Astrid Høgestøl ’07
I graduated from UWCSEA in 2007. I was lucky enough to attend UWCSEA during two different periods - the first time experiencing the then-new Primary School from 1999 to 2001, after which my family relocated back to Norway. However UWC mission remained important to me, and so when the opportunity came up, I applied to the Norwegian UWC National Committee for a scholarship to spend my last two school years at a UWC. In a funny twist of fate, I ended up attending UWCSEA. Being sent to the UWC in Singapore by the Norwegian UWC National Committee was a coming home of sorts.
When I think about my time at UWCSEA, it is the friendships, discussions, and relationships that I formed that I cherish the most. Living together in the boarding house with such a broad range of young adults from different countries and backgrounds allowed me to achieve a better understanding of issues that just isn’t possible when a discussion is only takes place within a homogenous group. The debates and informed discussions on controversial and difficult topics were definitely the most powerful lessons that still resonate with me today. I'm still in touch with friends from the boarding house, in fact, I recently travelled to Iceland with my roommate from Grade 12. The friendships and bonds I formed were without a doubt the best thing about my experience at UWCSEA.
The IB Diploma was challenging, but I was lucky enough to enjoy most of my subjects, in particular, Geography and English. The fact that we were able to draw on the diverse backgrounds and experiences of our classmates was a huge asset when discussing issues related to gender, race, and specific regions.
In retrospect, the IB also taught me a lot about work ethic. Combined with the ridiculous number of extra-curricular activities I did during my time at UWCSEA, the IB Diploma is one of the reasons I've always found it easy to juggle a large workload, be it at school, at University, or in life and at work.
When deciding where to study after UWCSEA, I knew that I wanted to pursue a degree at an English speaking university. I also knew that I wanted to do a combination of political science and geography related subjects. But I was not set on exactly what I might want to major in and after some research, Australia seemed like a good fit due to the possibility of pursuing more than one major within an area. In the end, I attended the University of Melbourne, completing my undergraduate BA in Geography and International Studies.
My focus on polar areas came about in 2010 when Norway signed its delimitation agreement with Russia in the Arctic. The topic of Arctic geopolitics, and polar issues more generally, intrigued me, and so I completed a Master in the Law of the Sea, with an Arctic focus at the University of Tromsø, in Norway. I then decided to look into the regulatory aspect of environmental policy, again with a polar focus, by completing a Master of Science in Environmental Policy and Regulation at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Since 2014 I’ve worked as an adviser on polar issues at the Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI), which is Norway's central government body for scientific research, mapping and environmental monitoring in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. It is a directorate under the Ministry of Climate and Environment, and my interest in the international dimension, which was also the reason I sought the IB Diploma scholarship, has definitely influenced my career direction. I could not see myself pursuing this path without a large international element, a hunger for which began at UWCSEA.
The NPI advises Norwegian authorities on matters relating to the polar regions, and my role focuses on the Antarctic.
Since joining the NPI I’ve been able to put my studies into practice through involvement in a range of international processes related to the management of the Antarctic, and Norwegian involvement on the continent. My job has given me insight into international cooperation and negotiations through my advisory role, and a highlight in my career so far was the opportunity to travel to Antarctica to visit the Norwegian research base. Experiencing the amazing landscape for myself was an enormous motivation to continue working for the sustainable management of the continent.
The Antarctic is special. The Antarctic Treaty states that it is "in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”. I therefore feel that I have come full circle, as my job contributes to the goal of retaining peace in one of the earth's most fragile places. This is very much in line with my values, as well as the UWC ethos.
My experience at UWCSEA was important in shaping me as a person, and therefore my worldview and life choices. The experience of living together with students from a variety of backgrounds challenged my world views, and I gained a far more balanced understanding of innumerable issues. It has made me more understanding, compassionate, and has improved my analytical ability, as I am able to see situations from multiple perspectives. I genuinely think that my experience at UWCSEA made me a better person. My years on the beautiful island of Singapore are not an experience I would want to have gone without.