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Testimonials from Irish UWC Students

Bobbi Beattie - United World College of South East Asia (2021-2023)

I was awarded a scholarship to attend UWC South East Asia in Singapore and I arrived in Singapore at the height of the lockdown. I quarantined alone for two weeks in a hotel before I could move to my new home, Tampines House, and begin to explore this new city. I received a lovely warm welcome and was brought up to the top floor (14th) in the boarding house where I listened to the grade 12s (6th years) singing their version of Taylor Swift songs. As I discovered later this was typical of Tampines House where there is always something exciting going on and nothing is predictable. I am approaching the last couple of months of my UWC experience, and these two years have flown by.

At UWC friendships are the backbone of the experience as the IB causes immense stress and bombards the days with workloads, especially after a chill Transition Year (TY). Leaving Cert has nothing on the IB! It's fascinating how much learning takes place outside the classroom especially the various conversations at ‘tea time,’ a daily evening activity where there is tea and biscuit on one of the balconies in the boarding house. As I mentioned, nothing is predictable. In one of my first weeks, I came down to tea time and someone asked me if I knew how to Irish dance - within 10 minutes I had everyone attempting a Céilí .

Verity Limond - Li Po Chun UWC of Hong Kong (2017-2019)

I’ll put it out there at the beginning: attending a UWC is not an easy thing to do. It’s never easy to uproot, leave your family, move schools, and adapt to a new culture. It’s particularly hard to do when you are only 16, and what makes it even harder are the diversity and differences that confront you, by the many demands on your time, and by the sense of expectation, of needing to represent your country and national committee well, because you are standing for something more than yourself.

You will meet people from countries you can’t even find on a map, and you may be the first Irish person whom your new classmates have met, so there are questions to be asked and answers to be given, and the strangest things may pop up in conversation. But that, somehow, is the joy of it. In return for the effort, in return for occasional feelings of loneliness and homesickness, you are rewarded with new experiences, opportunities for leadership and travel, and a photo gallery filled with friends from across the globe.

The International Baccalaureate will present you with a very different learning experience to that available in Ireland. Attending a UWC may not have been easy, but I certainly never wished myself back in Ireland sitting the Leaving Certificate instead! The CAS programme will give you the chance to get credit for activities which previously may have clashed with your schoolwork; sport, music, volunteering and more will become a vital part of your life and of the process of obtaining an IB diploma. You will also find yourself getting to know your peers in a novel way; boarding creates strong and honest bonds between students, and you may end up closer to your friends than ever before in your life.

To a large extent, a UWC experience is what you make it, and if you think you have the energy and enthusiasm to make something valuable and joyful out of it, then it is certainly worth your while to apply. Remember, one size rarely fits all (unless it’s a scarf), so your time at a UWC will be different to all others, and the more special for being a completely unique experience.

Fionn Ruadh - UWC Costa Rica (2011-13)

Being a UWC student has meant many things to me. It has meant being a representative of Ireland, doing my best to be a good example of our country and setting the record straight about it ("No, we do not have leprechauns as pets, yes Irish is an actual language, no we do not greet each other with 'top o' the morning'"). It has meant taking a leadership role, both in class, CAS and outside-class activities. Most importantly, it has been an intense learning experience socially and academically which the very nature of a school with more than 60 nationalities will bring, with different ideas and values held by everyone. I cannot recommend this experience more to any student looking to broaden their horizons and go beyond the pale of learning.

Hannah Read - Li Po Chun UWC of Hong Kong (2011-13)

I’m Hannah and I’m a first year at Li Po Chun United World college in Hong Kong. I’m coming to the end of my first term here and it’s unbelievable how many amazing opportunities I’ve had in just the past 3 months! I’ve been scuba diving, visited an orphanage in mainland China, taken part in a 24-hour race, participated in cultural evenings, went on a gay pride parade, acted in a play…! UWC has really opened my eyes and I’m so glad I applied.

Ashling Doyle - UWC Maastricht (2011-13)

"Is é an t-ionnsachadh óg an t-ionnsachadh bóidheach." (The learning in youth is the prettiest learning.)

Before setting out to write this piece I wrote a list of words I often use while explaining my time at UWCM to my friends and family, the list of adjectives had unanimously encouraging meanings. Words like ‘amazing’, ‘beautiful’, ‘motivating’, and ‘unexpected’ immediately spring to mind when describing not only my last three months in The Netherlands but also my entire UWC application process.

