Reflections and thoughts from participants

Below is a collection from participants over the years and their thoughts on our Short Course and concepts we have dealt with.

Francisco, UWCSC’19

Almost a year has gone by and there isn’t a single day I don’t look back at the Short Course and think: “I’m incredibly thankful for that experience and for the people I met there”. We spent over 15 days discussing “How to Build a Sustainable Future” but during those +15 days, there were so many more things that were done, said, learned, taught and felt. I consider myself a person that does not show many of its emotions nor enjoys reflecting about them but there, in that environment and that place and time, I opened myself to others and I learned that talking and sharing is the best way to deal with issues. I can honestly say it was the best two weeks of my life and I met people that I hope to be in contact with for as long as I live. I learned so much, I shared so much, I laughed, cried, walked, laid on the grass, ran to the Mall, I don’t even know what else. We built a family there, it was fantastic how we the participants got along so well with the facilitators but also got along with each other and that sense of community, friendship and continuous sharing was something I had never felt before and I’m truly grateful for it. As you see, I am getting emotional by remembering all of this but bare in mind that this group of facilitators is the best you will ever have (besides Tobias, be careful with him. He can be quite annoying and he talks too much. Just kidding, he’s amazing, just like all the others.) and that the programme and set of activities you will have will be amazing on every level and be prepared to face your fears, handicaps, to feel lost, alone but in the end, you’ll know it was all worth it because you will feel accomplished and feel new and ready to face the world ahead of you. Enjoy your experience, I’m certain you will not regret it, I wish I could participate for 2 years in a row and go through everything again. It’s okay to be scared and feel a bit lost but trust me when you start meeting people and sharing hours with them, all those fears will go away and you will have the time of your lives. This has been Frankie! Goodbye!

Bleona, UWCSC’18

I attended UWC Short Course in Freiburg last year and my roommates were from the Netherlands, Hungary, and Germany and I really had a great time with my roommates and everyone. I spent 17 unforgettable days with 60 other people all around the world, knowing that we had different cultures was kinda hard for us at the beginning but very easy when we got used to it. Sharing the same vegetarian food that once we didn’t even like but each day was getting better and better was very fun and enjoying the sunset together, going for walks after we finished our workshops also having the umbrella group family the talks for an hour telling to our umbrella family how we spent the day, and playing ninja as well because my umbrella family was known for ninjas game and the Champion of the game was Anastasias, he was good at it haha. During workshops, we had to learn different things that we never had the opportunity discussing the issues all over the world, like the industry, air pollution, climate change, child labor, garment industry, slavery, economy system, inequalities, recycling.

During Short Course, I learned a lot about issues we are facing as a society, but yet we all too busy to deal with our problems and fix them. When I went back home, I started talking to my family for sustainability to my friends as well. 

We also had the graduation ceremony when we got our certificates, and I had the chance to perform there as well, this means that UWC allows you to show your skills in every field you have. Also, the people are so cool and very open-minded, I celebrated my 18th birthday with them and it was the best birthday so far. Getting birthday wishes in different languages was something I ever wanted. 

I think UWC is looking for people that are an enthusiast to change the world and get to know other cultures and people, believe in its ideals and confident for this experience. So if you’re one of them I really think you should apply to UWC, trust me you won’t regret

Danche, UWCSC’16

To be honest, I couldn’t even imagine that I’d experience the things that I experienced during those 17 days in the beautiful city of Freiburg!

56 participants, all of us unique, with distinctive ideas and needs, and completely different ways of thinking and understanding the world. Individuals with different gender, cultural, racial, religious and national backgrounds, persons from all over the world. So different, yet so alike. 

We expanded our knowledge about sustainability, about the world and about us. We learned so many things, we went deep behind the surface of today’s reality. We made new friends, we became a big family. We laughed, and we cried. I personally, had the time of my life. I changed, I got inspired. And now, almost one year since all of this ended, I realize that I grew up there.

