Submitted by Students of UWCM
February 20th, 2017
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St Donats and The Scenic Southern Wales
Upon arriving at Atlantic College we were baffled by the stunning view of St Donats Castle and the beautiful sound of waves hitting the cliffs. We climbed a watchtower and experienced the spectacular view of the seafront. The campus had everything a residential student could dream of. There were fitness rooms, swimming pools, a college bank, a dining hall boasting of various options and much more. The very first day we arrived at campus, the school opened their IPC in the old hall of the castle named Bradenstroke. It was very clear that the community was proud of being the first United World College. They talked of how they invented the very first inflatable lifeboat in Britain in 1967 through their Lifeguard service, and how they still carry out the UWC mission on a daily basis.
We were there to experience their version of IPC, which essentially was a mix of MUN sessions and workshops on international politics. Coming from UWC Maastricht, where students look forward to conferences and proudly attend them, our expectations were quite high. The content of their conference was well made and felt familiar to our own IPC, however it was a strange mix of Model United Nations and workshops related to international conflicts. This was carried out on only two days making it quite crammed. Furthermore, it felt as if the students’ participation felt either slightly forced or lacking, whereas UWCM students generally feel more enthusiastically about conferences.
As night fell on the first day we were all greeted nicely at the houses. The feeling of being greeted by other UWC students is universally a great experience. The sharing of experiences of different UWC’s was truly fascinating. Indeed, most of the highlights of this trip were talking to other UWC students. The culture there was, like many other UWCs, to take good care of us and as a result of that we settled in very quickly. However, in our bags we also carried all the stories and myths we had heard about Atlantic College. We had heard of excessive alcohol consumption, locks on windows and doors, and night guards looking for students roaming around in the night. We thought (and hoped) that these were just that; stories (youngsters generally tend to exaggerate), but these stories proved very real as check in happened at 10:15. Suddenly, we were all locked inside the houses. It was an uncomfortable feeling, and felt far from what we knew as an UWC experience. After the check in, on a Wednesday, liquor was brought into the common room. It seemed to us that the locks on the windows and the night guard walking outside encouraged the pace at which the students were drinking. Later in the night our dorm was used as a transit for “nightriding” (the practise of moving from one house to another, and usually involved a guard running after the students). Other “contraband” was also taken out through the window and into the woods. To drink is not something very alien to many young students, however it was quite overwhelming and seemed excessive at times. From talking to students it was evident that the situation at AC had gone out of control the past years. They argued that this was mostly due to the implication of restrictions. Restrictions such as the locks on windows and doors, suspensions, expulsions, gatings, guards and breathalysers. These restrictions have created a huge divide between adults and students who hold strong anger with each other. This became evident as the faculty made random breathalysing checks on Fridays and Saturdays. In this process the house parent picks five names randomly in the house and breathalyse them. Many people are suspended if caught with alcohol in the blood. Indeed, the students agreed that each weekend at least one or two students are suspended. The students also wore hoodies with the motto “drink till you die”, and many of our conversations revolved around the topic. It is very obvious that the students are reacting to the distrust shown by faculty by breaking as many rules as possible. One could easily argue that the incentive to leave a house is bigger if person is locked within. It was quite the experience for all of us to experience this culture of distrust, and it makes us genuinely appreciate what UWCM has done for us. The trust that we as students are shown each day is exactly what makes UWC great. It is up to us students not to take advantage of it, and up to the faculty to put faith in us, because that’s exactly what makes UWCM succeed.
“There are three ways to win the young, there is persuasion, there is compulsion, and there is attraction. You can preach at them: that is a hook without a worm. You can say you must volunteer, and that is of the Devil. You can tell them, You are needed. That appeal hardly never fails.”
– Kurt Hahn –
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