East student brings UWCSEA spirit to Gourdonstoun summer programme
By Siona Mitra
I could not contain my excitement when I received Mr MacAlpine’s email that I was going to Gordonstoun International Summer School in Scotland which was offered to the student Baraza Leaders from last year’s Round Square International Conference hosted by UWCSEA. “This would be the experience of a lifetime,” I thought. I was even more excited when I found out that my classmate, Seika, was offered the same opportunity. All the excitement interspersed with nervousness, venturing into the unknown, were some of the fleeting feelings playing emotional rhapsody in my mind. I was convinced that no matter what it would definitely be a time of my life worth remembering and it had already gained a position in my brain where memories are made.
My initial apprehensiveness about changing three flights and reaching my destination was immediately transformed into confidence and responsibility as I set foot on the plane. I was welcomed by Mr Norman at Aberdeen Airport and was instantly touched by the warmth in a cold Scottish summer afternoon! Yes, it was Scottish summertime, 15°C and I was fashionably cold!
Sixty miles from Aberdeen was the spectacularly landscaped school set on 180 acres of woodland. I breathed the Gordonstoun mission statement from the very first moments there. “Gordonstoun prepares each student through learning by diverse experiences for a full and active role as an international citizen in a changing world.”
I was actually standing in the midst of the Round Square building from where it all began. I could feel the blood gushing through my veins as I stood silently for a moment to absorb it all. Like the UWC movement, Gourdonstoun was founded by Dr Kurt Hahn and his philosophy of education engaged me in the next few hours. I was overwhelmed with the hospitality and was now ready to embark on my journey of a lifetime. I spent the next day meeting students from all corners of the world.
The summer school held from mid-July to early-August lasted for three and a half weeks. Little did I know I would become part of the great Gordonstoun family.
For the days to follow, I was inundated with the myriad of challenging activities planned for us. Amidst all this, there was a lot of fun laced around the daily schedule. Arts and Crafts, English Literature, Technology, Confidence Building, Music Making, Drama, Sports, Sailing, and Ocean Cruising were all integrated into the programme.
There were ample choices of recreational options and activities offered. It's hard to pick my favourite activity but I surely enjoyed ATV riding, mountain biking and cliff jumping where I fought my fears with the encouragement of my new friends shouting, “Go, Siona, go!”
Our drama performance (for which we had only four practice lessons) honed my interpersonal skills. From the music lessons I discovered a new love for playing the guitar, from creative arts I gained a lot of confidence in art, and the list is endless...
The highlight was our six-day adventure trip to the gorgeous West Coast of Scotland, and I was mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape. Canoeing, rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking, coasteering, gorge walking, canyoning, visiting castles, mountain biking and sailing in the International Summer School's fleet of ocean-going yachts around the Western Isles were the activities in which we were submerged through the six-day period.
Like all good things, even this summer school had to come to an end. Now it was hard to hide my tears. With lubricated eyes, I embraced all the relationships I had built. Finally the finale: The dinner and awards night had arrived and my parents had flown from Singapore to bring me back. All 400 people in that hall that night, anxiously awaited that one award in the end. The "Spirit of Gordonstoun." The James D Thomas “Spirit of Gordonstoun” Quaich is presented to the student who the staff believe epitomises the true spirit of what they hope students will achieve during their time with Gordonstoun. Claire, the director, bringing the microphone closer to her lips announced “Siona Mitra.” My heart skipped a million beats, palms began to sweat profusely as I scurried to get the award. That was the most incredible moment of my life and how I wish that time had stopped. Moments later there were camera flashes and congratulatory voices echoing from all around. I wish again it was a ‘frozen moment.' I proudly said to all that I was from UWCSEA East in Singapore and lived up to expectations bestowed as a student coming from our school.
Yes, now the flag of Singapore will fly in the hall along with the 44 other countries represented and UWCSEA will become a part of the Gordonstoun’s elite list!
Thank you UWCSEA for being a catalyst in steering my vision and mission of a life-long journey.