The Short Course experience cannot be described, it has to be felt. And I promise you, you will not want it to end. Enjoy your 17 days, they will certainly fly by.

Anastasios, UWCSC’16

One year has passed since the short course and nostalgia still hits me frequently. The feeling of nostalgia can only mean one thing and that is that something remarkable happened during the short course, so good that it makes you want to relive every single moment of it. I believe that I am a person of many ideas and the short course gave me that “small” (quite big) push that I needed to start working on a lot of projects, including of trying to see whether Greece can host a short course sometime in the future. Both the people there and the program itself is made in such a way to inspire you to change the world for the better. Trust me, going to the German short course is going to be one of the best decisions you have ever made in your life.

Lena, UWCSC’16

Honestly, there wasn’t a time of my life where I laughed or cried so sincerely. I learned things I wouldn’t even be able to take a glimpse of back home, and that knowledge plays a great role now when it’s time to choose universities. It’s not only textbook knowledge I am talking about here – it’s learning about your skills, your virtues and your flaws, your demons – after three weeks it all just comes swimming on top. I actually had a really tough time coming back home – aside from missing people, I had to deal with a newfound me, and that was very scary – and also the moment I started to grow up.

Katarina, UWCSC’17

After 2 years of graduation from Short course, as a participant in 2017, I can still feel the positive emotions, inspiration, and teamwork which I have experienced in the past. UWC short course was the starting point of my international academic journey, and there is no place as such where you can get inspired within the limited amount of days. BASF has gathered some of the finest souls where mutual understanding, respect, and tolerance was present thus, in the created atmosphere it was effortless for me as a student to absorb the information received from facilitators and letter on   upon them. I cherish the level of organization of the course and professionalism as well as creativity combined with the perfect blend of maturity presented at BASF. As a student, I have enhanced valuable skills such as teamwork, confidence and critical approach. Nonetheless, BASF has got me acquainted with many pantomath and people who’re a passion for intellectual work drives them in the same way but different direction as mine does me. It was truly a pleasure learning about non-formal political education, economics, and the environment from talented people.

