and another two years later.

Well, almost. I plugged the dates into a fancy computer thing and it says it’s been 1 year, 8 months, and 28 days. So that’s close enough.

Anyways, I have been doing a lot of reflecting on my time at AC recently. I don’t really know what prompted it, but I’ve been writing this post in my head for months. It might be the newest wave of little UWC babies still finding my blog and reaching out to hear more about life at AC or it might be just where I’m at in college now. Either way, I think it’s time for an update.

For my friends from AC that might stumble upon this, thank you for everything you taught me. Looking back at our time together, I have many memories that make me smile. I became independent, learned how to take care of myself, and learned what I was prioritizing in life.

But if you met me now, I don’t think you would recognize me.

Not physically, two years doesn’t change a person that much 🙂 But if we were to meet again, you would find that the way I view the world and the way I interact with others has shifted. At the core, I am still the same person. But I put up a lot of walls in Wales that I have had to spend a lot of time tearing down.

Because I didn’t let people into my constant daily struggle with pain, they were denied the opportunity to meet me in my vulnerability. Because I hid behind the desire to be liked and appreciated, I was not a good messenger of the Gospel. And because I let my emotions control my actions, I hurt people.

If I could go back, I would do so many things differently. I would have been open about the physical pain I suffered from. I would have treated more people with the kindness that they deserve. I would have been slower to anger and assumed best intent. I don’t have a chance to do things over, but I can use what I’ve learned to move forward.

I wish it could all be excused by saying “we were young, we didn’t know any better!” I think it’s deeper than that. Yes we were young but I think we may have known better.

There are some things that you just know you shouldn’t say. There are times that keeping negative thoughts to yourself are better than using them to hurt a friend. I think I sought out a lot arguments at AC because it was a way to process my anger and hurt from being in pain every second of every day. I still kick myself over some of the things I said to friends at AC and some of the things that were said to me still burn. And sometimes it gets me pretty down.

But you know what makes this all okay? Jesus. If you know me at all, this answer shouldn’t surprise you 🙂 When I think about all the times I sinned and did not act like Jesus at AC, the number becomes really overwhelming. But Jesus took on all of our sins and died for us, whether you know him or not. His grace overcomes my weakness.

I don’t think I have stopped sinning by any means. I still say and do things that are not what Jesus would have me do. But now I understand it and recognize it. I can see it more clearly and have people in my life that can call me out when they see me going down a dangerous road. I’m so thankful for my time at AC for showing me that this needed to change and bringing about a whole new person in college.

For potential/current students at any UWC, I hope you can have a transformative experience too. It’s gonna be hard, but it will shape you in ways you can’t imagine. Take advantage of everything that UWC offers and never turn down an opportunity to be kind to someone. Your future self will thank you. For my co-years/other alumni, I hope that AC and UWC were just the beginning to your incredible life story. And for my friends from UVA and beyond, thank you for loving me well so that I can reflect on two really hard years of my life with a sense of peace.

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*side note – many of you will know by now, but I know there are still many people who find my blog that don’t know me personally so I just want to clarify. I have a chronic pain disorder called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) that started before I went to AC and flared up really bad during my second year there. The pain of CRPS is higher than childbirth and amputation without anesthesia. For my last six months at AC, that was around the pain level I experienced every day without a break. And this (obviously) shaped a lot of my experience there. Though I was not open about this struggle while I was in school, I am much more open now and am here to answer any questions about what life at AC is was as a disabled student or just general questions about chronic pain/CRPS.

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2 years later

I had originally written a post talking about my experience at Atlantic College, the good and the bad times, and how it has changed me as a person. But after saying goodbye to our all of my friends these past few days, I decided that I’d rather write about the amazing people that I have met during my 2 years here.

I have discovered countries that I didn’t even know existed before I came to AC. The people here all have unique stories that you can’t even imagine and we all have our own backgrounds that have shaped who we are. When tossing together 350 teenagers with these fantastic stories together, you get a melting pot that creates our school. I think I learned more from discussions with students than in the classroom because nothing can compare with direct experiences with the issues that we talk about in school.

To all the people I have met here, thank you for making my AC experience as wonderful as it was. Thank you for the memories of quote box moments, meetings after meetings trying to improve the school, our special walks, our bondings, our prayers, Christian Fellowship, and our deep discussions. I am going to miss you all more than words can describe and know that even if we are far apart, you will be part of my life forever.

