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An all-encompassing education


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Review of: UWC Canada

Thea Ryan - Alumnus    (Jan 30, 2018)

Overall Experience

I attended Pearson College UWC and the most striking aspect of my education was how holistic and all-encompassing it was. Not only was I challenged academically, I was in a new environment with other motivated youth from around the world. I discovered interests that are still my passions today, such as ceramics and advocacy. I would change the academic program. The IB, while it was once cutting-edge, now feels like an obstacle to the real potential of a school like UWC. I think the school could really benefit from a revision of their academic development. I absolutely feel that the school prepared me well. In large part, this is due to the kinds of students it attracted and admitted. The cohorts of people that the college bring together are phenomenal and give so much hope. I certainly feel like I am part of a movement who, having had such an incredible experience, have a duty to share what we lived. I would say that you can expect to have everything flipped upside down and that it is very important for you to maintain a sense of self. I found that, by having an activity I did alone, I could re-focus myself when there were so many other things going on. It's incredibly challenging and equally rewarding.


School Leadership

I had a lot of respect for certain people in positions of power, but it certainly felt like some of them had been there for too long. There were younger teachers who had real vision and they were often turned away, which was disheartening. When a peer and I pitched a community-wide project, we were respectfully given time in a faculty meeting, but not taken very seriously. Two years later, I found out they took on the project. I did feel that there was respect for the students, but insufficient support. Especially since mental health is an important conversation now, the school should increase its resources. My family was quite hands-off so I would have trouble advising very involved parents.


Teaching

I was very happy with the quality of instruction. I think the teachers could have gone above and beyond had they not had the restrictions of the IB. The dynamic was informal but very respectful. Since we lived on campus with most of our teachers, there was a level of comfort that was sometimes conducive to deeper learning, and at other times, I felt that the teachers wanted to take distance from the students. Most teachers were very passionate and knowledgeable. The ones who had the biggest impact on me were teachers with whom I had a rapport outside of class. I felt that when I knew them as a person and respected them in that capacity, I had even more respect for them in the classroom.


Academics

The IB put everyone under a tremendous amount of stress and compromised some of the school's principles, I believe. The students are very high-achieving, which is both motivating and difficult for students to compete. The real difference became clear when certain students were aiming to get into American colleges and needed top scores. A clear division came about between those for whom academics were a priority and those for whom it wasn't. Personally, I was only able to attend the university I did because I received a UWC scholarship. Therefore, I can attribute most of my development to my experience at UWC.


Extracurriculars

It was fantastic. There were many opportunities, but especially opportunities for students to take leadership in their roles without constant surveillance or guidance from an adult. They were not competitive, but very supportive and enriching. The school did a fantastic job of developing well-rounded students. I would encourage people to do something completely out of their comfort zone.


Students

I remember feeling that the students' sense of gratitude and awe for having had the amazing luck and profile to attend the school made for a really special environment. There was no typical student. I was most drawn to those who were trying to focus on the present moment and fully appreciate the experience, as opposed to those who were looking forward so much that they couldn't be present in the moment. I respected students who put community culture before academics. This included working very long hours on extracurricular projects, performances, and passions. The school had 160 students from over 80 countries, so it was a very diverse mix, both ethnically and socio-economically. The dynamics were like they were anywhere: people gravitate towards people they like! An open mind, a willingness to be wrong, and being awake are my top recommendations.


School Life

I loved going to school at UWC. I loved the physical environment, the isolation (at times), the starkness of the beauty. It was completely immersive. While I don't think I needed mental health support, I can imagine that it's a very difficult place for those who do. Therefore, I think the school should be more attentive to the students' hardships because as much as the school left me with a life-changing experience in a positive way, I'm sure it could have the same impact in a negative way for somebody else. We came to Pearson at a vulnerable and malleable time in our lives, for better or worse. As I've said about the students, some were more focused on living the experience, while others were stressed and focused on academics.


Community

After having attended UWC, you are part of an amazing network of people. There is certainly a sense of kinship that comes with UWC alum. Since it's a boarding school, parents are not involved and I would discourage them to if they wanted to. I have made a point of visiting my peers across the continent every year and have used the various platforms for job hunting and apartment hunting.


School Location

The school was in the most beautiful place I've ever seen. The physical aspect of the school played a huge role in its impact for me. Personally, I made a point of visiting host families in the town and nearby city, as well as go on hikes in the area. It was certainly isolated, so I'm sure that somebody who didn't have much of a wandering spirit could feel trapped.


Admissions

Since you are only about 16 when you apply, it's a completely different experience from later on in life when you're judged on work experience, etc. It's certainly a combination of the things you've done, why you've done them, and how they fit in to your life and development. I think my sense of perspective and my eagerness to get out and learn and live things was a big part of my acceptance.


University placement and counselling

The admissions counsellor was very supportive. I think she rightfully gave more support to students who needed help with visas, language requirements, etc. so as a North American I was somewhat left to my own devices. I absolutely respect that, though, and know that had I been very clear about needing help I would have received it.


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