Katarina, UWCSC’17

A journey, best described as a perfect blend of curiosity, perseverance and above all compassion, is the one that I’ve experienced in the UWC/short course in Germany 2017. On August 1st, 53 teenagers along with me, were travelling to reach exactly the same destination, Schloss-Schule Kirchberg. The purpose of our travel was to participate in a UWC short course on “Building a sustainable future”. As soon as we came, facilitators welcomed us full of energy and kindness. From every corner of the campus you could hear new languages, and different cultures. All of this was new to me, and I was very nervous about fitting in and being accepted. The first day had passed and all the anxiety and timidity began to slowly dissipate. The organization and productivity was something that fascinated me from the get-go. There wasn’t a single moment in the school during which you couldn’t hear laughter and positive energy. In the first week we had an interesting challenge that encouraged us to be even closer and get to know the place where we were. They called it “The Outdoor Challenge”. It consisted of hiking – while the rain was falling – but looking at people encouraging each other was worth any hassle. Having had our muscles active in sport activities made us ready for an intellectual challenge in the workshops later on. Hiking was great. However, the hike of our new journey and sustainable lifestyle was just beginning. During the first week, our lectures were a bit challenging but our thirst for knowledge prevailed. I’d never seen people so young, and yet so eager to constantly learn. From that moment I got the aspiration for self-improvement and hard work. In the first week we learned a lot about Non-violent communication; we gained the ability to observe without giving an opinion or debate, and to be very specific in our dialogs. We also had an Introduction to sustainability, where we discussed what sustainability meant to us. It was great to hear what sustainability meant to my friends – from over 16 different countries. The next day we learned about Ecological issues, and our food and transport footprint. We found out how unsustainable our journey to the SC actually was. Recycle, reduce, reuse was the lesson that we would remember. We found out that by doing just a little for society, and starting with ourselves we can contribute a lot to humanity. Consumerism as a topic and lecture was really my cup of tea. If you want to learn more you can find a pot cast which, my friend from Norway and I made during the Short Course ( Slowly we approached a new week, with a great desire for new acquaintances, and knowledge. Every participant that at first seemed so unconnected to my fields of knowledge turned out to have a profound impact on me. These were people who supported me in all my speeches and all the workshops that I held. They gave answers to many of my worries and concerns. I felt understood by the majority; I felt an irreplaceable sense of satisfaction and happiness. The following week we learned a lot of things that we previously would not have even considered. We studied Marxism, Socialism, Capitalism, Liberalism and one day we even had a really interesting and special lunch from which we took a huge life lesson. We had lunch in three groups. The groups represented: lower class people, middle class people, and upper class people. I was in the lower class where we only had bread for lunch. However, at one point the “royal” people invited me to their tables where their food was served to them. Then I realized a lot about the differences between people even in the 21 century. After each new day I felt more and more proud of watching my friends changing their opinions and finding themselves in new fields of knowledge. It was wonderful to be part of a community like that. Where you can learn to have a critical approach, to conduct a conversation without conviction, to develop a special kind of creativity. Where you spoke from your heart, without any regard for religious affiliation, nationality or gender. I personally learned to manage my obligations, visions and needs in a perfect entirety. Also, I was impressed with the option to present our recent research in workshops called “World cafes” where I held a workshop on the transfer of nuclear energy in the 21 century and the impact on people in the future, related to events which occurred in the period 1817/1917. I was elated with the amount of energy and attention that my friends devoted in listening to me. Later on we had a vegetarian dinner (during the whole course we had been eating vegetarian food because it was more sustainable). It was a great personal experience. The whole course was something new, and different. In the second week we were divided into the platforms where everyone could work on their creativity. I chose the magazine platform, the poem that I wrote can be found here ( po3GqMVjxeg/edit?usp=sharing) We didn’t lack sport activities either- every day before lunch we played basketball. A lovely but very sad period, came to us in the third week. All the previous strangers on campus had become part of a big family that had wonderful conversations, understanding and mutual support. The last week I had the feeling that all people that once wanted to try something new in life now gathered strength from that experience. The ability to be chairpersons and facilitators by ourselves strengthened us and woke up a different spirit in us. Furthermore, I hope that from my workshop my friends could learn something new about psychology and physics as well as something about Serbia as a country. As well as its politics, history and culture in general. Just as I enjoyed watching how much energy they have when they are doing something that they love, something that is bigger than us all. UWC is a place of many ideas. Should you act upon them, you can achieve a lot. The most important thing is to invest time and energy into them. I have learned that in that case, success Is guaranteed. One of the most emotional moments was the one where we all had a game in which we sat in the garden and appreciated each other for all the memories. That was the moment during which I was so delighted and grateful that I cried from the bottom of my heart. I did not cry because it ended, I cried because it happened. All those talented people bonded with me in a special way of connection. I have met the deepest parts of me as if they were a person and done things that I was afraid of doing. I was afraid of speaking in front of a large mass of people, giving an opinion and singing. I feel that every inch of the “old” me has gone, since I was in such a productive environment and because of the happiness that I experienced. All of my fellow friends were so ambitious and had different life stories to tell. It was beautiful to see how united we are in diversity. In so many different ways, each of us is similar to one another. Moreover, I believe, and I am sure that our paths will cross again. I’ll personally always look for the feelings that I’ve experienced in this 17 days in UWC. Feelings of satisfaction and love to live, to humans, and to education like no other. Thank you for devoting your time! Katarina”

Uroš, UWCSC’17

Almost two years have passed and even now when random thoughts start wandering thru my head I have flashbacks of the short course. I still don’t know why but the course made everyone free-spirited for those 17 days that we shared, even me! I remember the most random things like people walking barefoot, me eating ice cream of the asphalt, people yelling for no particular reason and many more! I guess everyone felt more relaxed and just wanted to test the limits of weird, fun and random. The course literally opened my head and stuffed a lot of pretty colors and positivity into it, the way I was looking at the life was totally different. I’ve become more creative after the course for sure, that is the thing that I’m really proud of. From now on I’m putting way more emotion into my work, instead of an old logical approach to my problems. Rather than that, it’s all the same. I’ve struggled with being happy and finding general things that motivate me or give me some type of passion, before and after the course.

