The Imperfect Art of Living, The Imperfect Art of Leading

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The Imperfect Art of Living: A new UWCSEA G10 course

By Angela Erickson, Interim Head of Library, Dover Campus
30 November 2023

How do we design meaningful lives in such an uncertain, imperfect world? This is the driving question my students and I are trying to answer in the new UWCSEA Dover course “The Imperfect Art of Living.”1

Using philosophy, psychology, design thinking, and the science of wellbeing, this course challenges students to ask important questions about their lives and prototype meaningful changes that they can make in order to find more meaning and purpose in their day to day experiences. Next term, we will apply what they have learned about living meaningful lives to become better leaders who are able to create cultures of meaning as they grow into adulthood. 

Worth noting, in particular, is something unique about this course: We meet every Monday and Wednesday evening online so that we are able to include international school students living in other parts of the world. 

I asked two of my current Grade 10 students to share their thoughts about the course so far. Elsa Bresman started attending UWCSEA Dover in K1. Vincent Yang recently joined this year as a boarding student participating in our FIB program.

1It is with gratitude that I credit Corey Topf, the course designer of “The Imperfect Art of Living” from Innovation Academy Online. Other schools participating include Colegio Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Peru, American International School of Budapest in Hungary, and Colegio Pedro de Valdivia in Chile.


The “Imperfect Art of Living” challenges us to think more philosophically and to dig deeper into meaning and impact: What truly matters? What makes me happy? Where do I find meaning?

- Elsa, Grade 9, UWCSEA Dover



Ms Erickson: What matters most to you about what you are learning in UWCSEA Dover’s new G10 course “The Imperfect Art of Living”?Elsa: The discussion and sharing of ethics and values. The “Imperfect Art of Living” challenges us to think more philosophically and to dig deeper into meaning and impact: What truly matters? What makes me happy? Where do I find meaning? It is pretty profound to have a safe space in which to discuss such things.

Vincent: A few months before beginning my studies at UWC in grade 10 as a new student, I was looking through the list of FIB courses I could select. Each topic seemed to offer important knowledge, but I wasn't sure how I related to it or how it might shape me. The uncertainty prompted a more general question: What kind of life do I want to live? As a result, I chose the course "The Imperfect Art of Living" and studied subjects like happiness, purpose, and meaning. To create a life that has meaning for me, I started to relate these topics to my own experiences. This might vary for every individual, but I believe what matters most to me is the discovery process of "who we are" throughout the course.

Ms Erickson: How is this class different from classes you have taken in the past?Elsa: In the last two months I have heard many stories, perspectives and ideas from people all around the world. Not only am I able to share my thoughts, but I am able to grow as a person through understanding and empathizing with other peoples’ experiences. Furthermore, the course offers many life skills that many of my other classes don’t offer, such as presenting, storytelling, etc. Through practicing these skills, I have grown in confidence through my public speaking and ability to efficiently communicate my experiences.

Vincent: The class places greater emphasis on the life choices that aren't confined to a specific discipline or subject but instead we delve deeper into the 'why' and 'how' of the choices we make. On one hand, possessing specific content knowledge in a subject is important, but learning the different ways of leading a balanced life by considering happiness, purpose, and meaning is also fundamentally important. In this course, different philosophies are explored in how they relate to living a fulfilling life. We present ideas within groups, draw connections from books to our personal experiences, as well as meet challenges that encourage us to make a difference.

Ms Erickson: In what ways does this course connect to the UWC Mission and Values?Elsa: I have been at UWCSEA since I was four years old, and throughout my journey here, some of the values that have stood out to me are empathy, reflection, creativity and a sense of community. “The Imperfect Art of Living” is a course that has pushed me to further my understanding of myself and others as well as that life offers an infinite number of opportunities, but you must be willing to open yourself up to them even if that is uncomfortable. UWC has always reinforced these ideas, but living in a society that may sometimes look down on dissimilar or foreign perspectives, I frequently feel scared to share my innermost thoughts and ideas. Throughout the course, I have not once experienced these feelings of self-doubt, as everyone's backgrounds and views are so different and diverse that it is hard to not appreciate our differences. We are truly embracing the mission of making ‘education a force to unite people, nations and cultures’. 

Vincent: Part of the mission of UWC is making connections with people from different backgrounds. I think the course really demonstrates this well by creating connections between many other students all across the world, for example, in South Korea and South America. It is interesting to discuss our life experiences with people whom we might never have the chance to meet without this course. We all have different cultural backgrounds and beliefs, but it is important to connect and realize that we are all struggling with some of the same things in life.

Ms Erickson: Who would you recommend to take this course? I believe that ‘The Imperfect Art of Living’ is an amazing course which everyone should strongly consider when deciding their subjects. The course offers a match for anyone to light their flame, whether that be through storytelling, finding meaning in life, or an opportunity for personal reflection. If I were to be more specific for whom I would recommend taking this course, I would suggest someone who may struggle with identifying meaning in their lives. The course not only offers lots of time for reflection and exploration, but you also hear about the struggles and lives of others, reminding you that you are never alone.

Vincent: I would recommend someone like me, who is struggling or feeling anxious about what to do in the future, to take this course. This course might not tell you exactly what you should and should not do, but guides the process of finding a more meaningful and purposeful life. It corrects some of our mindsets and shapes them into more positive structures that could benefit us in knowing who we are and what we need. 

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