Open Letter to my Firsties

by Maud Leeflang, United World College Thailand
15th May, 2019

Amsterdam, the city I call my home, with its endless possibilities of freedom, formed images in my mind.
From the joy of riding my bike, while simultaneously exploring this historic city and yelling insults at
tourists that block my way. To slowly gliding along the canals on a boat, every trip a maiden voyage still
amazed by the serenity of the water and the houses. From those morning strolls through the
neighbourhood, stopping at the cheese store for fresh bread and croissants, browsing the racks of my
favorite stores, and grabbing coffee at the corner cafe. To nights well spent talking under gaze of city
lights and amongst the haze of tourists’ sins. The list is endless. Some might ask, why I ever left.
The answer to that question was, UWC. How cliche now that longing for adventure, being part of
something bigger and the mission of UWC seem. How surprisingly real those idealistic dreams still feel.
Stepping on that plane to Thailand I could have never begun to imagine what I would experience in two
years. They have been an exhilarating roller coaster which is now slowly coming to a halt.
Walking to greenshop when we wanted good food (not that shitty stuff from the canteen). Nights lying on
the beach at Nai Yang gazing at the stars, hoping it wouldn’t rain and catching a fallen star. Walking
around in shorts all day, because it never got cold. Friday evenings in the villa watching new episodes of
grey’s anatomy. Of course debating, sometimes arguing, with people from all over the world and the
countless times I was called rude (I’m Dutch, it’s my DNA). Trips to places I had never seen before.
Dreamy islands with deserted white beaches and sparkly blue water. Although I would never trade these
experiences for the world, they have changed me.
Each time I fly from one of the world to the other, a part of me stays behind in the place I leave. I feel like
Miley Cyrus when I’m in Thailand and like Hannah Montana when I’m in Amsterdam. I truly have best
of both worlds. Now, if you weren’t into Hannah Montana, let me explain. What I mean is that sometimes
it feels as though I have two identities. Each one adapting to the environment around her. However I am
not implying that I have some sort of cool alter ego, that magically appears and has hit songs. It’s more
that different parts of my character are highlighted because of the environment I am in. At home I master
the art of small talk, while here at UWC the real art lies in midnight political discussions. Don’t get me
wrong I love both parts of me and change is always welcomed.
I guess what I would like to say is that no one place defines who you are. I am both the me in Amsterdam
and the me in Thailand. The one some will call rude and the one that is too quiet. I will forever be
searching for an equilibrium.
So, my dear firsties, don’t be afraid to be both parts of yourself. UWC is not only a place where we learn
from our friends around us, but also the place to grow as a person. When you go back home, embrace
which ever part of you emerges and welcome it with open arms.
Note to self: stop talking in cliches.