Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The UWC Application Process

With all the suspense of people heading off to their respective colleges for this school year, I think it's a good time to have a 'throwback' to where we all started on this journey: the application process.

    The application process differs for people from different countries and of different nationalities. There are two main ways that you can apply to a United World College. Número uno: you can apply directly to the school, but this only applies to UWC Maastricht, UWC South East Asia and Waterford Kamhbala UWC. Numbah two, and the most common method: you can apply to UWC through a National Committee. This is the method that I'll be focusing on in this blog post. The members of a national committee are responsible for a number of things, including: promoting UWC, creating and following through with individual applications, selecting students for the UWCs and preparing them for their time at their respective UWCs. The national committee system is really helpful as countries have different education systems and grading systems, laws, etc, and these committees are made up of UWC alumni and other volunteers who know how it is to live in these countries as students, and will know how to best adapt the application procedure to fit these into the students' school years, and they can also conduct the process in the language of those students, which makes it easier for them to express themselves and show what they're fully capable of. If you've done your research and realized that, for whatever reason, you won't able to apply through a national committee, then you should contact the UWC international office.

   Each NC has their own way of going about the application process. You should apply to the National Committee of the country for which you are a national. Sometimes you aren't a national of the country in which you are residing, but check the qualifications of their NC to see if you would still be able to apply. I applied through the Dutch National Committee because I'm a Dutch national. Although I didn't live in the Netherlands, they also dealt with applicants in the Dutch Caribbean.

So, here's how my application procedure went down:

  1.  I looked into the requirements needed to apply. I've been interested in UWC for a long time before applying, so I did a lot of research before actually applying during my last year of high school. Everything from age to educational requirements apply. There are certainly no requirements when it comes to race, background, religion or financial standing. 
  2. I looked out for when the application forms were out. The Dutch national committee uses online applications, and mine was put online around the end of November. It was a few pages long, and the questions were quite thought provoking. They look at a lot of different aspects of your life through the application. I also had to send an application form to my parents, a teacher and a mentor. I sent the application forms in around the beginning of January.
  3. I received an email indicating that I got through to the interview stage. I got the email around mid-February, and my interview was to be mid-March.There are supposed to be three rounds when it comes to the Dutch national committee's application procedure: the written application, a selection day with group activities and a short interview, and lastly, a long interview. That's how they did it in the Netherlands, but for us Dutch Caribbean applicants, it was mainly 2 parts: the written application, and a selection day with group activities and a super long interview. This is because we were so spread out, so the interview day was held on one of the islands, in our case, Curaçao. So that day was when we had to get a lot done, because it was our only day to meet altogether.
  4. The interview day. On the interview day there was a student from Curaçao, one who was originally from Curaçao but was living in Trinidad, two from Aruba, and one (moi) from Sint Maarten. We met our interviewers, one of whom was an alumnus from UWCSEA. The day started out with doing some ice breaker games, and flowed naturally into the other activities. I was really glad that our group was cool; it wasn't about competing against each other or trying to be better than one another. We were all nervous, of course, but we were being ourselves and I think the atmosphere we created that day helped to calm some of those nerves. We did a few different activities, and at some point, each of us was called for the interview. This was probably the most nerve-wracking part. I walked into the interview room with my three interviewers before me, not knowing what to expect. The interview was probably the most intense thing I had ever gone through. I felt like they found all of the weak points within my application and just grilled me on them. My brain was fried afterward, I was sweating and I could barely remember what had just happened (I wish I was exaggerating on all of this, haha). I also walked out having learned more about myself than I knew before that interview. I returned to my group and wasn't able to speak of my interview until the rest had theirs. So we did our last few activities and said goodbye for the day. I got to meet up with some of the applicants the next day at the beach, before heading back to Sint Maarten that Monday.
  5. The weeks leading up to my acceptance. These weeks were mentally draining. I was always nervous and anxious about when I would receive a rejection or acceptance. I couldn't stop thinking about all of the things that I could've said during my interview, and where I could've gone wrong. The other Dutch Caribbean applicants and I were in a group chat on Facebook so that we could keep in touch with each other, and we were pretty much going crazy waiting for an answer. To make things worse, I had my mock CXC exams coming up, and I had to try extra hard to stay focused. Once my exams had finished, I got that beautiful phone call that weekend. The alumnus who had interviewed me was on the other end of the phone. I didn't know if phone calls only meant acceptance, or if it was possible that this could be a rejection too. So once she declared that she had 'good news', I could barely contain my excitement. So, naturally, I started to cry... ahaha, I know, I know, but seriously, I was pretty overwhelmed. I couldn't tell the other applicants for a little while until everyone knew whether they were accepted or not, which sucked. Once we were able to tell them; they were really happy for us!
  6. After the acceptance. I was then added into a Facebook group with some of the other people in my year group, and was happy to find that two of the Dutch Caribbean applicants were also accepted. The year group kept growing until we had 26 students from the Netherlands and the Dutch Caribbean who will be going, on partial scholarships, to 13 of the 14 different colleges. This group was run by one of the volunteers to the Dutch National Committee who basically helped to guide us through all of our questions, and excitement, and helped prepare us for everything that's on a need-to-know basis at our respective colleges. The Dutch NC held different events for us, for example the scholarship ceremony and the Algemene Ledenvergadering (ALV). Overall, they tried to make sure all of our questions were answered and we were well prepared for when we finally began at our colleges.
   Just a reminder, this was my experience. National committees around the world handle the application procedure differently. So look into your national committee's application procedure and see how it's done. I'm sure there are many people who are willing to give advice to any prospective applicants. There's a group on Facebook that was made to help out anyone who's interested in applying in 2015. 

