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


     To all of the Davis Scholars from the U.S. who received their acceptance letters today- congratulations! We're all excited to welcome you to the UWC family and look forward to meeting you in the fall :)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Lenses Part II

Our full script for recording:

J: 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.
My experience has been deeply multicultural. My parents immigrated to the United States from the Ukraine, and their history and culture has become mine. My culture is rooted extensively in the importance of family, in tradition, and in religion. My church is my home and the community is my family. I miss the cool calm of the cathedral, the rich, musky aroma of the incense, and the resonant murmur of the chanters’ voices. My experience has made me curious about the world. I want to know about every culture, and religion, and history on the planet.

J à A: It fascinates me how magnificently different we are; but why can’t we all live in peace with our differences?

A: Why can’t we all respect each other for who we are?...
Growing in a Macedonian family that carefully constructed a bubble of a calm childhood is something I am lucky to have been part of. This bubble was my little world, world of respect for my Christian Orthodox religion; deeply intertwined with the tradition and culture, created ever since I could say Easter or Christmas. I grew up to have a respect for any other religion including the one that is perceived to be opposite than my own – Islam.  
But for some reason, there was always that distinction, that line that separated Macedonians from Albanians  - Christians from Muslims. Something I couldn’t realize and understand.
Then, a harsh reality check came when I was about 5. A terrifying sound, followed by a horrific tremble was just enough to make me realize that the whole world is not how I thought it was – that it is not anything like how my bubble worked. In one moment a grenade fell only a couple hundred meters away from my house. It shook and shattered my whole reality and flavored it with people’s peculiar inability of living with respect for what is different than themselves.
The smoke in the near distance was the first image of conflict that I encountered and constantly come back to. The image that makes me think over and over again about our differences and the possible ways we can accept them.

A à S: It fascinates me how magnificently different we are; but why can’t we all live in peace with our differences?

S:  There are two things I ask myself: first, is there absolute truth to everything? Second, am I culturally biased by the lens I see through?  
In the summer of 2011, I went to a summer camp for international girls in New York State for 7 weeks. As the only girl representing China, the feeling of loneliness and vulnerability struck me hard. I became more and more sensitive to issues related to my country. On a sunny afternoon, a girl from Taiwan told me she was determined do a workshop on how Taiwan was an independent country.
I was paralyzed. Hurt. Enraged. I always believed that there was such a historical and cultural bond between us that it was irrational and impossible to consider us as different countries. But, now, this girl, from whom I could find the most similarities among all the other girls, was telling me that she denied this unity. I was ripped apart.
I spent the next few days in the computer room searching desperately for evidence of how Taiwan and China belong to the same country. Shockingly, I found few. One day I stayed up until midnight only finding an article criticizing how my government was denying the fact only because of its evil will of suppressing Taiwan people. I shivered. The computer room was never as cold. I felt helpless.
On the day of the workshop, I was nervous. I could hear my heart pounding. As the workshop went on I felt sad that we had so many misunderstandings and distrust that built up the tension. At the same time, however, I felt relieved. Because despite the opposite viewpoints, I could still see the connection of culture and humanity that lay across the sea channel and bound us together.
Now my views boils down to a simple hope: I hope that one day the word China no longer has the political sensitivity, but, rather, pride, peace, and a sense of home for all of us.

S àJ: It fascinates me how magnificently different we are; but why can’t we all live in peace with our differences?

J2:  I want to be able to share my experience with others, but I often feel that I cannot. I hate that. I think it’s unfair. I do not want to make my experience yours. I know that you have your own experience, unique from any other individual. I want to not only share my story, but hear about yours too. Differences are what make us special and this world extraordinary. So why do we choose to reject all of the knowledge and wonder, to focus on a minuscule discrepancy? Why can’t we learn through our differences, instead of fighting each other?

AJS: I do not want to make my experience yours. I want to be able to share my story and accept the one you choose to share with me.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Lenses Through Which I See

     This past weekend I was part of a CEC (Constructive Engagement of Conflict) retreat in Santa Fe. We worked with an organization called Youth Media Project which aims to allow youth to express themselves through radio broadcasts. Although I was wary about the whole concept, I came out of the experience quite surprised to have learned a fair amount about not only my peers, but myself as well.
     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

     It's been a while, I know, sorry. The spring semester is always busy, and UWC is definitely no exception. A couple major things have occurred over the past couple of weeks, so I guess I'll just go through those:

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!

April Fools-
     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 :)