Participant Perspective, Mohamed Yahya Mansouri

The Atlas of BASF20

by Mohamed Yahya Mansouri

I am still conscious about the first session, a waterfall of excitement, and a barrier of stress coming from inside. But also, a decision of responsibility and commitment was set. Scrolling over zoom, visiting more than 60 people in their rooms including participants and facilitators that are about to spend with you 5 weeks sharing a wide list of applicable thoughts and strategies for us to learn how to use just gave me a small, pure, insight into the course. I can’t deny this, the stress did not abate, it got more intense, especially, when I realized how serious it got, questions popped up to my mind: ‘how am I going to contribute to the program? How shall I start it? How am I going to talk with people? Will it be a real UWC experience as I read on the website?’ 

But it turns out it was a fascinating five weeks full of moments. It was for me, a virtual exchange program where trying to learn about others’ backgrounds and identities was not just a deep interest, but also a mechanism to be closer to the participants while maintaining mutual understanding in deference. As a result, it was the launch foundation of a healthy community. 

BASF exhorted me to contemplate essential things that I ignored before and some of them were kind of subtle. This virtual program was mainly based on interaction and communication and lively group meetings, where a basic principle was to give a safe space to others to let them reflect and get comfortable so they can make their contribution in that room. Pertaining to this principle had been a critical challenge for me as it may have affected my interaction with others. The hard part was space control: the balance between the role of being a speaker and a listener. Thus, another principle was introduced to me: being a listener is my first option, and a speaker a selective one. Realizing and admitting my boundaries and my own space is one of the developments I have been seeking since the short course. 

As much as UWC BASF20 was a stunning opportunity that it is not just occupying the first part of my profile, it was also a whole reference of contemporary topics and lessons, where I tried to draw some opinions about the way we are living as a community and the way I am living as an individual. Also, the course was a map that pinned inner opportunities: interviewing a guest speaker, making presentations. Those were pragmatic for demonstrating the appropriate and thoughtful ways to deal with my circumstances and surroundings and how to be more self-aware. All of this while showing me how not doing so, would affect the working atmosphere of others. It didn’t stop there, a whole project.long program was to be organized and participants were divided into groups to unveil issues related to “building a sustainable future.” 

I got to be a member of a team of four to work on a project concerning street pollution, aiming to launch it from a national to an international level. Being impressed by those three other benevolent participants became a daily habit in the short course. Each one of them had a special title to me: the ideas’ producer, the solution explorer, and the realistic agent. We all shared those names for one another.

Participating in simulations that tend to throw us in an optimistic space of reflections, simulations that pushed us to think noble solutions, contributed to being inspired by the numerous workshops we had concerning sustainability (whether environmental, social, and economic…). These were some of the main factors bolstering my system of thinking, helping me to understand what is it like to think not just nationally but also internationally. Personally, it was really about ‘understanding, living, and feeling what things look like’ in order perceive the mechanisms behind: communication skills, international interactions, the definition and the description of being opened and connected to the world. To know what it means to respect others, to feel the sense of inclusion, belonging, to sense the beauty and the importance behind focusing on details and small things: cleaning the streets, reducing electricity use, reducing plastic use, and reading more about sustainability especially social sustainability are some of the things that I have started to work on thanks to the short course. Today, I admit that one of my peronal goals for the short course has been achieved: ‘To release some of my fears of going outside and making changes in my community’ 

As they say: “Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forwards” 

We were avid to have activities with each other and get to be friends. We tried our best to engage in daily challenges together. We had a lovely but exhausting workout session, you can see the pain through our screens. We also had yoga sessions but I wasn’t able to be there 😦 We got the chance to bake together (they baked but I ‘tried to bake’) vegan brownies – Mine was like gum and it didn’t have any taste. We also tried to make our virtual movie club, yay!! And so much more. 

But, what I just shared with you stays a portion of the whole Short Course Building a Sustainable Future of the United World Colleges. I guess this is an example of the famous saying: “nothing lasts forever”. At the end of the day: If I assume I learned too much then there’s still an ocean of learning and when I think there’s still an ocean of learning, I should be opened to different knowledge sources both direct and indirect. 

A lot of things make more sense to me now. 

Funny questions: 

What is the craziest thing that I did during the online program? 

Making a dramatic show while singing!!!! 

What is the silliest thing you did? 

Dancing in front of people in a workshop for a challenge that I DID NOT FAIL! And I need to say this: Wearing formal shirts with summer shorts during zoom meetings. 

One of the unique things in the program:

One of the interesting things in the program is: when you agree to something you don’t write: “Yes, I agree with that” but instead you should type: “++++++” (the length depends on how excited you are with it, I would dedicate a whole orientation session for this)

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