More than once in my messages to parents at UWCSEA I touch on two key ideas for our school: diversity and community. Perhaps nowhere are these essential elements of a UWCSEA education brought together more fully than in the two boarding communities – Mahindra and Senior House. One hundred and eighty-one boarders representing 47 nationalities live and work together in close proximity. Sixty-three of the boarders are National Committee Scholars who are selected by more than 130 national committees on the basis of personal merit and potential. Race, gender, religion, politics and ability to pay are not considered during the selection process.

The boarding houses are a direct expression of Kurt Hahn’s original idea that bringing young people from all over the world together could help to overcome religious, cultural and racial misunderstanding and avoid conflict. Evelin Toth, our Grade 11 Hungarian National Committee Scholar, describes life in the boarding house like this:

“So, how is boarding life?” – this is a question that we are usually asked and that we are never able to give a proper answer to, simply because it is impossible to describe this unique experience in a few sentences. Cooking dinner together in the kitchen, swimming with your friends after dinner, running desperately from the guardhouse to the lobby to get our sign-in cards as our we are about to miss our curfew, are all things that characterise our everyday lives very well.

The most amazing thing about being a boarder is that you never feel alone. When you go down to the common room, there will definitely be someone to talk to. No wonder we barely make it to class in time in the morning – it is not easy to go to bed early with so many friends around! Among the 130 boarders living in Senior House, there will definitely be someone to turn to if you face a difficult exercise with logarithms or if you just need help with choosing what to wear for a special occasion.

Most of us come from thousands of miles away. It is our very first experience of being away from our family and friends, and the environment that we are used to. We are really lucky; living in the boarding house is something that helps us feel that despite the distance there is a community that we truly belong to. Starting from the activities on Orientation Week, organising the International Evening and the wonderful trip to Desaru have all been experiences that have made our community stronger.

Students come here from different cultures with different values, habits and traditions. Being a part of this community gives you the opportunity to get a better understanding of the diversity of the people. Just try going to the common room on a Saturday night. You will see people juggling, playing the guitar, singing, painting the wall or just learning how to count to 20 in Korean. It is a lively community with amazing and versatile people who are happy to share their skills, and their understanding of the world. I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Anyone meeting the boarding students cannot fail to take away an impression of them as a remarkable group of young people. They are an essential part of what makes UWCSEA such a dynamic, joyful, special school.

 

Frazer Cairns

Head of UWCSEA Dover