by Korpo M. Selay, United World College Maastricht
08 February, 2022
Illustration by Thalia Lembong
Before UWC, I was your perfect description of a kid who has it all together. The one who always came first in class and still somehow managed to engage in many different extracurricular activities, yep, that one. I had so much going on, but I somehow managed to keep track of everything because of one thing, balance. Even though I had many responsibilities and commitments, I always had time for my religion, family, and friends. As a kid, I never wanted to fit the societal definition of a “nerd.” I wanted to be a special kind of a nerd, not like everyone else. Thus, I tried to balance my social, academic, and religious life, something I was convinced would make me unique. This pressure I put on myself to be different from others benefitted me in many aspects of my life and helped me through tough times. However, it got to the point where I would beat myself up for making mistakes, and instead of learning from them, I spent the time feeling like a failure because, for me, that meant I was becoming something I’ve fought all those years to not become; like everyone else.
For some, UWC is their gateway to attending their dream University or an opportunity to meet amazing new people from different parts of the world. While for others, UWC is a chance to escape an epistemic bubble they have lived in all their lives and encounter a wide range of ideas and perspectives. There is, however, one thing we all share, which is a strong desire to be different, not like the average teenager. The force behind this feeling of wanting to stand out and not be average is the very force maintaining the UWC mission.
You see this force in the firsties. It makes them wake up early to make it on time for breakfast and have a sleeping schedule because they all do not want to be like most of the rest of us that run to make it to our first class and sleep whenever our bodies can no longer stand being awake (I admittedly, am one of those people). While this desire to stand out and be different is a good thing, it can turn into one’s weapon of destruction if care is not taken. Being under constant pressure to be exceptional and not average can leave one feeling depressed and unaccomplished. I say this because choosing how different you are from everyone else may be an effective yet demanding rhetoric to measure one’s failure, or success, as there is no authentic guarantee that your definition of being different is not usual. Being different or standing out mostly depends on your environment. I firmly believe that each individual is unique in their way, and we stand out based on our environment. What may be considered as “normal” somewhere may be regarded as “strange” somewhere else. Therefore, this force that drives us to be different and unique, as I said, has its downsides.
Being truly special should mean staying true to yourself and this, my friend, is what makes that force work for you while pursuing a UWC education. It’s pretty easy to lose oneself here and feed yourself with lies to cover your guilty conscience. Staying true to yourself will help you decide what is best for you or the people you care about. As cliche as it may sound, this might just help you understand how to make the UWC education and your force work for you.