The Pitfalls of Planning

It turns out that planning to pack your life into two suitcases and planning to move halfway around the world requires more work than I initially anticipated. I have a cluster of neon-orange post-it notes on my wall, each with a task I have to complete before I leave Vancouver on January 12th. Every time I finish one, I pull it off the wall and breathe a tiny sigh of relief.
Throwing out the post-it note is bliss.
Some are small things – ordering sheets for my dorm room. Others require a little more work – passport renewals, getting prescriptions for six months of a medication, and explaining to assorted friends and family why I’m moving away, where I’m going, and why on earth I think it’s a good idea.
I feel like I’m constantly thinking about the small things and forgetting the bigger picture. Will there be a chance to buy shampoo when I arrive? Will I manage with the travel size bottles or should I figure out a way to wrangle a bigger size into my suitcase?
I think about these …

Applications are Opening!

I know I’ve written about applying to UWC, but with applications opening tomorrow, I wanted to get a bit deeper into this topic. The written application is one of the longest that you’ll probably ever have to do – I believe it’s about six pages long, excluding things like parental permission and medical history.
The written application really helped me consolidate my own feelings about UWC.
The insightful questions let me know that if I was accepted, I would be going to a school where students are engaged and thoughtful about the world around them. It also gave me a chance to form some of my own opinions that I might not have thought too hard about before.
One question asked what I saw as the most pressing issue my region faced. I said the housing crisis, and listed some ways that I might combat it. During the interview, one of the alumni brought up my answer. He was an urban planner and wanted to discuss my solutions.
While writing your application, take your time. You have a fe…

New Job

UWC is not well known. When I told my friends and family that I had been accepted, I developed a bit of a spiel that I was able to rattle off, explaining why, exactly, I was going to do an extra year of high school a world away from home. However, the people who do know about UWC are often the ones who are able to open the most amazing doors for you.
I got my first job this week. I’m working as the administrative assistant on a campaign for the Vancouver mayoral election. The candidate, Shauna Sylvester, is a friend of a friend. I was introduced to her at a local music festival, and I mentioned UWC. She told me she used to take her daughter to Pearson College’s One World performance every year – she understood just how exciting it was to have been selected for a UWC. She suggested I think about working for her campaign, and her campaign manager gave me a card. I told her I would love to volunteer.
The next day, I sent over my resume, and they replied within an hour, asking me to meet…

Six Months

My school got out last week, and I’m finding myself facing a six-month stretch with no school. I’m glad to have a chance to relax and prepare for UWC, but I’m also worried that I’ll get bored. Most of my friends will be entering grade 12, but I’ll be getting a job and working in order to help my parents with my tuition costs. Most UWC students will start their journeys in September, so my path will be a little different. I think my greatest fear is that I’ll get out of the habit of self-motivation, and I’ll forget the things I learned in school this year. Basically, I don’t want to arrive at Waterford unprepared. I’m excited about getting a job – I’ve not had one before and I think it’ll be a really good experience for me to gain more independence, as well as practice working hard so I’m more ready for the pressures of Waterford. I also hope to continue doing volunteer work – I want to volunteer for the elections when they come up, as well as do some volunteer work with refugees in m…

Meeting My Mentor

After you’ve been accepted to whatever UWC you’re going to, the Canadian National Committee will connect you with your mentor. I’m not sure how it works in cases where there’s a large Canadian group at the school, but there’s only one other Canadian currently at Waterford Kamhlaba so she’s my mentor! Your mentor is meant to help guide you through the stress of moving away from home, and teach you about the culture at your UWC. 
My mentor – (let’s call her ‘A’) lives quite close to me, and we were able to meet while she was on a break and visiting home. It’s wonderful to have someone who’s been where you are, and understands what you’re about to do. I’ve had a difficult time explaining UWC to some of my friends and teachers – ‘you’re moving to Africa? Alone?’, ‘Why the hell are you doing two extra years of high school?’, ‘Why would you pay for a private school when Canada has free public education?’ – But A understood, because she’d had to muddle through the explanations as well.
A wa…

Reference Letters

The written application requires three reference letters from several sources. You’re supposed to have two from teachers and one from an adult who knows you outside of school. Thankfully, this is somewhat flexible. When I applied, I had only been at my school for a month and I didn’t feel like there were any teachers that I knew well enough to ask for a letter of recommendation. Instead, I talked to my guidance counselor who was able to help my vice principle write a letter for me. The other letters came from a woman who had been the volunteer coordinator from an orphanage in Mexico that I’d worked with, and from my writing mentor that’s helped me edit several articles that I’ve had published.
Mostly, it’s just important to have people that know you well, and know what you’re capable of. If there are specific things you want mentioned, tell them! It’s always good when the letters support your written application. Explain about UWC, and what it is, and why you want them to be the one …

Applying to UWC

If you’re thinking about applying to UWC, be prepared for stress. The application process changes from country to country, so I’ll be talking about the Canadian application process. I believe applications open in August, and they must be submitted by the end of November. The first year I applied, the application form was about ten pages long, (excluding things like parental consent forms, basic medical information, and contact information). By 2017 the application was about six pages long. The questions included things like, ‘what do you think the most pressing issue facing your part of Canada is, and how would you propose to solve it?’ and ‘what would you be able to bring to UWC?’ There were questions about your day to day activities, volunteer work, and school subjects. It’s a challenging application, but it’s also a really good opportunity to solidify your own thoughts on why you want to attend a UWC.
In late January, you find out if you’ve been accepted to the interview stage. T…