 25, 2013
The Gravity of the Situation
Alright. Before I begin, I just want to give you fair warning: this post is serious. While the previous Ukraine blogs have been funny (or maybe not, maybe I actually have no comedic skills and no one thought my puns and lines were as funny as I did...) I want to make a point with this post and its a fairly serious topic. Ok, ready? I did warn you. Let's go.
One of the sharpest shocks was that the mafia is in every organization, including law enforcement. Especially law enforcement. Drivers can be pulled over for anything (or rather, nothing), or even for violating a sign that is illegally positioned. Ok, fine, enforce driving laws, sure that sounds great. But most policemen give the people the option to bribe them immediately, instead of paying the fine. And most people do, because they think they're getting the cheaper option, when, often, if they argued their case they might be able to get off, as the offense was imaginary.
The corruption reaches even to children. Students do not earn grades, they pay for them. No joke. And it comes from the teacher. A family friend of ours recounted having to decide whether to submit to such corruption, to allow her child a chance to get the grade she deserved, or to oppose the system but cost her daughter her academic record. It's insanity. How can the society hope to improve and evolve past this primitive system when they teach even their children such manners?
Seeing veterans standing on the street begging for a penny from the people they fought for, children worried about their future because they don't want to be part of the system that is inescapable, and family members working to provide for themselves but stay undetected so as not to have to share their "wealth".
Saturday, August 24, 2013
A Whole New Year
But it is exciting, of course. It's fun to be the teachers, the leaders, and to be able to share our experience with so many new people. This year we have many new countries represented, and one of the largest classes thus far. I have yet to meet a lot of people, and I hope the firsties know that this time is just as strange for us as it is for them; we've never been second years before.
It's also extremely challenging, and I feel like there's a lot of pressure to "do it right". Our class is struggling to stay strong together, to not miss our second years so much, and to give the first years the best possible UWC experience. My mom says its a good experience (she's probably right, learning how to balance all of these challenges and new voices) but it's also difficult and I just have my fingers crossed we'll do half as well as our second years did for us last year.
As it's a busy time I won't write too much just now, but know that life here is as busy and crazy as ever and I'll come back soon!
Saturday, August 17, 2013
Friday, August 16, 2013
Love from Montezuma :)
Friday, August 9, 2013
In a quick break from the Ukraine segments, I wanted to take a moment to confide in y'all. Ah, this is difficult to get out... Ok, deep breath. Ready.
I think I might have scared my first year.
There. I said it. In a moment, ok, ok, an hour's worth of moments, I might have been a little overly excited to meet him and talk about the coming school year.
We got together on Wednesday to "officially" meet (B went to my old high school- not only a state- mate, but a city- mate and a... school-mate?) In all fairness I did tell him I was just over excited at that moment and would calm down when we get to school, but at this point I'm just hoping he'll still come.
No, I'm sure that's an exaggeration, and he'll still come and learn I'm not crazy and it'll be great. He really is a cool guy and I'm excited for him to be starting this journey. We're a little different, for example B has had three pet snakes (THREE), likes physics, and theatre. But we're also alike in some ways, we both love languages and international stuff and coffee. Having a first year state mate will be fun and I hope we can be good friends!
And to B: I'm sorry for being a little... Overwhelming? I promise to chill out soon and be normal, or as normal as UWCers can be :) see ya in NM!
Thursday, August 8, 2013
The [No One Goes Hungry] Games
Here are the basic points you should know:
1) We eat and drink more than just borscht and vodka
2) Russian cooking is... what a good friend of ours calls "labor intensive"
3) If you ever go up to your Russian friend and try to describe that one food you tried last week, "you know, the one with meat inside of dough, it's really good, you know it?" there is a good chance they'll laugh at you. There are at least 5 different foods I can think of off the top of my head that are variations on meat inside dough.
4) You will never, ever, under any circumstance, go hungry in a Russian household. Not ever.
I've always known that what my parents cook at home is "Russian". Duh. I just never realized how legitimately authentic our home cooked meals are. In Ukraine, I walked into restaurants expecting to get to try really real Russian food. What I was served was almost exactly what I could have gotten at home (so y'all are all welcome to skip the expensive airfare and come over to my house instead).
