By Muad Saleh,
November 20th, 2017
[aesop_content color=”#000000″ background=”#ffffff” component_width=”600px” columns=”1″ position=”none” imgrepeat=”no-repeat” disable_bgshading=”off” floaterposition=”left” floaterdirection=”up” revealfx=”off” overlay_revealfx=”off”]The diversity that dominates United World College campuses naturally comes coupled with differences in opinion and thought. It’s this dynamic that fuels ongoing debate and fosters an environment where pregnant discussion is a constant. Indeed, at UWC to learn from each other’s experiences and knowledge is but a question of when to walk out of the dorm.
Along with the many suitcases that join a number of us on our journeys, a suitcase of experience is one that accompanies us all. The experiences we live are naturally molded by their contexts and they work to tailor our larger perspectives; without doubt, they form the lenses through which we interpret our surroundings. In retrospect, experiences can trigger all kinds of emotions: some draw smiles on our faces and others fill us with regret. However, no matter the kind of experience, there are lessons to be learnt, anecdotes to be told and wisdom to be gained. Not all experiences are vastly “life-changing”, but every episode in your life is to its own extent impactful. On every bunkbed and at each locker of this school, therefore, lie treasures that holds endless stories, experiences and knowledge.
Imagine being able to learn through someone else’s failure, or grow through another person’s struggle, would you seize such an occasion? To gain first-hand experience you are forced to take the blow, to touch the stove, but second-hand experiences, if engaged properly, can be made equally as valuable. On our campus, such an experience can be bought at the cost of a mug of hot chocolate. Quite the bargain in my opinion, a ‘life-hack’ if there ever was one.
Gap years, warzones, family feuds, emotional distress, hopelessness, existential crises, fighting phobia; the list is endless and very often followed with moments of growth and self-reflection. This list of endless experiences holds few of many that our community members have ranged in, all on a silver platter for those eager to learn. This is indeed a gold mine. Whenever will such gold be available again? The rarity of living in such an environment is quite likely a one-time thing. It is then a question of our resourcefulness arises. Are you seizing the opportunity at hand?
Often times we aim for deeper connections with those we care about. We try to step into their shoes and understand their thoughts. Such actions usually have selfless intentions, but in most of these situations, ‘reflection’ can be to your benefit too.
Reflecting upon the distress of others, reflecting upon the success of others, and most importantly reflecting upon the simple acts of others can go miles. It is a priceless luxury that should be utilized. In many ways, this, perhaps selfish, use of surroundings is rewarding. Indeed, it encourages you to gradually fall into a habit of observing and listening. It can sound as forced, but to listen and observe is a skill that needs to be carefully nurtured. Once mastered, every occasion becomes a learning experience and every conversation tempts growth. Learning was never meant to be limited to a classroom, if anything these boundaries limit our modern-day learning, but it’s through fruitful experiences this growth is borne. Touching the stove is on way to gain experiences, yet learning to carefully lend your ears to others seems the better alternative.
Moreover, the students that a typical UWC atmosphere enjoys are those ambitious to make impactful change, to better the lives of others. To add value to the lives of others, you must push yourself to learn from others. Fortunately, this can be done by maturing through the vast range of second-hand experiences you find on campus. The readiness to share and the value of what’s shared, is something you will be highly unlikely to find again, especially in the abundance a UWC boasts. Thus, one should come to this realization rather sooner than later.
Muad Saleh is a second year student at United World College Maastricht. Muad has been a part of the Flying Dutchman as a writer since September 2017.