Tips for future applicants:
  • Do your research into United World College, and what it stands for. If you feel that this is what you want to do, and you meet the requirements needed to apply through your national committee, then go for it!
  • Be honest throughout the entire application process, and be yourself during interviews.
  • Ask questions! Try to get in contact with someone who's been through the same application procedure that you might be going through and see if they have any advice.
  • It's a competitive process, but don't see the others going through the process with you as a threat to your acceptance. At the end of the day, it's going to depend on what YOU bring to the table, not what the others did or didn't. 
 Hopefully this article was helpful to any prospective applicants!

Two days until I start at UWC Maastricht, gaaaahhhh. I'll try to keep this blog updated with posts about life at UWC!


Monday, August 25, 2014

The Journey After My UWCM Acceptance

SO, I start at UWCM within the next few days, and I'm incredibly excited. I've already done all the paperwork, packing and farewells, now it's just a matter of waiting and taming this out of control excitement.

Here are the main things that have happened after I've been accepted:

I did my CXCs. Sint Maarten has a few different systems of education operating within it, for example: the Dutch system, the Canadian, the American, the British Caribbean, we also offer International programs, such as the I.B. program, and on the French side there's the French system. I did my primary school in Dutch, and my high school in the British Caribbean system. CXCs are the examinations that I took after five years of high school (1st through 5th form). We recently got our CXC results, and I'm pretty happy with mine. I saw finishing these years of high school as a big step, and getting my results just amplifies the realization that it's over. Time to move on to more challenging territory: the I.B. program.

Seniors during our last St. Dominic High School assembly as 5th formers.
I said goodbye to my friends and to the place I've called home all of my life. It was pretty sudden because I had to come to the Netherlands to attend my scholarship ceremony and a few other important events. So I left two weeks after my exams finished, which caused me to go into overload when it came to managing packing, spending time with friends, going to the beach, partying and just making the most out of my last few days in Sint Maarten. The day I left, a few of my friends came to the airport with me and I knew I was going to cry, but it didn't happen until I was about to go up that escalator and get on my flight. That's when it became real that I was going to leave all of the familiar and go into brand new, and unknown territory for me.

My friends and I at the airport in Sint Maarten before I left.

I flew to the Netherlands with my parents, and we did some exploring for the time that they were here. Man, was I happy that my parents came with me. My parents helped me out a lot in adjusting to my new country, my mom's reminders to make sure I always have my phone, money, etc, are now grilled into my mind, which is exactly what I needed. We stayed in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Maastricht while they were here. It was good to get a more general view of the country before I settled down in Maastricht. I got to experience the more modern looking, Rotterdam, the older, Amsterdam, and the culturally rich, Maastricht.

My parents in Amsterdam for their 24th anniversary.
I met my Dutch year group. The year-group of 2014-2016 included 26 students who have received partial scholarships and will be heading over to 13 of the 14 United World Colleges worldwide. I had already known 2 of the other students (Marko and Jady) because they were from Aruba and Curaçao, and we had already met at the day of the interview. We were the only ones who hadn't actually met the rest of the year-group, and we flew up to Holland so that we can take part in the ceremonies alongside the rest of our year-group. I met the first few members of the group (Mar, Mathilde and Wouter) the night before our year-group sleepover with everyone, and we all slept by Mar in Amsterdam. It was quite a night of exploring Amsterdam together, with Mar as our tour guide, from 10 pm to 1 am, by foot (by the way, Dutch people walk so quickly, I on the other hand, love strolling, so imagine walking around for 3 hours straight at top speed for a lazy person like me, pretty exhausting). It was a really awesome night, nevertheless. I met the rest of my year-group the next day for a practice we had for the ALV (Algemene Leden Vergadering) where we met a few other people who had gone to UWCs through the Dutch National Committee (current students and alumni) and those who worked for the Dutch National Committee and supported the movement, without these people and the sponsors we wouldn't be able to these UWCs. We gave everyone our presentation of how our acceptance phone calls went, and everything that we needed to know about how the Dutch National Committee works, and afterward we became official members of UWC international. All of our year-group then went to Den Bosch and had an awesome sleepover, bonfire and music included. Lastly, we all went to our scholarship ceremony, at which we met the sponsors and were able to thank them, and we got to meet a lot of other people who are a part of making this journey possible, like parents, members of the Dutch National Committee, and a lot of other supporter of the Dutch NC.