My UWC journey began when a Danish friend of mine told me that he would be moving to Mahindra, India in August 2010, after he explained his reasons for moving and after he explained to me what UWC was, I was instantly intrigued and proceeded to Google within an inch of my life. Finding out as much about UWC as was virtually possible I decided that it was the type of diverse environment and system I would love to learn in. The application process was a learning curve in its self and I have to say that I really enjoyed both writing my application and the interview day that soon followed, I met amazing people, after that day I realized how difficult it must be for a national committee to choose just one amongst such great people. So, you can imagine how shocked, surprised and delighted I was when I found out that I had been selected to attend the newest UWC in Maastricht.

Looking back over the last couple of months here, it’s safe to say that this experience has been and will continue to be for the next year and a half, the most incredible journey in my life – both personally and academically. That’s not to say that the prospects of doing your own washing/sitting the IB next year aren’t daunting, but they are the simple yet character building everyday experiences that will I’m sure will shape me, and my fellow UWCers into the diverse, critical thinking, open-minded, cultured people we all have the capability to be, if we take from this amazing environment everything we possibly can. 

When I consider what I’ve already learned, about myself, about the world and about skills essential for a vibrant life, in these past few months I immediately become excited – imagining what else this experience will entail for me over the next year and a half.

To the wonderful Irish committee I would like to say: go raibh míle maith agaibh for this once in a lifetime opportunity. And to the future generations of Irish UWCers, I extended a hand of encouragement and urge you to aim high.

Alice Munnelly - UWC Costa Rica (2012-14)

Imagine a stimulating breakfast conversation between an Irishwoman, an Indian, a Spaniard and a Venezuelan somehow deriving from filling out a UWC Ireland application form one morning at a breakfast table in Athlone. Consider beholding the educated and intuitive discussion between an Israeli and a Palestinian as they both wrestle with the prospect of peace in Gaza. Prepare to meet the change that you will see in the world.

UWCCR is a home of collective individuality, a place where intrigue is nurtured and perspectives are developed. In a mere three months, this worldly microcosm has afforded me many exciting opportunities for growth. Whether it is laughing with a 5 year-old Costa Rican boy over my recent dip in the sewer as I tried to paint the tin roof of his makeshift house or the sound of Pink Floyd kissing my ears as I lay with friends beneath a blanket of shooting stars, UWC has proven an experience befitting of all.

My heart has become filled with patriotism as I relish the opportunity every day to tell others of the vibrancy of our culture on this main stage. But I have grasped that we impressionable humans are not defined by nationality. UWC has taught me that whilst we are all fervently unique; our greatest characteristic is our common ground.

Morgan Jones - UWC Li Po Chun, Hong Kong (2012-14)

In my first few months at Li Po Chun UWC in Hong Kong, I’ve had opportunities to do a fair number of things, all of them new. I’ve been to China and spent a week painting a communist mural in an orphanage for street kids with special needs, learned Latin American dance and taekwondo, seen cultural evenings and Hong Kong’s Mid Autumn festival, eaten curries in Chungking Mansions, gone hiking, explored the amazing city of Hong Kong, and planned rooftop picnics. It’s been amazing, and sure, there’ve been low lights too (waiting in the Chinese airport for your Mongolian classmate to get deported…and the prospect of yet another maths test always just around the bend), but I’d rather think of them as *cough cough* “experiences”.

The opportunities that a UWC offers are great and many, but for me the thing that makes it has to be the people; there aren’t many other places where staying up all night talking about nothing with Israelis, Brazilians, Peruvians, Americans, Canadians, Australians and Costa Ricans (and whoever else happens to walk through the door) is something that happens very often. Spending so much time with people from such varied backgrounds is a learning experience, is something that will change your views about pretty much everything, is something difficult, and most importantly, is something seriously fun. There is never a quiet moment in a UWC- there is always something on, be it a variety show, a music night, a global issues debate, a pride parade, a 24 hour race, a play, a cultural evening or change of pace day coming up, and there’s always a costume to plan, a dance to learn, or a presentation to give.

UWC is something that will change your perceptions of yourself, your country, the world at large. It’s not all easy, with social life fighting with CAS (creativity, action and service for the IB) fighting with sleep fighting with academics (Let’s be honest people, sleep usually loses out) , but I couldn’t recommend it more to anyone who wants to really learn, see more of the world, meet amazing people, challenge themselves, try new things, and have fantastic and new experiences on a day to day basis.

Caoimhe Ring - UWC Costa Rica, (2014-16)

My name is Caoimhe and I’m in the middle of my first year at UWCCR. I started here in August, when the sun decided to lend itself to us for a short welcoming paradise in the middle of rainy season. This place is made for exploration and adventure; a cultural crossroads and between two great continents, the spirit of a country reflected in its mountains and forests. When you come to a UWC, you come to a bubble of ideologue, a new landscape of perspectives and an introduction to the diversity of this planet in the people you come to love. Yet you also come to a whole new country with its own experiences to offer you and a culture of its own for you to discover.

