by Asante Omeke, UWCM
16th of December, 2022
If UWC is a circus it’s surely the most unregulated one out there.
The redundant cries of my laptop ventilation system jolt me awake each morning. Like clockwork, at 7:40 the shrill screams start. The miniature plates, disks and drives vigorously shake to the silent tunes of an orchestral marimba. And each morning without fail, I throw myself into the same calculated chaos – dashings mounds of clothes across the room, slopping on facewash, and clasping my braids into a ponytail. I add the final touches – wobbly eyeliner and creasing shoes – before dashing to beat that illustrious 8:10 bell.
My months at United World College have felt like an neverending circus – characterised by naivete and a general sense of confusion. Instead of a rotund red clown’s nose, I paint the stripes of a bright flag hoping my patriotism will give me a sense of identity. In certain moments, there’s a glimpse of order and structure. Moments when I’m laughing or surrounded by comforting people, I feel maybe landing 5,000 kilometres from home wasn’t just a fluke. Certain days, the United World Circus is an elegant trapeze dance, delicately galloping from one IB class to the next, collecting perfect 7s and plastering a ‘banana’ smile across my face. For well-trained performers, I assume each day at UWC consists of juggling academics and social life with skilled precision, and saving some time after to perfect their miming skills.
On perfect days, the United World Circus is a well-oiled machine, and it really does feel like a utopia. Then out of nowhere, the overwhelming wave of doubt will wash over me. Suddenly, I can’t do acrobatics and contort myself into the “ideal student”. It’s the nagging notion that the past three months have been filled with silly decisions and false pretence. It’s the feeling that there’s conversations within the school I can observe, but never be a part of. This terrifying sickness leaves me wondering, if I’m wasting away – wasting the air in a classroom, wasting Bart’s mensa food, wasting everything. In moments like these, I’m on the tightrope playing the role of jester, tripping and gyrating for everybody’s amusement. While everyone else in the circus forms perfect, synchronous movements I’ll be the spinning elephant trying to reflect even a shred of light, but failing miserably.
The more time I spend here (and the colder it gets), I’m starting to accept that falling is inevitable, and even the best knife throwers get cut once or twice. If UWC is a circus it’s surely the most unregulated one out there. There is a circus routine – but it’s not something that is taught, and it’s not something you have to follow. United World Colleges (or shall I say Paul’s Circus) is an incomplete masterpiece, everyday new changes and improvements are being made. It’s unfinished, so feel free to add your mark. Everybody creates their own version of UWC, and that is what makes it the most wonderful freak show.