Butterflies, roots and endings that (don’t) suck.

By Georgia Katakou, UWCM
April 8th, 2018

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Coming back from February break, there has been a sudden infatuation with counting, especially amongst the DP2 community. Several rough estimations have started circulating around: 9 weeks until LSD, 70 days until the first exam and 3 months until we leave… Instagram feeds are starting to feature throwback pictures or emotional countdowns and while many DP2s and DP1s have varying relationships with the idea of graduation, the truth of the matter is simple: time is running out.
In many ways, the brief nature of the residential aspect of UWC is a big part of its appeal. It’s a spark that concludes our teenage years and pushes us into adulthood. By the time the spring rolls around, most of us have grown comfortable with life on our small island and before you know it, we are (literally) forced to move out. That act of detachment is part of growing up. Graduation is an arguably violent thrust into reality and while it seems scary and certainly heartbreaking, I think we should consider it as something more than just the end. As cliché as it may sound, this end will be also a beginning, and there is certainly something exciting about the opportunity to go someplace new.  After spending almost two years here, there is the danger of becoming complacent, getting a bit too comfortable and maybe that is why it’s necessary to move on.
Recall the summer before your first year in UWC. For me at least, it was equal parts excitement and apprehension and my stomach was in a perpetual state of “butterflies”. And if you fast forward  two years ahead, many late night talks later, I hope that you discover that a similar new beginning is awaiting you. Even for the DP1s, our departure signifies a time that you get to spend only with your year group, a time for bonding like no other. It is a time that teaches all of us how fluid and ever-changing our reality can be and how we should value the time we have with each other. And we can simply turn our eyes to the adults in the community to realize that while separation is scary, graduation is not as final as we imagine it. How many times have you heard talks of 3rd and 4rth years, shared amongst house parents and staff? Those generations have graduated, maybe with the fear that we share right now, the fear of leaving no mark in our campus, of being forgotten. But you will find the feeling of continuity and remembrance wherever you look. From artworks hanging in the common rooms to talks with teachers that dreamily recall “that one student some years ago”, we should realize that leaving does not equal erasure.
We have all grown roots in the people that surround us and I believe that we will always be able to follow those roots back to the people we shared moments with. Our everyday reality has been shaped by the individuals here, no matter how significant or insignificant we perceive our relationship to be. Friendships on campus, in the brief two years we spend here, often are complex. You can not get to know everyone deeply while you are also trying to pass IB, organize a conference and attempting to not sleep through every first period. But after we leave, spreading across the globe, we have the freedom to follow the roots we have created back to our friends, and make new ones. Maybe the ever-repetitive “you have a home in every corner of the globe” is not fully true but still, we do have ties to people in (almost) every continent. Even with those that you argued with over pushing deadlines or floor cleaning, those that you only shared casual greetings with, they are still there for a coffee and a talk whenever you pass by.
In reality is our choice whether we choose to live the clichés we hear about post-graduation life or not. And there are many paths that UWC graduates tend to follow in a similar fashion. Some demonize their time here and move away from their experience and some tend to idealize every moment and every memory. The meetups, the returns to one or the other UWC campus to volunteer in an event, the trips around the world to meet your co-years, the instant connection with any other UWC graduate, no matter when they graduated or from where, all those are choices. We can choose if we want to live in a post-UWC cloudy heaven where everything was perfect and our life is now an extension of that, we can erase the memories or allow them to be impactless recollections.
Endings suck. In literature, in movies, in real life, we very often despise endings for how they make us feel. But radically, this particular one doesn’t suck that much. And while I am not trying to persuade you that everyone’s experience here has been amazing, I do believe that all of us are a bit scared of the impending final bow. In reality, we are just moving out of the island and into the world, a world full of people that, no matter how little we interacted with during our time here, will always share the same feeling of butterflies that we recall the memories of our UWC years with.