A different educational experience

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Domitilla De Luca Bossa
Member since August 10, 2017
  • 2 Posts
  • Age 19

One of the critiques that are often made about my country, Italy, is that it is a place where people who are well linked to notable politicians or academics reach high positions regardless of their merit. As a young girl who works hard because of the pleasure in acquiring knowledge and the will to challenge myself, the thought of this is unbearable for me.

Looking for a scenario that rewarded merit is one of the reasons why, when I was 15 years old, I applied to the United World Colleges (UWC) - international schools with the aim to “make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”. To enroll in these schools, young people all over the world take part in a selection process made of various phases depending on the countries they live in. Applicants are chosen according to their ideals, attitude towards others and potential for growth in an international environment. The vast majority of selected students are then sent to one of the schools on a scholarship.

I remember talking about UWCs with my classmates since the first year of high school and, while they all listened admiringly, very few actually considered the reality of the situation: if selected, I would leave my school and my city to be sent to any of the UWCs around the world (there are 17 now), living on a campus far away from my family and home. My classmates saw it as a far dream, something you could only find in movies; for me it was the chance I had been waiting for my whole life.

There were many reasons why I had fallen in love with UWC: their values of respect and equality, their inclination towards cultural integration and their academic excellence. However, what convinced me about UWC from the first moment was that students were selected for their merit, abilities and personality. It was something I could make happen with my own forces and a bit of luck, nothing else.

After sending my application and a motivation letter, I was terribly excited to reach the interregional phase of the selections in Rome and the national phase in Duino (TS), where the Italian seat of UWC is located. (You can see my happiness in the picture above). The selections were composed of a short written test, two individual interviews and countless hours of group activities and role games. Although I didn’t know it at that time, it was at the United World College of the Adriatic, in Duino (TS, Italy), that I would be assigned to spend my last two years of high school thanks to a scholarship.

Now that I have completed my two-years-long experience, I can say that what I found at UWC is much more than I could have ever wished for. Living with around 200 students from more than 90 countries made me feel as if I was meeting the world everyday, even though I was technically still in Italy. It made me grow faster than I would have done at home, where my loving parents would take care of me. It made me experience a whole rainbow of emotions: happiness for being surrounded by a caring community, enthusiasm for seeing my ideals of peace and love for different cultures put in practice, joy for dancing in a show as I had never thought of, and, sometimes, sadness for being away from home, anger for a disrespectful comment against a friend and pain for someone else’s grief.

Moreover, at UWC I was very surprised to realize that I didn’t really like the way I had studied for my whole life in the Italian system. Although I am very grateful that the Italian school system provided me with strong bases in multiple disciplines, at my previous high school I had to remember lessons from a book or from a teacher and then repeat them. Sometimes I had to remember their exact same words, thus living in a constant pursuit of perfection. With the International Baccalaureate (IB), an internationally recognized diploma studied at UWCs and other hundreds of schools in the world, I had the chance to study more independently, read books, question what I was told with the knowledge from those sources, and I generally had a more relaxed approach to the study process.

Of course my decision of exiting the Italian school system and embarking on a new journey that was demanding not only academically, but especially personally, came at the price of constantly having to explain why I made the choice to leave home. It is a price I have always been more than willing to pay, as it has given me the possibility to reaffirm my decision with even more conviction.

To those who ask me if it was difficult, I say that it certainly was, especially in the first months away from home. Despite this, I had some lovely roommates that were keeping my morale up by simply showing me their intrinsic beauty.

To those who ask me what I have got from the experience, I answer that in two years I have been in more places in my own country and abroad, seen more examples of culture, heard more debates (and drank more cups of tea) than I had done in all my life before.

To those who ask me how it is to have friends scattered around the world, I say that it is certainly convenient when you want to travel ;) , but is also constantly painful, as you don’t know when you’ll be with all of them together again.

All these aspects made me stronger, more aware of how “the world works”, more conscious of the fact that I am not indispensable.

When I go back home, people see me as an astronaut coming back from an expedition to another planet. I try to make it real for them, but I realise that it is difficult to get the sense of an experience if it is not lived. I suppose, this is another lesson I have learnt in this time: sometimes you will not be understood.

When I go back home, I see a fascinating country struggling with problems on several fronts. One issue is the discontent of a young generation foreseeing an uncertain future and demotivated by the state of the world and of their society.

My advice to my peers is: look for something new. Try actively to find opportunities that will challenge you. Get involved in unattempted activities. Look for new perspectives. To put it as in a famous movie: “ Dare to strike out. Find new grounds.”

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