So It Goes


by Marcela Hernandez, United World College Maastricht
15th June, 2019


[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s my first of two years in UWC Maastricht is coming to an end, I ponder on all the times this first chapter has left me, with both good and bad. Beyond any doubt, I have changed and grown in so many ways that make me look back at the naive, innocent and little girl who came to UWC filled with expectations, who grew to be an entirely different person now. Contrary to what I believed, creating a new beginning is much harder than it seems, challenges and struggles will also come in the way of a new start, and we may think to ourselves, “Oh, so it goes!”. However, the way we decide to face each struggle will determine the way things go, we can either learn from our mistakes, look for help and grow as an individual with the help of those who surround us, or we can hang on to the same mistake, reluctant to move on.
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As I mentioned before, I arrived here with expectations. I thought that striving for change and voicing our opinions would be a normalised action, that all people would have the same passion for the “shared” mission. I understand, some members of the community are here not necessarily for the experience, but for the education.  However, it is crucial for every member of the community to be able to adapt and adjust to the environment we live in. Albeit the hardships that this environment poses, we should not aim to spend our time in UWC abolishing all the uniqueness that makes the movement. In short words, I came here with infinite expectations that led me to think of UWC Maastricht as a utopia, as I’m sure most of us did.
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What I cannot comprehend is the fact that UWC Maastricht seems to have transitioned from an idealistic reality surrounded by students from all over the world, all with a collective aim, to understand our similarities and differences and learn from one another to just another international school. When did we stop celebrating all these values and things that make us a real UWC and started focusing on the bad aspects of it instead? Why is it that now, we are counting the days to go back to our home country when we should be making each day we spend here count instead? Is it us, the students, who are just not able to see the greatness of the movement and embrace it? After all, we are only able to live this experience once,  and whatever we decide to do with our time here cannot be undone. Or is it, maybe, that the staff members have alienated us from the decision-making process as they did with suspensions which led to miscommunication between both parties and a distinguishable gap between students and staff? Is it that some of the teachers and residence mentors, the people we are supposed to look up to, and the individuals who are meant to look after us have just given up as well and hence, they are leaving us? Is it that the leaders of the school are more focused on the external reputation that UWC Maastricht has as an IB school? Or is this just a misconception of what the real UWC values are? I am sure you can come up with your own reasons as well, probably far more than I could think of.
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I would personally say, there is no right or wrong, no innocent or guilty, it is irrational to blame the poorly lived mission statement on one party only. We have all failed to conform to what UWC – its mission and values stand for. We have failed to live up to the movement’s expectations. For whatever the reason might be, we have not succeeded in carrying the UWC values and more so, we have not been successful in making the most out of this experience. As I said, many are the reasons we could list as to why the school and its members are not achieving a real “UWC experience,” but that is the easy part. There are no hard implications in pointing fingers or listing flaws about something or someone, whether it is students breaking the code of conduct, staff members who confuse being respected with being feared, or simply the lack of communication between residential and day students.
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The real question, the one that actually requires plenty of dedication, thinking, and more importantly, action, is: “What are you doing in order to change it?”  Is there something you consider to be unfair? Something you know is completely unacceptable? We see it every day at our school and we still do nothing about it! We have heard it so many times, and it is written all over our mission statement, we are a force to inspire change,  but in my estimation, I don’t think I feel comfortable speaking up with the fear that constructive criticism may not be welcomed by all the people in the community. We hear it every day, we are given the tools to do it, and we are even encouraged by some “rebellious” staff members to do so, however, when it comes to real life implementation, I am afraid it is just not as simple. Fighting for change is barely ever seen around campus anymore, and if you do it, you might get into trouble for disrespecting and rebelling against the school, its rules and its members. You can blame it on the current school administration, you can blame it on those staff members who are reluctant to change or perhaps as I do, you can blame it on us. Because we are the ones who spotted flaws in the current system; we knew all along about the gap between residential and day students and willingly decided to let it grow bigger; we have all met at least one staff member or student who has a mild drive for UWC and yet, we do nothing to share the values with them. We foresaw a flawed system taking over and decided to stay silent when our voices were needed the most. We thought “This is the way things work, it cannot be changed” but this should not be the mentality of a UWC student – let alone, any student, simply because certain things have been done a certain way for generations does not mean they should remain the same. We cannot see inequalities and just stay silent, we are expected to build the community we want to recreate for future generations, and in order to do so we must all work together as a community to potentially reach a balance between what is expected and what is given from all its members.
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Last month we said goodbye to our outgoing DP2s, it was hard letting go of them, nevertheless, we knew we had to move on and to keep moving forward without them until our roads meet again. Now, as the year finalises, we will have to bid another round of goodbyes, perhaps for a different purpose this time. We will have to say goodbye to all the members of the staff leaving us, some of whom, we appreciate and look up to a lot, and others who we never really got the chance to talk to that much. We, as a community, are now facing profuse changes, not only in school but in the residences. Over twenty-five staff members have resigned from their positions this year, five new Residence mentors will be coming to live with us next year, we will be surrounded by many new faces, including those of our incoming DP1s.
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With almost half of the staff getting renewed, this is the perfect time to make a change. Let’s learn from the mistakes made in the past, change the things we have deemed to be damaging our community, the things that make us fear, the things that make us voiceless, the bad comments and attitudes that do not contribute at all to the kind of community we want to build, and lastly let’s bring back the drive to live and make the most out of this experience. It is time for us to move on from all those things we do not like about our school, time for us to think and reflect upon the thought of what we want this place to be like for the years to come. We have been told to do so, for the past few weeks, but will we really do it? It is time for us to put an end to the “so it goes”, start taking responsibility for our actions and realise that the power to make a change lies within us. Whether it is for better or for worse, we have the power to change this place we call home. “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on” – Robert Frost

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