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/