I joined MUWCI on August 12th, 2018.
In the lush green jungle, with dark clouds hanging over because of the continuous rain, (one of the perks of having a campus atop a hill) there I was. A confused, homesick, scared, and damp first year. It was my first time away from home. Shivering, and somehow still energetic, I started to unpack my huge suitcase and settle into my new muddy home- the hill.
First-term goes by in a blink, amidst the confused excitement and endless questions, I cannot even register how much I changed and evolved in every way possible. I met people from countries I didn’t know existed. Every conversation I had on the cafeteria table, about cultures, festivals, languages, and communities filled my metaphorical cup of intellectual stimulation to the brim. I had so many stimuli around me, my senses desperately tried to absorb every new piece of information I was exposed to. The initial UWC experience hits you so fast, and it takes a solid few months to accept that you are living on top of an isolated hill, in rural Maharashtra, with people from 150 different countries. After having lived on the hill for 2 years, this stopped surprising when I went about my daily routines as a second year, but now at the end of my journey, I feel so proud that we thrived as a community despite our differences.
First Term is the first piece of the puzzle that is your MUWCI experience, but because there is so much happening around you, you focus on the most perceptible sensory stimuli: you focus on what you see. In first term, I saw people from across the globe and I naturally thought, ‘They must be so different from me’. But by the second term, I realized that someone from halfway across the world could perceive the world similar to how I do, and perhaps someone who lives a few hours away from my hometown could have a completely different perspective. I began to see the diversity on a deeper level, diversity in terms of more than just colors and nations. I opened myself to noticing how people from my own subcontinent had so many different- equally valid- opinions and that’s when I realized that the cliched UWC selling point of different colors and cultures is inaccurate; the true diversity that UWCs exhibit is in terms of opinions and thought processes. Every single person on campus is a politically active citizen with their own perspectives and being from the same region, or even the same city does not mean they will think in similar ways, which is what makes thinking about issues at a UWC so beautiful and enriching. This celebration of difference while at the same time having compassion is what binds the community together.
Apart from ideological observations, if I really want to articulate the profound impact MUWCI had on me, I also need to think about what it technically also is: a high school, with teenagers and the IB curriculum.
I found support in so many people during my time at MUWCI. Boarding schools, in general, do amplify the closeness between peers, but at MUWCI – a community of just 240 students – there is no way you can leave campus without having had a conversation -at least once- with everyone. I’ve made some friendships at MUWCI I’ll never forget, and in the absence of family and friends back home, I was forced to trust and rely on people so deeply, in a way that I never have had before. I’m so glad I did. I’ve learned so many things about myself and the world through my interactions here, and every single person I’ve met has contributed to who I am today.
My second years graduated in May 2019. Campus without them was disorienting. During my second year. every time something went wrong I felt like running to a second-year friend’s room and crying my heart out, waiting for them to say everything was going to be okay, which would soon prove to be true. The same process was reversed when my own first years arrived on campus in August 2019, and being there for them was bittersweet because it meant my journey was going to end.
The IB isn’t easy, and its part of why MUWCI time moves at a speed 2.5x faster than real-world time. In these two years, I’ve barely had time to breathe and look at the stunning view around us because I was too busy drowning in EEs, IAs, TOK, presentations, tests, trivenis (CAS), etc. But amidst the chaos, there’s a silver lining; there’s beauty in the fact that we chose this. We prayed to be challenged so intensely in every form of life- academically, emotionally, mentally and physically. Everyone I know has stretched their capacities at MUWCI and has turned into a well-balanced person who I would be proud to call my friend. Being at MUWCI means constantly overcoming your biases, reassessing your opinions of the world and the people around you, and questioning yourself to seek your inner values. Being at MUWCI for me, meant looking in the face of adversity and instead of running away, facing the pain and to keep striving to become better.
If I were to describe my MUWCI experience in a few words, it would be transformative, yet so challenging. I am not the same confused first year that I was on the first day I came to this campus. I’ve become so much more resilient, mindful, and more myself. This brings me to one of my last points, MUWCI has brought me closer to myself.
It is easy to remain neutral in comfort, but when placed in a challenging environment under pressure is when you can truly see who you are – what are your limits, your setbacks, your values, your biases, and your abilities. MUWCI made me realize I was much stronger than I thought I was because it made me so. I fell so many times at MUWCI, but each time I got back up stronger and faster. These two years have fundamentally changed me. I’ve nurtured a voice inside myself which seeks reason and empathy even in the most trying times.
I’m writing this after having graduated MUWCI in March, 2020, two months earlier than I should have. Obviously, I am still learning. I have 4 years of college life ahead of me to learn so much more in life and improve myself further. But, MUWCI has been the kick-start to my life as a global citizen, and I am so grateful for my experience here.