My year group at our scholarship ceremony.
Most of us at the sleepover in Den Bosch.

We visited Maastricht and my future school. UWCM was actually still open, so I went there for two of the afternoons that I was in Maastricht. I met some of the day students who will be my co-years this school year, and I also met some of my second years. One of my Dutch second years gave my mom and I a tour of the school. The school was pretty big, with two main buildings for academics, and three dorm buildings (one of which isn't yet in use, but will be this school year). I also met a few of my other second years, like my Caribbean second years from Jamaica, Trinidad and Aruba, also my Sierra Leonean and Ugandan second years. In the two days that I visited, I got to meet quite a few people, and I don't remember all of the names or where they came from, but luckily I have a lot of time to get to know everyone. I think it's safe to say that I look forward to spending the next two years with these people.

My future school: United World College Maastricht.
My parents left, and went back to Sint Maarten. My parents have always been my number one supporters growing up, they've helped me through a lot growing up, and if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be who I am today and wouldn't be able to live this dream of going to a UWC. Tears flowed like crazy right before they left, and saying goodbye to them has got to have been the hardest part of starting this new journey. Going from waking up in the same house as them everyday, to not seeing them at all for the next few months is going to be a major change, but it's a part of growing up and moving on to greater things and more opportunities. All I have do now is keep moving forward, make them and myself proud, and learn from all of the experiences life is throwing at me along the way.

Home is where mis padres are. Sint Maarten (no filter ever needed).
I've done some exploring of the Netherlands for myself, and made some new friends, some new memories and learned a lot along the way. After my parents left, I went on to stay by family in Rotterdam, and then went to Nijmegen for a few days where I attended the 'KickOff Day: Zomer van Dienstbaarheid' and met a lot of the Bahá'í youth living in the Netherlands. I took part in a 'karavaan' where some of us went around to some of the cities in our cluster (Maastricht, Eindhoven, Elsloo and Den Bosch) and served in those communities for a week, which was a really great learning experience. Afterward I went to Brussels, and have been staying by my cousins for the last 2 weeks, and being able to spend time with family has been amazing.

With a friend from Sint Maarten in Het Park, Rotterdam.
Jam session with Marie in Maastricht.
Playing cards with these guys in Beek Elsloo.
Den Bosch
Sunny day in Brussels.

Road trip to the beautiful city of Lille, France, for the day.

I'm sitting here in a café in Brussels, writing this blog post, and looking forward to what there is to come. My future co-years and my second-years are probably packing (or procrastinating), spending their last few days of summer vacation with their loved ones and readying themselves to begin at the school we will call home for the next two years, or to return to the school they've called home for a year already. We have an adventure ahead of us, full of surprises, challenges, a new lifestyle and new friendships, and I'm more than ready to make the most out of the following two years.

Sahar (UWCM, '14-'16)

Monday, July 7, 2014

Island Girl Takes On The World (United World College, that is)

Well, hello there.

Allow me to introduce myself. I was born and raised on this little piece of paradise called St. Maarten. It's the smallest island to be divided between two European countries (France and the Netherlands). I live on the Dutch side. My island is pretty small (37 square miles in area), but on these 37 square miles you'll find people from all over the world, of all different nationalities and backgrounds. That's one of the features of SXM that I love. Of course we can't forget the amazing beaches, and the fact that you get the best of two different worlds. And the food. Yes, the food.

Alas, there comes that bittersweet moment when it's time to leave home. Time to leave behind all that you've known and the family and friends that you love. To tell you the truth, that's the hardest part, but I truly am ready and excited to move on to something newer, a change of scenery, new experiences, new journeys. That's why I made this blog! I this new chapter in my life.  My new adventures, new friendships, new lessons, ideas and dreams. You may be wondering what the next big step is going to be, well here it is: I've been accepted to go to United World College Maastricht! Joining the UWC movement has been a dream of mine for the past few years, and I'm excited to finally be able to say that I'm a UWC'er. I'll be spending the next two years in the south of Holland, studying in this micro world of people from all corners of the Earth, who are living and learning together. A life-changing education process that will lead to so many new opportunities. For those of you who've never heard of UWC, follow this link for a short introduction video! 
What is UWC? 

"UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future"

This blog will be about a lot of different subjects, very general, but there's going to be a special segment of posts related specifically to UWC: the application process and how it works, UWC life, preparation and whatever else might interest people who are thinking of applying to UWC and who will be going through the application process, people who attend a UWC or are about to attend one, alumni, and just anyone who's intrigued by the UWC movement.

Shout out to the UWC generation 2014-2016! This is just the beginning guys :)

One love,