There are variations on dishes, of course, just like in any cuisine. Some people add carrots in their salat olivye, some put sugar in varyeniki, and some make okroshka on mineral water instead of kvac. But what holds true for most dishes is the cooking process. I don't mean the ingredients for each dish (although if you have meat and dough you're like 90% there), but the mentality. Russian dishes are not easy to make. There are different doughs for different dishes, varied lengths for cooking, but always a lot of time spent in the kitchen. My mom often prepares Russian dinners for holidays; they usually take a full two days to prepare.
Nevertheless, Russians will continue to spend such time on their food. Food is a big part of culture. "Well, duh, Jess, just like in any other culture". No, no, I mean like food is a central component, not just for meals but for socializing, at any level. When you walk into a Russian household, we will offer you something to eat and drink. If you say you're not hungry, we'll only bring out 2/3 of what we've prepared. If we ask about seconds, you might as well say "yes". "No" will only cause the babushka (pronounced BA-bush-ka, not ba-BUSH-ka, it's a pet peeve of mine) of the house to tell you "nonsense, you're too thin, have some more". Resistance is futile; we will feed you.
On the bright side, you can relax and just enjoy the meal- it'll be delicious and mostly healthy. None of this additives nonsense; we like things natural and home grown (like actually, in our backyard, where my uncle keeps 5 cows, 3 calves, a plot of tomatoes, a start to some grapes, and still expanding). Once you've eaten, I'd recommend you stick around for tea and chocolate; we have really good chocolate. I'm pretty sure that in 3 weeks in Ukraine, I drank more tea (a cup after any and every meal, of course) and ate more dessert than ever in my life.
Anyways, I hope this short look into our culinary world has been enlightening. And don't forget- Kansas is probably much closer than Ukraine, so stop on by and we'll fill you up.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Pot Holes: Most countries pride themselves on clean, smooth roads for their citizens to use safely, with as few bumps (physical or metaphorical) as possible. Ukraine has evolved past this stage and instead allows drivers to use their time economically, both driving and playing games, in this case: Pop Goes the Pothole. In this game, the player must dodge as many potholes as possible. There are virtually no rules, meaning drivers/players can ignore all rules of traffic (i.e, speedlimits, lanes, and direction) in the prestigious, yet nearly impossible attainment of a smooth journey.
Guess Who: my sister's personal favorite, this game can be played virtually anywhere with anyone, as long as a conversation is in session. The object of the game is to keep track of who exactly is being talked about. Sound simple enough? The more challenging version is played when the player is actually named one of the more common Russian names; the goal in this case is to respond to your name only when you are actually being referred to. Our particular round (a round may continue indefinitely) included 4 "Natasha"s, 2 "Nastya"s, 2 "Lyuda"s, 2 "Sergei"s, 2 "Igor"s, 2 "Olga"s, and an infinite number of "Sasha"s. (Needless to say, I am quite happy to be named something as completely un- Russian as "Jessika")
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
I do have one UWC-ish piece of news to report: I'll be in London soon and am hoping to meet up with my third year from UWC-SEA; yay! It'll be really exciting to hear about another school and another set of experiences. Also, while flying/ moving through airports I'm planning on wearing a UWC hoodie and hoping to run into some cool people :)
If you're a UWC grad in London or Ukraine let me know and we can try to get together!
Best wishes from Kansas!
Monday, June 3, 2013
"See you later."
I could write millions of words on the last year- recounting stories, telling jokes, explaining traditions, but I think it might be better just to keep it short and sweet.
Thank you. Thank you SOOOO much. To my parents, family, and friends for helping me get to UWC. To my national committee and Shelby Davis for making this experience possible. To my co-years for being some of my best friends ever ever ever, for embarking on this journey with me and for making it all the better. And to my second years, for welcoming us into your home, for being incredible role models, and for being even better friends.
I won't bother saying good bye. This isn't good-bye, it's see you later. Because y'all are always welcome in Kansas, at school (please come visit us this year!!), and I hope to maybe even see some of you in your own home countries.
Love you all.
See ya later.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Thursday, April 25, 2013
If a year and a half ago you had told me that I would soon be going to a boarding school in a beautiful part of New Mexico surrounded by students from 80+ countries, that I would try and enjoy Wilderness and playing soccer and peer mediation, and that my world view would widen exponentially, I would probably have thought you were crazy. Psh, a boarding school? Really? Those only exist in books and Europe. And I don't do Wilderness. Or soccer. So... no, definitely not gonna happen. If only I'd known.