I’m still in touch with the crew, we are actually planning a mini-reunion in August in Greece. The umbrella groups were amazing, the best way to end the day. Irem, Amanda, Mimi, Myriam, Adrian, Christina and You were the best possible squad I could imagine! I still keep the letter Christina gave me on the last day and occasionally wear the bracelet Zeynep gave as good luck charm. The thing I remember the most is that Leke said: “We should be happy that happened, not sad that it ended”. I hope this is helpful for the research you are doing!

Mimi, UWCSC’17

It feels weird to be different – me standing against the crowd. Standing proudly and defending my beliefs, although it was just a few days ago that I had adopted them.

             I spent yesterday in Greece, lying and rolling in the sand and feeling more comfortable than ever before. While peacefully observing the calm water and admiring the colors of the sky, a single word was repeatedly crossing my mind – consumerism. Soon, I got so frustrated that I needed to find a pen and start writing:

             “Today I am seeing the world in a different light.

Today I am facing another form of consumerism.

Today I saw thousands of cars waiting to cross the borders and go on short holidays. Half of them will probably come back the same day. Many will listen to the loud music from the bars instead of the waves of the sea, while looking for Internet connection to post a photo of the awesome time they had. Today I was disgusted by people’s thirst for money, rest, beach, water, comfort. Today I wished they didn’t have the need for it. Today I wished vacation and tourism didn’t exist.

But today I realized I was one of them, I was the everybody else. Today I spent five hours in the car for eight hours on the sand. Today I hated myself.

Today I ate more than my needs. Today people died of hunger.

Today I heard my aunt proudly announcing that she bought twenty pieces of clothing for 200$, instead of $1000, things that she may never wear in her lifetime and will just throw them away one day. Today I asked myself ‘How do you explain to a person that they didn’t save money but spent a lot more and destroyed a hundred dreams, childhoods, lives.’

Today I went to my friend’s birthday party at a nightclub and I saw the well-known faces wearing the uncomfortable clothes they bought yesterday because ‘you can’t wear the same thing twice’. I saw people judging and gossiping although they were too drunk to even recognize those who were passing by. Today I hated the teenage definition of *having fun*.

Today I wished we were different. I wished we were aware. I wished we cared.

Today I hated the world.

Today I hated myself.

Today I hated the human race.

Today I spent two hours discussing global problems with my sister. Today I heard other well-educated people: teachers, doctors, engineers – people who considered themselves as knowledgeable and open minded – expressing close minded opinions. But is it their fault, the danger of a single story?

Today I had no hope.

Today I asked myself: Is it worth it? Is it worth devoting our lives to creating a world for the unknown future generations? Can we change anything at all? How do we change the lifestyles of so many people? How do we unite? How will people start caring? Can we save ourselves and our planet? And are we actually supposed to do so? What difference does it make if we continue with our unsustainable lives – do what is the most convenient for us at the moment, and just kill the population? Does it matter that the children of our children may not have children? What if this is just another form of evolution?

Today I have no answer.

Today I am planning a presentation on climate change for an event I want to make because today I am a fighter, standing against the crowd.

Today my purpose is to help others.

Today I believe in the power of people.

Today I realized that there is no single person, single event or single piece of art that will make the world a better place. Because changing the world is about all the little things that each and every one of us is doing right now, every conversation we have and every reaction we make. It all affects somebody, their feelings and opinions, and at the end of the day that’s what the world is – a mixture of souls and stories, whose beauty patiently waits to be discovered.

