Social Justice Conference

This past week we didn’t have any codes (classes) and we instead had an Atlantic College Diploma period. This diploma is in addition to the IB diploma that we are going for in our codes. This part of the diploma focused on social justice and we participated in a three-day Social Justice Conference. We were able to talk with people from all over the world about different issues that important to us and learn about other problems that we might not have been aware of before.

The first day we talked with a woman who works at both UWC-USA and UWC Costa Rica. She talked to us about her experiences with UWC’s and how it can have such a large impact on your life in the future. She was a great speaker and very engaging. I enjoyed it very much! Another part of the day was devoted to our second years leading activities for us. We talked about where our names come from and made a Yo soy de… poem. It was so inspirational to hear about the history behind everyone’s names and hear about where they come from in their poems. Some people had very deep stories attached to both and it drew all of us closer together. Lastly, an American reporter came to talk to us about cyber safety. We mentioned the recent news that was leaked by Snowden and talked about the consequences of his actions and the reaction the US had. Hearing the opinions of people from all over the world about the news that he leaked was very interesting and showed the importance of the surveillance.

The second day of the social justice conference was run by a man named Miles. He led us through a series of discussions about 52 different issues that we chose ourselves. We weren’t able to attend all the discussions, but nevertheless there were plenty of choices of topics. Some of the topics were same sex marriage, effects of rumors, cholera in Haiti, effectiveness of EU, and many others. I attended the sessions on cholera in Haiti, gun control in the US, and the way that the American dream has caused Americans to be blind to the fact that their country is struggling. I met many people who had very different opinions than me on these topics and it was so great to hear the opinions of people not from the US talk about issues going on back home. Not many opinions were changed, but everyone had the chance to voice how they feel and it was done in a very civilized and polite way. I was so impressed with the way that my co-years handled the situation when people felt differently than themselves.

Miles also told us a great story about starfish that stuck with me after the conference ended. One night there was a terrible storm and thousands of starfish were thrown from the ocean and left dying on the beach. A person walking on the beach saw a man picking up starfish and carefully putting them back in the water one by one. She walked up to him and asked, “Why are you doing that? There are too many starfish on the beach for you to save all of them, there must be thousands here!” He replied, “But I am still making a difference,” and continued picking up starfish and placing them back in the ocean. This story serves as a metaphor for what we are doing with social justice. There are so many issues in the world and it’s impossible for one person to solve them all. But we can still make a difference in the one area that we are working in.

The last day was devoted to individual presentations by each house. My house, Whitaker, did a presentation on the wealth gap in the US, inspired by the documentary Park Avenue. The documentary talks about a street in New York, Park Avenue, which has the highest concentration of billionaires on one side in 740 Park Ave and five miles away on the other side of a bridge in the South Bronx is the poorest congressional district in the US. This wealth gap is so noticeable because these two groups of people are living just a 10-15 minute car ride away from each other and the difference in their wealth is so large. We also talked about how this issue extends around the world and there are examples in almost every country. There were some amazing musical performances by people in our house and many creative poems written by people. Overall it went pretty well!

Other houses focused on different issues, like child beggars in Bangladesh, women’s education, whistleblowers, self-immolation in Tibet, and a few others. They were all amazing, so creative and so informative on issues that I hadn’t really thought too much about before. One particularly amazing part of the self-immolation presentation was a video made by two friends, Floor and Koso. I HIGLY recommend that you watch it, the video is so informative and beautifully done.

Overall, it was a wonderful break from codes and I really enjoyed all of it! Next week is back to reality and back to a normal schedule, which will also be nice. I will try to post again next week!

Global Faculty

Hello again! Life at AC continues to be crazy and internet continues to be as unreliable as ever. If you have tried to Skype with me from my dorm you know exactly what I am talking about. But regardless I am having the time of my life here! Classes are in the normal cycle now and our daily routine has started up again. I actually look forward to going to class which is something that not very many people can say about school. This is 100% because the curriculum here is so fascinating and I am in class with students from all over the world. All the different perspectives that we can get just add to the knowledge we gain.