I found out about UWC via brochure in the mail and, as I mentioned in my very first post, wasn't going to open it. I thought UWC was a summer program and, when my mother and I finally realized it was a two year commitment, I think we researched the school more just because we couldn't believe it was a real thing than that I could actually go here. Dad even said there was no way in the world he would let me go away to school a year early, before I was even 18. But here I am. And boy has my life changed in the past year.
Last Tuesday marked exactly one year since I received my acceptance letter to UWC-USA.
I cannot even begin to tell you what a momentous year it has been. I can try to convey each of our crazy traditions and explain about cultural shows, and castle history, and trips off campus. But it's a bit harder to capture how we've all changed as individuals. Second years warned us at the beginning of the year that we'd change, but I don't think any of us believed them. How could we really become that different in such a short time?
I'm starting to realize how. UWC is an extremely unique environment. We're a fairly closed community, which can have both pros and cons. On the one hand, it's a little difficult to go back into the real world and interact with individuals who know nothing of your life. On the other, we're so close, all of us (students and faculty) as peers, learning together. We've seen each other in every state- happy, homesick, ill, tired, excited, cranky- and so we're comfortable with each other. We know we can discuss difficult topics, joke around, share our stories. We become comfortable with ourselves. We start to understand specifically what has made us the way we are and what we need to do to become who we imagine. Sure it's not quite that easy, we make mistakes, check each other, apologize, regroup, and move forward. We grow together.
As the year comes to a close I've been thinking a lot about the last year and what it has given me. There are still so many people I want to get to know better and so many adventures yet to be had. And with that, so many more small changes to go through. Good thing there's a month left, better get started :)
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Lenses Part II
Monday, April 8, 2013
The Lenses Through Which I See
The initial draft of our "stories" was prompted by the phrase "the lenses I see through". After this draft we edited, polished, and sometimes combined our stories to make recordings for a radio show. I'll post the finished product, which is a compilation of mine and two other students' work, in a later post, but I thought I might share a piece of myself with y'all. Please understand that it is a glance into the deeper workings of my mind, and that it is honest and "raw". I hope you also take a moment to think about lenses through which you see.
The Lenses Through Which I See
The lenses I see through are backwards. Instead of composing many different colors and textures into a single image, they take a snapshot of the world and refract it into the many different aspects of my life that make me who I am and affect how I perceive the world. I see the world based on my experience. I am composed of all of the moments I have lived, my memories, what I know. Particular influences stand out: my family, my culture, my church, my education, and my interests.
My family is… a little indescribable. Our structure is complex, but our functionality is successful. My family has always supported me, and my parents especially have done all they can for my ultimate success. From my family I have learned the importance of solidarity, of education, and of communication, and I have learned to stand up for what I believe in. I have learned rationality and practicality. I have learned that I can be wrong, and I have learned to apologize, even if only because I value a relationship more than my pride. These lessons are lenses through which I see.
My culture has me made me an individual. I have always stood out from my peers. My parents immigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine and because they have shared their culture, language, and history with me, that has become part of who I am. It can be difficult to explain our story, to withstand comments and jokes about communism and being a “Russian spy”, but, ultimately, this experience has made me curious and interested in other cultures, languages, and religions. I count myself lucky to have had the chance to grow up multicultural. It is who I am and no one can take that away. This experience is a lens through which I see.
My religion is like a part of my culture. I am Eastern Orthodox. I believe in God, in miracles, in saints, in icons, and in Heaven. Sometimes I feel like I can’t share this with others because they think I am trying to push my beliefs on them, and I hate it; I think it’s unfair. I want to share my experience, not make it yours. You have your own experience and I want to hear about that too. My church has always been a part of my life. The colors of the icons, the sound of the chanters and choir, and the smell of the incense are home. My church community is my family. I have spent countless hours at church- not only for religious services, but also for fellowship and service, and just for fun with my best friends. I want to be able to share this part of myself with others- to explain that, for me, my church is not only my belief in God, but my belief in making the world a better place- whether through serving those in need, or just creating opportunities for everyone to live in a free and tolerant world. My beliefs are a lens through which I see.
My parents have basically drilled into me the importance of education. Coming from a country with few opportunities, they have worked tirelessly to give me as many as possible. Through private, public, and now boarding school environments, my worldviews have grown. The Montessori curriculum taught me real world skills and to approach problems and challenges fearlessly. Public school taught me patience and perseverance, because not everyone will be as motivated as I in a given situation. The IB curriculum has taught me about making connections- between subjects, ideas, cultures, and individuals. UWC has taught me responsibility- to myself and to the world. I am a global citizen and I must use my knowledge to make this world a better place, in any way possible. Knowledge is a lens through which I see.