Most people leaving high school are so excited to leave and move on with their lives that often the friendships start to fizzle out. At AC, we are so lucky to be in a place where it is almost impossible to say goodbye and know that your friends are going to be countries away from you next year. We are sad to leave this phase of our lives, but also know we have wonderful new opportunities before us. I’m excited to be going to the University of Virginia this fall with two other students from my school and have a different type of experience!

Though there have been moments where I have wanted to quit or felt it was too hard, I really am going to miss AC. I am never going to have an experience like this again and feel so blessed to have this opportunity.

As I said in my yearbook slip, “How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh

The Power of Prayer

“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.”

– Max Lucado

As tough as life at AC can be sometimes, there are moments that help me remember the reason I came here and these are the memories I will take with me when my time comes to an end.

A few weeks ago, a friend in my house and I decided to start praying together every night because it was a tradition we were missing from home and we wanted to continue to get closer to God. It started small, just reading the bible and praying in the boy’s drying room and slowly it has taken off. People would be in the room when we were leaving and were curious what it was like to pray. They would sit and listen and experience praying often for the first time in their lives. As more and more people heard what we were doing, they continued to come join and have even started to participate, whether it be reading a bible passage or praying out loud. Now, it snowballed to about 15 people every night coming to our dorm, squeezing together on beds and the ground, all gathered to hear God’s word and share in a time of fellowship.

I think Madeleine L’Engle sums it up really well by saying, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are, and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” These nightly prayers are many people’s first interactions with Christianity and by keeping the environment open and friendly, we try to help challenge to stereotype of Christianity as a close-minded religion and one that condemns people to hell if they don’t believe what we believe.

Our nightly prayers have continued to evolve, with people slowly having the courage to pray out loud for the first time. Hearing people who have never prayed before, who don’t necessarily believe in God, is such a moving experience. And people pray in their own language and style, which continues to enrich the experience for all of us. When my time at AC comes to an end, this will definitely be one of the memories that I remember the most.

International Peace Conference – UWC Maastricht

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the first annual International Peace Conference hosted by UWC Maastricht in the Netherlands along with 5 of my classmates from Atlantic College. It was so amazing to be able to see another UWC and talk to co-years and 1st years at another school to see how our experiences were both different and alike. We spent three days hearing amazing speakers from all around the world, such as Aernout Van Lyden (war correspondent), Hans Von Sponeck (former Assistant-Secretary General of the UN), Yvonne Helle (country director of the UNDP), and Lousewies Van Der Laan (UWC-USA alumni and former Dutch parliament member). These speakers all brought their own perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds to the conference and painted us a very holistic picture of what a peaceful future could look like and how we can obtain it. I really appreciated how realistic and humble all the speakers were. Sometimes people tend to paint a very idealistic picture of the future and though it might get people excited and hopeful, it is not something that can actually be achieved. These speakers all had different ideas of the future, but ones with concrete steps in the right direction.

In addition to the speakers, we also had workshops hosted by the UWC Maastricht students. I went to ones on human trafficking, anti-semitism in Europe, and the situation in Iraq. There were also participants from UWC Robert Bosch (Germany), UWC Red Cross Nordic (Norway), and UWC Adriatic (Italy) who attended the workshops with us. I loved seeing the UWC spirit that goes between all of our schools and how, though we might have different individual stories, we still have a lot in common and many shared experiences. I was able to reconnect with a good friend that I met at my interview and got to meet fellow Americans I didn’t know attended UWC, even one who came from my state!

We stayed in host families for our time there and I was hosted by a lovely Dutch/Polish family who had two young boys. The two boys woke us up the first morning we were there by coming up to our room and yelling “SNOW SNOW SNOW” while running in circles with delight. We were so lucky to be in Maastricht when there was nearly 6 inches of snow that fell. I hadn’t seen snow in a very long time and there were so many students who had never seen snow before. It was amazing to see their faces as a huge school-wide snowball fight broke out.

Though the travel was quite long, it was one of my favorite memories of my UWC experience and one I will not forget anytime soon! Thank you to everyone who helped make this conference possible, from the organizers to the staff to the students who helped make us feel comfortable! It took a lot of effort to make the conference run as smoothly as it did and your efforts are very appreciated!

