MY UWC STORY
I know that there are many absolutely crazy stories out there about how people got to know about the UWC movement, how the selection went and how they got in. I wouldn’t say that my story is particularly spectacular in any way, but I dare say that there have definitely been some rough patches along the way: almost forgot to send my application, going through the whole selection process twice, getting lost on the way to the selection weekend, my parents almost forgetting to send our financial disclosure to the committee in time…
So, here’s the story.
I was thirteen when I came back from my first language travel ever to Sevenoaks in England. It was my first time meeting so many people from different countries and cultures, I had made many friends and I was just blissfully happy. The first thing I told my mom when she greeted me on the airport was: “Those were the best two weeks of my life.” From that moment on, we started researching international schools.
If you’ve searched for IB-schools before you may know what I mean when I say that it’s impossible to find the United World Colleges by searching ‘IB school’ or ‘international school’ (I believe that that’s one of the biggest reasons why UWC is still “the best kept secret of education” and I really think that they should work on their publicity). So, long story short: we didn’t find anything, because regular IB-schools were out of the question due to the costs, therefore we stopped searching for the time being. However, a few months after I came back from the UK my mom was talking to the headmistress of a school in Germany at work, and once she told her that we were looking for an international school the headmistress told her about UWC.
I can still remember how I was sick in bed when my mom came back from work and excitedly told me about UWC. I instantly fell in love with the concept. Young people from all over the world living together, celebrating diversity, trying to make a difference and seeing education as something that can change the world instead of just an obligation. Buut I was still thirteen so the application was still far away.
When I was 14 I went on another language travel to England but because UWC was constantly in the back of my mind I thought that there may be something UWC related that I could take part in the next summer. And then I found the UWC short programs, more precisely the Global Leadership Forum organised by UWC USA. I’m going to try and keep the description short because this post is already getting way too long, but it’s a program that takes place on the campus of the UWC USA in Montezuma with the goal of bringing young people from all over the world together and make them leaders. I applied and got accepted into the program, so when I was 15 I spent 18 days in the summer of 2016 in New Mexico with 26 people who became like a family to me in the end. It wasn’t like my past language travels even though I met people from all over the world there too, but the thing is that it wasn’t about learning English better. We learned about problem solving, understanding each other and discussed issues in our society. Basically, those 18 days changed my life. Everyone was so accepting and supportive, we all had similar values and I am so thankful that I was able to make that experience.
That was the first time that I felt the UWC spirit.
First Try – Fail
So, little Stella got older and it was time to apply to UWC. Writing the application was kinda stressful ngl, but luckily it didn’t take me that long to write it (I also got a lot of advice from my mom, shoutout to you). Writing and submitting the application wasn’t the bad part, but the waiting was.
I just want to quickly explain the Austrian Application process as I know that it is different all over the world. There are three stages: the written application, the first selection weekend and the final selection. You can apply twice, when you’re 15 and when you’re 16. You can be rejected after each stage, so it’s not like you’re automatically invited to the selection weekend. Spoiler alert: I didn’t even get to the final round.
After waiting a little I got an e-mail saying that I was invited to the first selection weekend. I was sooo excited but also nervous because we got a task to complete and prepare for the weekend and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. But I will keep myself short because I’m planning on doing a seperate post about the whole selection process.
Fast forward and long story short, the selection weekend was great but a disaster at the same time. The people I met were really great but I just felt that I wasn’t doing so well, I was way too nervous and introverted and I just kinda had a hunch that I wasn’t going to make it into the next round, especially because I was comparing myself to all of the other amazing candidates. So after more waiting, surprise surprise!
I didn’t get into the next round. I was of course disappointed but, as I said, I didn’t expect to get into the final round plus I knew that I could apply again next year.
Check out the video I made from the selection weekend for a few impressions!
I’d say that I’m a realist so I just thought to myself Okay, so I know how the selection weekend goes now, I think I know what I could have done differently, I will collect new experiences in this year so I can try my best again next year.