One of the other parts of our curriculum here is a faculty that we are part of. There is the environmental, social justice, global, and outdoor faculties. I am part of the global faculty where we focus on increasing international understanding and cooperation. Within your faculty you have to do two activities. For first years, we have to participate in a training exercise on Mondays and then we chose the next activity. I chose to be a part of teaching geography to secondary school students in a school in Llantwit Major. Five AC students go over to the school Wednesday afternoons and take over for the teacher in the afternoon for an hour or so.

Last week was our first session where we went to the secondary school. We arrived and were greeted by 20 new faces of kids around the age of 13. We played some icebreakers and tried to get their energy up before starting to learn. Then the kids tried to guess where we were from just based on looks and accents. We had people from the Netherlands, China, Fiji, Wales, and the US. Surprisingly, they got them all right!

Now that the kids knew where we were from, we wanted to give them the opportunity to ask us about our homes. Each of us spent 5 minutes in ‘the hot seat’ where the kids asked us all the questions they wanted to about our countries. The very first question I got was about why the national animal of the US was a bald eagle. Now I didn’t know the answer to this so I guessed that it had something to do with the freedom that birds symbolize. After looking it up, I now know that it was because the founding fathers liked the Roman Republic and liked the bird imagery there so they chose the bald eagle. So I learned something new about the US! The other questions I was asked ranged from ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ to ‘What natural disasters have you lived through?’

Coming to AC has made me a much more patriotic person. I find myself defending the US in many situations and am very proud to be American. This isn’t to say that I agree with everything about the US, as many of you know. There are plenty of problems going on right now back home. But I also realize the advantages of living in the US and how lucky we are to live there. There are so many different cultures represented here and even in the short time I have been here, I feel like I know so much more about the world and different countries. I am sure that this cultural exchange will continue for a long time!

Induction Period

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted! Life has been pretty crazy around here. I finally was able to go into Cardiff and get a dongle for my computer so now I have Internet in my dorm room. Hopefully this will make it a lot easier to keep in touch with people and to keep the blog updated.

First of all, we just finished up with induction period, which is basically a time where we get acquainted with the school, the people, and our surroundings. It lasted for about ten days and three of those days were spent in west Wales during camp. I went to second camp so I had the induction at the college first.

Each department had orientations for us and we learned about the subjects that were offered and the teachers that taught them. I am taking Higher Level English Literature and Language, Higher Level Economics, Higher Level Global Politics, Standard Level French B, Standard Level Sports Science, and Standard Level Mathematics. You have to take three higher classes and three standard classes. I will be taking these courses (called codes at AC) for the next two years with the same kids. So far I enjoy all of them!

After the orientation at school, we went to west Wales to go to camp. Only three of the houses went this camp session because the other four houses went the first session and left as soon as we got there. There were six sessions of activities for the three days that we were there. First, I learned how to surf! It was sooo much fun!! I was able to stand up on the board three times in our couple hour session. After that we helped rebuild a road called the ‘Road to Pennsylvania’ in a farm close to our camp.

The next day we went kayaking in a small pond in the morning. Most of our time was spend trying to flip each other’s kayaks over of course. In the afternoon we went on a hike along the welsh coast. The sun was shining and the weather was beautiful. We got to stay on the beach for a little bit and hang out too which was very nice.

The third day we started by going coasteering, which is basically where you climb on rocks in the water and swim through caves and near cliffs in the sea. It was so cool! We also got to jump off cliffs into the water and swam in a lagoon for a while. Last we had initiative games, which was team building and bonding activities.

At camp we also had a night where we sung our national anthems around a campfire. It was amazing to hear the anthems of so many other countries and hear everyone tell a couple quick things about their country. Another night we had a talent show where there were some really talented people that performed and lots of funny performances put on as well. Overall camp was really neat!

Now I have had one full day of classes and so far I love it. This place is amazing! I will be much better about updating now that I have more consistent internet. Miss everyone dearly!