For more information on the conference, speakers, organizers, and workshop leaders, go to their website at http://www.internationalpeaceconference.com/

Third Term

Well it’s been quite a while since I posted, all the way since the beginning of term! So much has happened it is impossible to put it into one blog post. There have been conferences (Middle East and Challenge Camp), college applications, IA’s, EE, new students arriving, new friends made, and so much more. It has also been one of the busiest and most stressful times of my life, which is why this blog has taken a backseat compared to last year.

The main reason I wanted to post was because this week was Thanksgiving. Being away from your family is tough, and this year was much tougher than last for many reasons. I was lucky enough to have Thanksgiving twice, once on Thursday with the other Americans at AC and once on Saturday with some of my other friends. I really wanted to share this event with more people in the school because I think it is a lovely holiday focused on being thankful for everything we have. It’s also one event that is very distinctly American and since we get made fun of for “not having a culture” this could help prove people wrong 🙂

I cannot even begin to describe how amazing the dinner on Saturday was. It was a true UWC meal with noodles, an omelet, sweet potatoes, chocolate salami, turkey, broccoli, and so much more, made by 10 people with 10 different nationalities. We spent time talking about what we are thankful for and just enjoyed each others presence. It reminded me of why this school is the right place for me with some of the greatest people I will ever know. And to everyone that helped make Thanksgiving great, from just saying happy Thanksgiving in the halls to helping me cook, I am eternally grateful and will cherish these memories forever.

Third term at AC is quite a challenge. It has been a test of time management and there have been some really tough times for everyone here. While there are always going to be things that stress me out or cause me worry, this week has been one of reflection on my time here. I am so blessed to have this opportunity and I am thankful of the people who have stood by me, both here and back in the US. I know I am in the right place for me and can’t wait to see what 4th term has in store!

Second Year Begins

After a fantastic summer, I am back at Atlantic College for a second year! Time has flown by and it is so hard to believe that my time at AC is already halfway over. At AC, second years arrive the first week in August for something called August Period, where we bond with co-years, participate in faculty projects and trips, and work on all the homework we still have from this summer. The biggest of these homework assignments is the extended essay, which is 4000 words on the topic of your choice. I am looking at the way the 1980 Olympics have impacted the political relationship between the US and Russia. Work also includes college applications, US history, and internal assessments.

We have had some more fun than just working though! I have been doing a new service with the Social Justice Faculty with the Prince’s Trust organization. We are going to be doing a competitive analysis for them, looking at how they can improve their programs and how to reach more people. We have also been getting to know people in our year better; there have been lots of opportunities to bond with people that I didn’t know very well last year. 

As we prepare for our first years to come tomorrow, we have been struggling with how to accurately represent Atlantic College and how to give them a proper introduction to our community. It’s impossible to sum up the UWC experience in just a few words. Here, I have had some of the best memories of my life and some of the worst. While the great times outweigh the bad times, they all come together to make up the whole experience. So first years: come with an open mind. Be ready for challenges, hardships, and some of the best people you have ever met. Having no expectations and figuring out what AC is really about on your own is (in my opinion) the best way to go. We are very excited to meet you all!

Year One – Complete!

What a year it’s been! I cannot believe that I am halfway done with my time at AC, it feels like I just arrived yesterday, being greeted with pots and pans. It’s impossible to sum up Atlantic College in just a few words, but the old saying that the highs at AC are extremely high and the lows are extremely low rings very true. Though of course there were some bad times, what I will take away most from my first year there are the good times. The times spent with friends talking about anything and everything. The times spent trying to study and getting distracted by the tiniest things. The rare sunny times walking on the seafront, swimming in the ocean, or just sitting and enjoying our incredible view. I will forever treasure those memories and cannot wait to have the opportunity to make new memories next year.

I have quite a busy summer ahead of me! Currently, I am in London doing an internship at Virgin Unite, the non-profit foundation of the Virgin Group. I will return to Chapel Hill for just a few days at the end of June before heading off to the Bahamas to get some sun and relax with friends! Then back home for a few days before leaving to visit family in Chicago, a trip that is long overdue. Finally I will have about a week at home before I leave for Atlantic College again the first week of August. Oh and in the midst of all this I have to write my extended essay, countless internal assessments, online US history, and college applications. No rest for the weary! But I am very excited for all of it and am so lucky to have all these great opportunities.