My second application process was a whole lot more difficult in a lot of ways. Firstly, I had to do the written application all over again and obviously I didn’t turn into a completely different person in one year, therefore a lot of my answers didn’t change and I wasn’t sure how much I can leave the same. The essays were the biggest ‘problem’ because just one of the four essay prompts had changed. (In the end I left one essay completely the same as the one from the year before). I was quite anxious because what if I wouldn’t even get invited to the first selection weekend? How sad would that be, making it the first time and already failing at the beginning stage the second time? Well, I obviously got invited to the selection weekend and it was really nice.
Once again, the people I met were amazing and we did some really cool activities, some of them were even the same as the year before. When I first got there I was extremely nervous once again but I just told myself Get your shit together, you’ve been through this already, you know how stuff’s gonna go, don’t overthink it
I was way more relaxed this weekend and I also felt like my interviews went better than the ones the year before. Well, first selection weekend done, one more to go, right? I can’t even describe my emotions after the selection weekend. Everyday people in our Whatsapp group were asking if someone already knew if they got to the final selection, my mind wouldn’t rest, it felt like I checked my E-Mails every other minute. It took approximately two weeks until the first messages started coming in, I remember it was a monday and I was at school when the first person got their e-mail. The committe didn’t really do acceptance first, rejection second (or the other way around) so I did not know what to expect if I got an e-mail. More and more messages came in, I checked my e-mails- nothing. After school and on the way to the train station I checked again, not really expecting to see anything and my heart (as well as my phone) dropped. I had only looked for a split second, but that second was enough for me to see the subject of the e-mail: UWC Selection 2017 – Feedback How could that not be a rejection e-mail?? Especially since I knew that last year only the people who did not get into the final round (e.g. me) got a feedback. I couldn’t bring myself to open the e-mail, I told my friend I’d open it at home. But in the train I just wanted to get it over with, I opened the e-mail and it said:
First of all, thank you for your interest of the UWC movement and for your commitment during the selection process! (Okay, this is a rejection…)
As you could experience during the selection weekend, many motivated candidates contributed to the UWC spirit this year. (Definitely a rejection…)
You convinced us with your motivation and potential for the UWC movement, therefore it gives me great pleasure to inform you that you are invited to the final selection round! (Oh my god.)
As I said, I want to make the whole application process a different blog post, so I won’t say too much about the final selection weekend. Out of 24 people 11 people got into the next round, we had to prepare for a group discussion and we would each have a final interview. The final round was nerve-racking as hell, but fun nevertheless.
So, now for the part that I didn’t know how to deal with: the waiting after the end selection.
At this point, after having applied twice and being through the whole nerve-racking waiting process, I just wanted to have a final answer. I had asked myself too many times than I can count if I was good enough (especially after my first application didn’t work out) or if I even deserved it. On the selection weekend you meet so many mindful, supportive, hardworking and just wonderful people who all have the same dream and I wished for every one of them to fulfill their dream. It’s hard to not compare yourself to the other candidates.
On the train ride home after the end selection I just had so many thoughts and emotions. After all these years of knowing about UWC, this could be “the end”. Tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, I could get a rejection e-mail. But, you know, normal life continued and school … didn’t really take anyone’s mind off it 😀 Everyday we would write in the group if anyone had any news. It didn’t take long until the first three people got an acceptance call. The next day two people got rejected and the days after two more got accepted. The day after that was the last call for a while. Me and three other people “were left”, we had no idea if we got in or not and it would take almost three more weeks for me to find out that I got a scholarship for UWC Atlantic College (February 12th, 8:38pm). Which was a loong time. A very long time. God bless my mom for always saying “Wellll, you didn’t get rejected yet!” I don’t think I was ever as stressed and nervous as I was in those weeks.
What was so weird about the call was: they called my mom’s phone, and everyone else got called on their own phones, so when we were eating dinner and my mom’s phone rang. we did not expect a thing. I continued eating my pasta when I noticed my mom’s facial expression. And then I heard it through the phone: “…we have a place for Stella at UWC Atlantic College…” And then I was just DONE. I cried and cried and laughed and cried some more, I even got a really bad nose bleed because all of my blood rushed to my head out of excitement. I couldn’t really comprehend that that was really happening. I think I cried for solid 30 minutes or something, during which I called the most important people in my life to tell them the news.
Pheww, so now we got to the very end and to the current situation. If you read this far, props to you!
It still feels extremely surreal that I will be gone in August to attend my dream school. But I guess dreams do come true.16