The beginning of the year for me was being swept away with all this information, all these new experiences and the unpredictability of my day. This week I attended a global summit, reflecting on a list to be presented to the United Nations, my co-years and I arguing with equal ardour, voicing the mind of new critical thinkers in room of experts and masters students from around the world. Arriving back to campus in the evenings, I had to study for my exams next week and socialise with my friends about what the happenings of the week were, planning for our Service Week. Then waking early the next day for a UWCCR Lipdub (bilingual of course). 

Before this school year, I would have been daunted into silence by such a diverse room, would never have seen the value of my opinion or even had quite so much to say. Yet whatever you put into your UWC experience is what development you see in yourself, and although you will be pushed academically, socially and out of comfort at times, in the end it will be the making of you.

In my experience so far I’ve met amazing people, had regional weeks on different cultures and heard stories I will never forget. This place has given me the chance to discover what kind of person I want to be, what kind of world I want to be apart of. 

Buena suerte y gracias por todo!

In 2012 two of our UWC scholars received scholarships from the prestigious Brown University in Rhode Island. Jana Foxe was a student at Red Cross Nordic UWC (Norway) and Áine Doyle attended Li Po Chun UWC (Hong Kong) between 2010 and 2012. They have sent us the following updates.
Jana Foxe, Red Cross Nordic UWC (2010-12)

In August 2010, I left my busy and bustling neighbourhood in Central Dublin for Flekke, a quiet village in Western Norway, where the exact population is so small that last year, Norwegian authorities declared that as an urban centre it no longer exists. Three kilometres up a windy, bumpy road, UWC Red Cross Nordic lies on the shores of the Sunnfjord. This is likely to be the most isolated place you could ever ship your child off to boarding school. Yet Flekke is where I spent two years learning of the fact that even in a technically nonexistent hamlet, no one is isolated, and that even though we all have different backgrounds, interests, languages, cultures, and viewpoints of our world, we have a common purpose, for a peaceful and just society.

I attended UWCRCN until May 2012, and I’m proud to say I was involved in a myriad of different things, co-chairing both our discussion forum, and co-chairing the Gender and Sexuality Group. I also headed the Security Council in Model United Nations and was a Peer Tutor. As all UWCRCN students must, I led activities for Norwegian camp school kids, and took up other community service duties (in my case, volunteering at the refugee centre in Førde, about 60km away). It also gave me the opportunity to act as a part of a community that acted to do good, but also do the most unorthodox things I never would have done in Irish secondary school – like design workshops on HIV/AIDS, conduct flashmobs in the school canteen, work on a biodynamic farm for a project week, both act in and produce the Vagina Monologues, and partake in a week of (compulsory) skiing.

Even more than half a year after leaving UWCRCN, I continue to reap the benefits. Last August I went to Oslo to participate in our own Nordic Peace Conference. My time in UWCRCN also offered me great academic development opportunities, and last year I was admitted to attend Brown University in Rhode Island, USA, where in my spare time I participate in advocacy groups for the rights of the homeless and mental health on campus. I will likely make the most of the liberal curriculum they offer to pursue my academic passions, regarding politics, public policy and social justice – where my education will hopefully act as a key for me to return home and work on these issues.

My UWC experience opened my eyes to the world, and made me a stronger person, unafraid of change and further impassioned in my convictions and beliefs, and accelerated my growth and broadened my view of the world, from both a personal and cultural perspective, and it was an honour to represent Ireland during my time at UWCRCN.

Áine Doyle - UWC Li Po Chun, Hong Kong

For me, deciding to come to Li Po Chun UWC was an exhilarating process. Despite reading as much as humanly possible about Li Po Chun and the type of education offered there, I remained uncertain about whether I would be able to settle in, and how the school would impact my future.

Happily, coming to LPC was the best decision I have ever made. Academically speaking, the International Baccalaureate is a challenging yet engaging program that pushed me to develop critical thinking, writing and reading skills that continue to benefit me in university. On a personal level, I benefited immensely from being surrounded by students who were both deeply inspiring yet relatable; I learnt as much from these peers as from classes. My experiences with these peers, and working with them in various service and community projects in China and South-East Asia have fundamentally changed my perspective. I learned to approach challenges, issues and choices with a greater resilience but also a greater sense of empathy for those around me, and greater drive towards growth and learning.

I am currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Brown University, Rhode Island. My education in a United World College initially opened up this possibility to me, and continues to enhance my learning experience on a daily basis. I remain grateful to UWC Ireland for offering me such a life-altering experience, and hope that our wonderful organization continues to grow and change lives worldwide.