Humanitarian, Sports Leader and Community Builder
8 June 2021
The Journey of three Alumnae: how Activities can prepare you for life after UWCSEA East.
“I was alone, in the country, I didn’t speak the language and was navigating a landscape that has been scarred by an earthquake”. (Paraphrased)
How did our Class of 2018 alumna find herself in Nepal in 2019? She identified a need, worked to gather the resources to make the trip a reality, educated herself to ensure her input was valid, needed, relevant and appropriate and then set off to contribute to a six week project assisting in infrastructure construction and rehabilitation after the 2015 earthquake. At the culmination of the six weeks, she had navigated the many challenges that such an expedition might present and left feeling like she wanted to contribute so much more. When I spoke to Tahlia about how she came to feel able to launch herself into this world and act where she saw action was needed, she brought me back to the Activities Programme at UWCSEA East. A powerful and potent reminder of the learning that can take place across our curriculum.
We often hear how Activities shape a student’s time at UWCSEA East but the preparation for life beyond the College is also full of impact. We strive towards developing students as lifelong learners where they utilise and build upon their past experiences. Reflections captured from alumnae living in different countries from the past four years demonstrates how their positive experiences from participation in Activities helped them in unique ways as they began to forge their own paths.
Traveling to Nepal on an international humanitarian project to provide vital assistance in an earthquake zone requires someone who is compassionate, is able to deal with stress and can translate understanding into action. These are characteristics and a confidence that Tahlia links to several aspects of her involvement in the UWCSEA Activities Programme. Being involved in Culturama dances with an audience of 400 will certainly make you perform under pressure but the learning is much deeper than the dance itself. Connecting with unfamiliar people and cultures requires open mindedness and an understanding that each person is unique and to respect the uniqueness of others. Working with 80 delegates in Initiative for Peace ensured she was comfortable having difficult conversations, listening intently to other perspectives and fostering an ability to see the big picture. Being involved in sports teams required trust, dedication and to cope with stress. Sport also teaches about the importance of teamwork and this prepared Tahlia mentally to deal with demanding and challenging situations especially when dealing with other volunteers in Nepal when tasks were physically and emotionally draining. Being involved in Activities brought happiness and fond memories whilst at East but the deeper learning since has proved to be the true value in many challenging situations.
Lauren is a passionate and impressively qualified football coach who is currently overseeing training sessions at five locations in the UK involving over 500 students alongside studying for her undergraduate degree. Team sports at East taught Lauren the need to develop interpersonal skills, to be inclusive and trust her peers, qualities that she has utilised in her fast track coaching career. Conversations with Lauren pinpoint her experience in the Chelsea FC Leadership Programme as pivotal to her success since leaving the College. Student Leadership Programmes require students to connect with people of all ages and backgrounds including students and staff. Building networks is about building relationships and relationships are built on genuine interactions. Learning how to deal with different personalities, situations and challenges prepared Lauren for more demanding situations and gave her the edge over others when seeking out coaching and leadership opportunities. Lauren has made it a point to build strong connections with people that she meets and has kept her network strong by helping others. She continues to build her network in her role as a Football League Secretary and Fixtures Manager involving hundreds of teams in the UK. The learning from participation in the Activities Programme has ensured that Lauren has cultivated a network within football in which she is significantly contributing and flourishing.
Starting university can be a new chapter in life which for many students often means leaving home and for many students at UWCSEA East it means relocating to another country. This change can be overwhelming, however, despite this, we see our alumni seek opportunities to thrive and support others. Arriving at Melbourne University, Ella quickly wanted to build communities and undertook the responsibility of organising student events often consisting of over 50 fellow students to create unique, valuable communities between groups of people. To make large scale events meaningful requires precise organisation and effective communication which is something not for the faint-hearted. When in conversation with Ella about this, she reflects on her involvement in the UWCSEA East Sports Council as a foundational learning experience to develop this confident and organised approach to looking beyond one’s own experience and towards that of our wider society. As a 14 year old, she began organising events for hundreds of students requiring collaboration with many groups of people including facilities, catering, backstage crew, students, staff and parents. The experience of organising events at East created the perfect platform to deal with complexity and the ability to see the big picture and the finer details.
Our three alumnae have had very different journeys but the learning from their participation within the Activities Programme resonated as a vital component of College life which has prepared them for meaningful life interactions beyond the College. Being involved in auditorium filled dances, sports teams, conferences, celebration evenings and leadership programmes of course gave them a chance to have fun but the learning about culture, connections and community had a deeper meaning which through application has improved their lives and the lives of others.
By Gavin Dinsdale, Head of High School Activities