Each person has particular interests, and they are crucial to how we each perceive the world. I am interested in just that- the world. I wish I could know everything about every culture and history and language and country on this planet. It fascinates me how magnificently different we are. It horrifies me that we cannot all live in peace with our differences. I see the world through a lens that is, in a sense, itself. I compare my experiences of countries and cultures, and question everything. How does this place look? How do these people think? What do they eat? What do they believe? I want to learn it all, and this curiosity is a lens through which I see.
Jessika Nebrat (USA-KS 2014)
Thursday, April 4, 2013
News and Such
ABQ USA Applicant UWC Interviews-
Each year the US National Selection Committee organizes about 12 interview sites around the country, interviewing nearly 600 candidates, in order to choose 50 individuals to distribute to the UWCs around the world. The biggest interview site is Albuquerque and, because its close(ish) to the school, about 10 current students get to go help facilitate the interviews each year. And I got to go! Whoo!
It was actually really fun! When I attended my interview last year I had a blast. Yes, it was really stressful and I was nervous, but meeting brilliant people and playing games all day isn't such a bad deal. This time was even better (because as T (our admissions director) reminded us, we're already in). We answered questions for the interviewees and their parents and played games with the students. In all honesty, it was a really strong applicant pool, and I wouldn't want to be in the committee's shoes.
The interviews were also kind of a jarring wake-up call. Some of those students are actually going to be accepted and come to our school, meaning I'll be a second year and my second year's won't be here anymore. UWC does not exist for me or my class without our second years. They've just always been here, and the fact that I'll probably never see some of these amazing people ever again is scary. Not to mention it's been nearly a year since my whole world changed when I decided to come to UWC. Boy, does time fly, or what?
I wish the best of luck to the applicants, but am also dreading that day in May when I have to say good-bye to so many of my friends.
Holi is the Indian festival of color. Though we were unable to celebrate the festival on time, we did celebrate with a bang. After some of the students said the appropriate prayer (it's a Hindu festival), we started on the fun part- throwing colors at each other. Picture this- 75 teenagers running around a soccer ball throwing paint and water all over each other. Messy? Yes. Fun? Absolutely!
I was a little worried for April Fool's Day. I've already described how crazy pranks can be on a normal day, so a day dedicated to pranking definitely seemed problematic. But it wasn't nearly as crazy as I imagined. In fact, the only pranking that took place, that I know of, was directed at the teachers.
My first code Monday morning was Social Anthropology. Each member of the class spoke their own language to answer our teacher's questions. At first he was just really confused (I'm pretty sure he thought he just wasn't understanding S's mumbling) but then caught on and thought it was pretty funny.
In my last code, French, we tried to confuse our teacher by nonchalantly switching seats every 5 minutes. Unfortunately she caught on extremely quickly and it didn't end up as much of a prank. Oh well.
So lots of activity here on campus. As we get into the last two months of the year (.... let's not mention the G word...) the calendar is absolutely jam- packed, so be patient with the long breaks between updates.
Hope y'all are enjoying the beginning of the spring season :)
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Project Week is UWC's form of Spring Break, only instead of going home or on vacation, everyone goes on a trip focused on some sort of "project". This year there was a wilderness trip for wilderness- leaders- in- training, a group who spent the week volunteering at SXSW (a big music festival in Austin, TX), a group in California, one camping at Big Bend in TX, and another in CO at an HIV/AIDS conference. Originally, my trip was meant to travel to Alamos, Mexico for a film festival. We were going to stay with host families and get to practice our Spanish and it was going to be a ton of fun. Unfortunately, due to some unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to go. Within about 2 weeks we had to completely re-plan a trip that many others had been planning for months.
As such, going into Project Week I didn't have too many expectations. I wasn't sure what exactly we were going to do and how organized the plans were. All I knew was we were driving 8 hours to Tucson. Luckily, it turned out to be a really fun week.
Our group was pretty small, 9 students and 2 chaperones. We spent the week visiting museums, doing service projects, enjoying the warm weather (90*F... :)) by the pool and biking through the city, and getting to know the city. Tucson surprised me in that it's actually really beautiful. The city is surrounded by mountains and plenty of desert flora and fauna that was really interesting to see. Like the thousands of saguaro cacti all over the mountains. And the cute little prairie dogs scattered throughout the city.
