UWC alumni diversify Hill
The number of United World College (UWC) graduates on the Hill reached a new height this year with the addition of nearly 30 UWC alumni to the class of 2015. Actively recruited for their proven academic achievements and the values instilled by a global institution committed to uniting people across nations and cultures, UWC grads contribute to the campus community as global citizens.
“After UWC, I was ready to go anywhere,” Jean-Jacques Ndayisenga ’13 said, who was born in Rwanda and attended UWC Costa Rica. “I feel like I have lived in every country in the world because I got to know so many diverse people.”
UWC is a two-year academic program that replaces the last two years of a standard high school education. Students attend one of 13 locations across the globe, where they receive a high-standard liberal arts education while simultaneously experiencing the world and its diverse peoples in new ways. Applicants go through four rounds of rigorous interviews and tests before they are selected to participate.
International Club President Mugyenzi Innocent ’13, who attended the United World College of the Atlantic in the U.K., worked closely with the Office of Admissions to make the class of 2015 one of the most diverse groups of students the College has ever seen. Innocent corresponded personally with UWC alumni to bring them to the Hill. “It’s great to have so many UWC kids. You couldn’t wish for more,” he said.
Many UWC students study at the College through the Davis United World Scholars Program. Begun in 2000 as a pilot program by Gale and Shelby Davis, the Davis Scholarship has grown into the largest international scholarship program for undergraduates in the world. It has played a significant role in bringing over 70 UWC alumni to the Hill. According to the College’s website, “any UWC graduate accepted to Colby, one of five pilot sites for the program, will become a Davis UWC Scholar and will receive a scholarship.” Additionally, “at Colby the Davises have paid the full financial aid...for 93 students.”
Regardless of one’s race, language, culture, wealth, religion or political beliefs, UWC promotes a sense of idealism, compassion and cross-cultural understanding in its academics —a goal the College aims to realize in diversifying its student body. Director of Admissions Steve Thomas recruits UWC students to the College because they are “worldly, interesting risk-takers who have already proven themselves academically in a foreign environment and usually in a non-native language,” he said.
With an average of 70 different nationalities represented in all 13 United World Colleges, differences, rather than similarities, work to unite people with little common experience.
“It seems like normally people get together because they have similar interests, but at UWC we made friends because we were all so different,” said Maria Zeta Valladolid ’15, who is from Peru and attended the Red Cross Nordic United World College.
“[UWC tries] to pair you up with a roommate from a different continent. Sometimes that person doesn’t speak English, so you figure out new ways to communicate,” Innocent said.
Though many UWC alumni are accepted into Ivy League schools, many are drawn to the College for its size, its people and its strong comprehensive liberal arts education, which functions as a natural next step from UWC learning styles.
“One of the things that attracts UWC students here is the community and the friendly environment,” Valladolid said. “You feel this is a place where you are welcome.”
However, even with a strong international orientation program on the Hill, transitioning from life abroad is not always smooth.
“I thought it was going to be easy,” Julia Knoeff ’13, who was born in the Netherlands and went to UWC Mahindra College, said. “But it was more of a culture shock coming to Colby than [it was] going to India.”
“You can’t know everyone on campus [here] like you can at UWC,” Ndayisenga said. “Everything is very fast-paced,and the drinking culture surprised me as well.”
Though UWC students might encounter speed bumps assimilating into campus culture on the Hill, their experience in adapting to new places and overcoming new challenges provides them with the tools necessary to make the most of their time at the College.
“Life at Colby has benefitted me a lot. I’m very grateful to this school and the people I have met here,” Innocent said.
The administration also benefits from the recruiting of so many UWC students to the Hill. “They are the cream of the crop,” Associate Director of Admissions Denise Walden said. Admissions is committed to recruiting students from all 13 UWC schools every year and hopes to make the campus community better reflect the global society all of its students will enter upon their graduation.
UWC students teach their fellow students many things during their time on the Hill. “The world is like a book,and each new place you go to is like reading a new page,” Ndayisenga said. “Each new UWC student that comes here offers new things to learn from and another page in the Colby community.”