Estefany, UWCSC’18

Just needed a one month to learn to understand and love them.Maybe my English was not the best of all to be able to express my ideas, but still I felt the love that it offers to participate in the short course and to show my feelings towards each of the people I met. Of the 53 people from all over the world, all of them were incredibly fantastic, which has contributed to my personal development, to be able to appreciate their fears, goals, personality and the agents of change that they are. Being surrounded by people with different diversity, strengthened my identity. In addition to making friends of the world with whom I can count. In less than a month I felt that they were and are part of my family and that every experience and madness will always be impregnated in me. from Latin music to Arabic music, we spent at night dancing different music from all over the world, if we did not know the pace, we were all willing to help each other and have a good time. I am currently studying the major of Public Health and Global Health, which is very much characterized in getting empathic relationships with different populations, although apart from preventing diseases. I consider that the short course, of which I am very grateful for the opportunity, helped me to obtain the intercultural glasses and how we should respect the other, because their characteristics makes them unique and special.

Elena, UWCSC’18

Hey there! My name is Elena and I come from Skopje, Macedonia. It’s been almost a year since the BASF short course, but the vibrant energy I felt during the three weeks there is still coursing through my body. It was an exceptional feeling being with spirited, supportive, wholesome, open-minded and warm- hearted people, who are all unique in their own way, because it creates a safe zone where you can express yourself while knowing you will be understood and supported. In these times, you find the perfect setting to explore your inner self and connect with like-minded people. This helped me a lot since, without even knowing, I have always been an introvert and sharing personal things has always been a no-no. However, the energy I felt during the SC made me realize that there is always more than one person in the room going through the same things and talking honestly and openly to others alleviates the burden. And the friendships you make this way are bound to last a lifetime!

Anonymous reflections from UWCSC’17

I really loved the relaxed and understanding atmosphere of the whole short course. We could do whatever was the most comfortable for us at every activity and I really loved it. For the first time I was sitting in whatever position was the most me, during lectures.

I liked how the facilitators were just about our age. This led to them having more of an understanding of the participants’ needs. I really enjoyed the freedom in our spare time, as well as I enjoyed the more strict attitude during workshops.

I liked how every opinion was listened to, respected and taken in consideration. I think the hand signs is a really good idea to keep the discussion in order.

This part of my vacation was the most amazing thing ever!! I will never forget the people I met and what one individual can do to change the world. thank you for giving me my ambitions back, lost them on the way to hell (hehe ;)).

Short Course gave me knowledge, friendships, acceptance, understanding, support, love, motivation, inspiration. It was a journey of self exploration and a transformation into a self – accepted person. It gave me stories and perspectives. It opened my eyes on many problems. It completely changed the way I see the world. I am no longer wearing my pink glasses. And most of all, it taught me how to be myself and be proud of that. I have never felt more comfortable in my own skin before.

I said this so so so many times in the camp, but I’m gonna say it again: this camp was EXACTLY what I needed. I can definitely say without any doubt in my mind that I have never been happier in my life. Thank you for this beautiful experience that really changed the way I look at the world and also myself. Thank you for the best 17 days of my life. I love you all so much

Living with people from different countries that are in a war or in a conflict (israel and lebanon- croatia, kosovo, serbia, and slovenia) and seeing them living like brothers was the best experience in my whole life.

Anonymous reflections from UWCSC’18

I was privileged to be part of it,I learned, enjoyed, and it was a relax of mental and relax of my body.I saw something that I didn’t see before so this is important to me that in the end I feel proud of this, that I’ve done, also proud of me is my family they’re so happy with all of you guys. Miss you All.
This SC was definitely one of the greatest times of my life! I will miss every single one of you guys!
I think this course make me think, make me more emotional, make me be like myself and now I have friends in others countries.
Thank you for those amazing two weeks, I want to do a short course again as soon as possible. I learned so much about myself and about the others also and it was such a valuable experience. I will miss you so much and I am feeling very sad while writing this. But every good experiences have an end!

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