Project week was also a really great chance to get off campus with UWC people- I got to know my group so much better. In the evenings we spent time talking, cooking (such good food- authentic Italian, Mexican, Indian food, plus delicious sandwiches, eggs, and more) and playing games- mostly jungle speed (a card game involving pattern recognition and speed, which UWC students get really into. It's very, very competitive.)
Over all it was a very enjoyable week. We got some sleep, got to know each other better, and got to experience a new city and culture. But it was also nice to get back to campus; everyone was happy to see each other and catch up on adventures. Each time we return to campus from a trip, I realize how much of a family we are here; it's always an incredible, happy observation, and makes both the trip and the "homecoming" that much better.
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Greetings from Tucson!
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Expressions and Appreciations are shows put on by the second and first years respectively to "highlight" certain characteristics of the opposite class. Basically, we make fun of each other.
This past Saturday was Expressions- the show that the second years put on. We'd all heard about Expressions before, and taken all the threats about "regretting that fateful day in middle school when we joined facebook and started posting pictures that would later become fodder for the rest of the school's amusement", but I didn't realize just how fun the whole thing would be.
The events started at dinner, when a number of the second years dressed up as some of the firsties with the most recognizable clothing and mannerisms. It. Was. Hilarious. And so, so accurate! I hadn't noticed before how people walked, or spoke, or where they sat all the time until the second years exaggerated it so much.
After dinner we headed down to the auditorium to find a looping powerpoint showcasing all of those aforementioned embarrassing photos. And then the show started.
The way the show works is that the second years compile a program of dorm videos and skits. Dorm videos are made by the second years in each dorm and are supposed to include everyone in the dorm so that everyone is in the show at least once. I think they were my favorite part of the show. I can't possibly explain all of the jokes because you really have to know the people to understand why the representations were so spot-on and so funny. I have to give the second years credit for doing an awesome job with these.
The rest of the show is combination of individual skits. Each skit generally highlights a small group of people and makes fun of their mannerisms. There were mock job interviews, videos, dances, passdowns, and just a lot of jokes. And I ended up as the brunt of a lot of them- but it's ok, its all good fun.
The second years wrapped up with a song and came out and gave us all notes they'd compiled. It was a really nice ending to the show and a great reminder of how close our classes generally are. I think a lot of us also realized just how much we're going to miss our second years. We're all very excited for our first years, but we've spent a year building connections with all of these amazing people, and, in all reality, we may never see some of them again. Crazy, I know.
But, altogether, Expressions was a very fun night and a great tradition.
And second years? Y'all just wait for Appreciations- we're coming for you ;)
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
This past weekend, I had a new wilderness experience- that of winter wilderness. This is the trip most commonly referred to as the "Yurt Trip", because those who dare to embark upon the journey stay in a Yurt up in Taos. It's also a cross country ski and snowshoe trip. I signed up for the trip and was one of the lucky 30 students who got to go. I was super duper excited- ready to experience camping in the winter and XC skiing and snowshoeing for the very first time.
We left school early last Friday and made the drive up to Taos in our white and blue UWC bus. The leaders said the hike to the yurt was about 1.75 miles. So I figured, hey, get to Taos around 3:30, hike an hour or two, set up camp, sleep. Awesome.
What I didn't realize is that the hike up to the yurt involves hiking up a mountain. Like a mountain. Covered in several feet of powdery snow. With more snow falling by the hour. Breaking trail. Carrying our packs and skis. In the encroaching and finally arriving darkness.
At first, the whole thing was really fun. The mountains are absolutely beautiful, especially covered in snow; quiet and serene. And my team was awesome- chatting and optimistic as we kicked off the trip. We kept catching up to the leading team and couldn't figure out why they were moving so slowly. We finally realized they were breaking trail (which means quite literally packing down snow to make a path for us to follow, which is a lot of work- kudos to those who did this!). We also realized that, with no clear path, we weren't really sure where we were going. In the dark. Yeah. We had to stop for a bit and let the leaders pan out and scout.
We finally chose the right trail and, after a very long, very tiring trek, reached the yurt. Guess how long the whole thing took? FIVE HOURS. For 1.75 miles. I couldn't believe it; but when we did finally reach the yurt and take our packs off and warm up, there was definitely a sense of accomplishment attached to the experience.
We spent Saturday cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, exploring, sleeping, playing games, and just hanging out. It really is incredible up there. And it was great to try out some new activities and just have fun.
