Within our UWCSEA parent and staff communities are UWCSEA alumni as well as alumni from other UWC schools. One parent shared with us a reflection he wrote for Waterford Kamhlaba United World College in Swaziland where he was a student in the 1990s. Today, his son attends UWCSEA East and he is pleased to see him benefitting from the same UWC spirit and values.
Initially, I hated her. She greeted me in languages she knew I could not comprehend - Siswati, Spanish and Cantonese. She deliberately offered me Nshima, Gyros and Carbonadas knowing my intolerance for non-spicy food. Aware of my loneliness, she forced me to interact with her to study my behavior. She endeavoured to make me wear her various national dresses –Tracht, Agbada and Thoub; an attempt to test my tolerance. She embarrassed me by discussing topics she knew I had limited knowledge of - Internet, Silk Route and Fjords. I wanted to break away from her condescending authority.
After a month into our awkward relationship, I realized I had completely misunderstood her. My perception of her began to change as I gradually began to comprehend her message. She was not ridiculing me; rather, she was educating me. With time, I was able to greet in Siswati, Spanish, and Cantonese. I learnt how to interact with her while eating Nshima, Gyros and Carbonadas. She taught me how to feel comfortable in various national dresses and broadened my general knowledge. She had engaged herself in a relationship with me, hoping I would discover her. I finally did and fell in love with her.
She is the multicultural atmosphere of Waterford Kamhlaba - United World College (UWC) in Swaziland, my first boarding school (Hrishikesh is pictured with his graduating class at right).
The UWC network consists of seventeen colleges that promote students from different countries to study together. It was initially an overwhelming culture-shock experience because I had to adjust to people with different cultural backgrounds in close proximity. I learned how to adapt to diversity and cross cultural boundaries while interacting with people. King Sobhuza of Swaziland expressed this eloquently – “We are all of the earth, which does not see differences of colour, religion or race. We are ‘Kamhlaba’ – all of one world.”
Our son, Avyukt Unni, is now in Grade 3 at UWCSEA East (Unni family pictured at left).
We have experienced a similar atmosphere at UWCSEA, which is evidenced by the diversity of faces present in all activities, functions, etc the school offers and organises. For example, The Family Festival, is one of many functions that captures the true essence of the UWC theme.
We are happy Avyukt is getting exposure to the UWC atmosphere from a young age. We feel he has also fallen in love with ‘her’!
By Hrishikesh Unni
East Campus parent and
Alumnus of Waterford Kamhlaba UWC (1993–96)