By Kate Woodford, Senior Manager, Marketing and Business Development
17 August 2021
For a scholar, a UWC education provides a remarkable opportunity to gain qualifications that will set them on a lifelong path toward success, along the way developing the qualities and skills that will help them to enact the mission in their communities as their bias for action is enhanced.
Despite the current global challenges, our UWCSEA Scholarship Programme continues to receive tremendous support from our community. This support means we can continue to welcome this group of exceptional and resilient students to our UWC global family. In the face of the current pandemic, which has impacted vulnerable communities the most, we are grateful that we can continue to offer scholarships to students who are drawn from these communities around the world, and to welcome them into ours. What does this mean for an individual's journey with UWCSEA? And beyond boarding, who else do these students connect with while here? Our graduating scholar from Malawi, Phuza ’21 shares his journey to, and through, UWCSEA:
How is a scholar selected?
Leon Toh ’06 is a UWC Adriatic alumnus who volunteers on the Singapore UWC National Committee and the UWCSEA Board of Governors. Leon explains how most scholars come to be selected, “UWC has the national committee system with around 150 countries represented by volunteers who run independent annual scholarship award processes so as to select high potential students from their own geography. We take them to UWC where they meet other scholars and changemakers—live, learn and work alongside them. Hopefully, we take them from a very local scale and widen their perspective.”
Becoming a scholar
“The way I found out about the UWC scholarships was through the Principal at my old school. He told me about it while I was working as an assistant teacher in my gap year, having finished my IGSCEs. I applied, I went to the interviews, and it was a fun time, something new. Then there was a period of silence where it was just guessing whether I got in or not. And then I got in.
Finding out was overwhelming. When I heard which school I was going to, I was, like, “Sign me up. I’m going.” No questions asked. I found out when I was at work, and instantly, I just asked my boss, “Can I take a minute break? I want to call my parents.” Screaming through the phone, they were so happy.”
Life far from home
“So with boarding, there’s the part of leaving your family. But what boarding does is that it gives you another one. It gives you a whole new support system and in ways that you wouldn’t get from your family at home.
You learn things about countries you’d never have known, you learn about cultures you didn’t know could exist. You also learn to accept them as well because you see the beauty inside those cultures, and you learn how to think differently as well. And it’s so beautiful because you start questioning yourself, like, “How could I have never realised that in the beginning?” Your mind just opens so much. I honestly believe that you can’t come to UWC and leave as the same person.”
Connecting on campus
Kim Duffy, Primary School Teamer on East Campus explains, ‘The buddy program is where our younger students get to connect with our boarder buddies and scholars staying in the boarding house. Phuza is our boarder buddy, and we’ve been really lucky to be able to connect with him. He’s shared his culture, a little bit about his life and his perspective on life in the boarding house. The children love to get together with him, whether it is on a Google Meet or it’s a big wave across the playground when they see him.”
Phuza describes the connection he has built with his class this year as, “really heartwarming; even though we can’t meet in a physical classroom at the moment, doing the dance from afar, and them showing their support for my exams. It was so nice just to see that even though we can’t physically be in the same room. It’s so nice.”
Engaging the community
UWCSEA Foundation Parent Ambassador, Eleanor Great describes the community engagement activities organised for the scholars to connect with the UWCSEA community outside the school day as, “important because they really help to extend the reach of the UWC mission. It’s a lovely way for families to connect with scholars and the impact that they make. And it makes it a bit of a family affair. It has a kind of a ripple effect to a much wider audience.”
Phuza adds, “I can’t even count the amount of new friends that I have made and all have different stories; some are scholars like me, others are boarders, and some are day students. The community here at UWCSEA is incredibly positive and comforting and I can’t think of a better place to have spent this part of my life.”
Graduation and beyond
“I am praying that I do get to go back home and see my family before I go to university. Because it’s been long and the phone doesn’t do justice for everything I’ve experienced and learned. Then after that I’ve been blessed with a scholarship to the US to study business.
I came in wanting to do business, and I still want to do business. It’s just the reason and motive behind it has changed because of what I’ve learned. The thinking back at home is that you can do business to make money, have a good life and all. But since learning about ethics and sustainability, this has changed the reason why you’d want to do something. So I want to do something to help people and to make sure I do it ethically and sustainably.”
Long term impact
Phuza will attend the University of Richmond in the US on a full scholarship, funded in part by the generous long-running Davis UWC Scholars programme.
“After I’ve done everything I need to do in terms of my education in university and UWC, I know I definitely want to go back home [to Malawi] and make a difference there.”
Zikomo kwambiri, ndiku sangalatsa.
“You can’t come to UWC and leave as the same person.”
Thank you on behalf of our scholars for your continued support.