Sunday, we packed up, cleaned up, and hiked back down. Thankfully, it was much, much easier to hike downhill, in daylight, with an existing path, and we made the trip in just over an hour.
After another 3-hour drive, we finally returned to school, unpacked, de-issued gear, and got to shower and sleep.
The whole thing was definitely a cool experience, and one of those things that I would probably have never done outside of UWC. I learned a lot about winter wilderness expeditions (like the incredible amount of gear you need, layering, some basic first-aid techniques) and got to know several people a lot better. Although a bit difficult at first, the trip was awesome and I recommend, to everyone, doing something like this at least once in your life.
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Also, fingers crossed for all the U.S. applicants who should now know if they got interviews! I haven't heard anything at all but am excited for you guys! Best of luck!
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Saving the Planet
My science class is called Environmental Systems. The course covers a bit of all the different sciences and relates them to one another and, more importantly, to global systems (political, economic, social, etc.). Recently we've been talking about climate change, including the history, current situation, and future possibilities. It was interesting, but not anything too exciting or that we'd never heard before.
This past week, instead of just listening to our teacher, BG, tell us about the current issues, we got to experience first hand the immensity of the situation and the difficulty of solving it. BG organized a mock United Nations Climate Summit. Each of the students in the class was assigned a country (usually a country in a different position than their own; for example, I represented Niger, which is a developing B country, while the U.S. is a developed country) and together, as representatives of the three economic power groups- developed, developing A, and developing B countries- we were supposed to come up with a solution to climate change.
Sounds easy enough, right? Everyone lowers their carbon emissions, goes green, and we save the planet. NO. There are sooo many factors that have to be taken into account. Like the fact that the developing B countries (Niger, Cambodia, Guatemala, Bangladesh, etc.) will be the countries hit the hardest by rising sea levels; they will lose crucial agricultural land, yet they can't contribute to the global fund or afford green energy sources. Or that developing A countries don't want to contribute to the global fund or reduce emissions because they want to achieve the success and prosperity of the developed countries, who they argue are mainly to blame for climate change and therefore should be the ones to fix the problem. But developed countries don't have that option because the A countries are growing and increasing emissions and, without their participation, the point is moot. There are a lot of factors to consider and, as we learned, its not easy.
Basically, the way each round worked was that each group decided on a goal and then negotiated terms with the other two groups. At the end of the round, each group presented a:
*CO2 emissions stop year
*CO2 emissions decline start year
*Fractional rate of decline (%/yr)
*REDD rates (reduction in emissions from deforestation and land degradation)
*Contribution to the global fund for climate mitigation and adaptation ($ billion/yr)
Our goals were to keep the global rise in temperature to 2 degrees Celsius, the carbon levels as low as possible (experts originally set the cap at 350 parts per million, but we've already exceeded that), the sea levels with minimal rise, and the global fund at $100billion. Over the course of a week we participated in ~5 rounds of negotiations, each time plugging the proposals into a computer model which showed us the global effects of our decisions.
Going into the activity, I didn't expect much. I didn't think our class would really take the summit seriously and I fully expected the whole thing to be fairly boring. I. Was. So. Wrong. You would not believe how fired up people got about defending the positions and contributions of their countries- arguing about climate justice, and economic power, and ratios of contributions. It was really impressive. And really fun. And I definitely learned a lot.
In the end we managed to keep the rise in temperature to 2.3 degrees Celsius, but this required extreme changes in the ways we were "running our countries". Basically, the developed countries ended up with a rate of decline of 2% starting in 2019, the A countries in the same year with 1.5%, and the B countries in 2035 at a rate of 0.4%. Our deforestation and afforestation rates were 2% and 9% respectively and we reached the global fund agreement with developed countries contributing $65b, A at $30b, and B at $5b. These are really radical changes, but possible, and if the countries of the world could just sit down, realize that all of our lives are at stake here, get over differences and economic and political agendas, and just do it, we could really get somewhere. Saving the planet and stopping climate change is possible, its just going to take some work. And that work needs to happen now, because another thing we learned is that for every single year you wait, the problem becomes exponentially harder to solve.
Seriously, this was one of the coolest activities I've ever done in a class. It was very real and made me realize not only how grave the global situation is, but that my classmates and I could very well be the ones in these negotiations, calling the shots, in just a few years time.
So get ready, guys. We're coming to save the planet.
Monday, February 4, 2013
Here's a bit about the alums we got to meet most recently (courtesy an email from the coordinator):