People of RCN

October 1, 2019

Leonie Koning (RCN ’00 – present)

2019-10-01T09:54:18+00:00October 1st, 2019|

Leonie Koning has been the UWC Red Cross Nordic Admissions Coordinator for twenty years. In essence this means that she has played a central role in enabling 2,000 students to come to our College, from the total of 2,500 we’ve welcomed since the College opened.

She receives the annual nominations from National Committees from all over the world and, once nominated, students are approved by the Admissions Team at the College. It falls to Leonie to be the bearer of good news, writing letters – or these days, emails – to the accepted candidates confirming that they have been given a place. Receiving their excited emails in return, it’s not hard to understand why Leonie says, “I think I might have the best job at the College!” It sometimes happens, when Leonie bumps into RCN alumni, that they tell her that receiving the confirmation notification is still clear in their memories, a life-changing moment. After sending out the news of their acceptance, Leonie will follow-up by sending out information, helping students and their parents with practical questions, guiding those who need help through the visa application bureaucracy and, with the rest of the Admissions Team, physically getting them to the College.

She still loves her job, describing how fascinating and humbling it is to hear from young people on the verge of a major change in their lives. Some come from not so far away, and some come not really knowing where Norway is on the map. Some come from big cities and others from refugee camps, conflict zones and remote villages.

A few years ago Leonie’s house in Flekke burned down. As it was a wooden house, the fire raged through it quickly. Within a couple of hours everything she and her family owned was reduced to ashes. For anyone this would have been a traumatic experience, but Leonie says she was helped by remembering the difficult lives of students whose lives were transformed by that letter of acceptance. Reflecting on this strengthened the realization that most things are more important than possessions.

Wishing you many more years as Admissions Coordinator, Leonie.
Thank you from all colleagues and students – present and past.

Archives by category

September 23, 2019

Tecber Ahmed Saleh (RCN ’05-’07)

2019-09-23T06:29:02+00:00September 23rd, 2019|

The Sydney Morning Herald recently interviewed RCN alumna and Western Sahara activist Tecber Ahmed Salah.

The article begins,

When you’re from Western Sahara, small talk can be tough. There is no warming up with the weather, or polite chit-chat about your flight.

It’s straight to the heavy stuff, says Tecber Ahmed Saleh.

She is a national of a country most people don’t know exists, and which was partially annexed by its northern neighbour, Morocco, in 1975.

When Saleh meets new people, she frequently finds herself launching straight into explanations about her very identity. “We just assume everybody knows about us. We are supported by international law,” she tells me. “But whenever I am outside, when I present myself as Western Saharawi, I get, ‘What is that country? Where is it?’ Then you end up, instead of talking about yourself, you are talking about the history, the background, the geography … you are suddenly in a conflict area.”

Follow this link to read the full article.

Archives by category

August 5, 2019

John Lihasi (RCN ’14-’16)

2019-08-05T08:45:08+00:00August 5th, 2019|

Reflections on a Return to Norway.

There couldn’t be a better inspiration than sitting at the UWC Norway office while writing this. Three years after graduating from UWC RCN, Norway feels like a second home to me. I have been here during the last three summers, for Norwegian language courses and internships at a renewable energy firm and for volunteering at Startuplab. These activities would probably surprise my former colleagues as they would have been aware of my zeal to join the mainstream aerospace engineering industry.  The story behind this transformation is, to me the embodiment of my UWC experience.

I grew up in Otiende village in Soy, a smallholder farmers’ locality in Kakamega county, Kenya. Like any other kid, I enjoyed the adventurous exploits of growing up in the countryside. I had thoughts of leaving the country to study and pursue other dreams, but the practical circumstances were less likely to allow this. Having been lucky to receive information about an opportunity, I was able to slowly make the dream a reality: I attended a national high school in Kenya through which my classmate and I were able to lead a drive for a rural electrification project in a neighbouring locality. I also completed an exchange programme in the United States where I learned about UWC and chose to apply.

The stay at UWC RCN was fulfilling. I learned more about myself and the world in those two years. I learned to appreciate other peoples’ stories and, from them, shape my future career and change my prospects. I have always wanted to use my educational experience to help unite people for peace and a sustainable future. Currently I am at the University of Oklahoma and have completed my third year of an Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering degree.

The greatest highlight of my ‘life after RCN’ is  submitting to change. I had different educational and career dreams after graduation. However, the unspoken issue is whether I will be able to reconcile those dreams with my redefined values. Allowing myself to adjust for example, and settling in a new place and tailoring my career path to effectively suit my passion and desire for change was the best decision that I have made.  I am now planning to further my education and start a career in sustainable engineering with a focus on renewable energy development. Here I will be best suited to make an impact and influence change leading to the attainment of sustainable development goals.

I would like to think of my life and achievements as testimony to how access to information can empower an individual. The UWC experience has played a central part in opening up this information to me and it has provided an environment in which to grow the ideas for change. I am so grateful for the family, friendship, love, kindness, mentorship and drive that I have received through joining the movement. I believe the world will eventually be a better place when we continue to use the acquired drive to learn, cooperate, advance change and inspire others.

Archives by category

July 16, 2019

Sara Al-Husaynat (RCN ’16-’19)

2019-07-16T07:11:18+00:00July 16th, 2019|

Finding a different version of yourself

Having earned the chance to attend a Norwegian boarding school offering a two-year International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, Sara’s family had questions if she would be able to manage it without their support due to having a disorder called OI. ‘Especially my father has always provided me with lots of love and care.” says Sara. He was concerned about letting me go alone and so far away from him and the family.’

‘Education is my passion’
Sara has always had a strong desire to go to school like other children and had insisted her family let her go. She was granted her wish but was not attending class every day. Due to practical constraints Sara was taken to school only on exam days and did her studies from home for the rest of the time. ‘The good thing was, there were lots of exam days in my elementary and high school – 2 or 3 days per week. So, it felt like I was attending school regularly. It makes me happy to be a student. I can definitely say that education was my passion.’ Asked if this means that education is not her passion anymore, Sara replies ‘I have an additional passion now: art – I started art making! It is something that I discovered recently. I didn’t know I had this passion before, because I had never had the opportunity to explore this field.’
Sara is rightly proud of the choices she has made, not allowing her physical disability to stop her from accessing education. ‘I know my persistence to get what I want helped me a lot. Back home in Iraq, most disabled people are restricted to family life. Due to a lack of facilities and accessibility, they have to make extra efforts to get somewhere, and that is not always easy unless the family is willing to help’

Finishing her high school by just going on exam days may have been seen as an achievement by her father and the rest of the family, but not for Sara. She could not settle with the idea of halting her education at that stage, especially knowing that she had a chance of going further through the scholarship offered by UWC Red Cross Nordic. So again, she chose to negotiate with her father, and this time succeeded in getting her family’s support for going to UWC Red Cross Nordic.. Looking back, she considers taking this opportunity a life changer.

‘I am stronger than I thought’
‘I am a totally different person now’ says Sara, reflecting on the impact of her time at the college. ‘I have grown up more in the last three years here than in all of my life before. I am much more mature now in terms of understanding myself and others and in being open-minded to new ideas. I am more curious about life itself. I do not think this would be possible if I hadn’t come here to be exposed to the challenges of living with new people.’

The scholarship at UWCRCN came with an additional offer of support for Sara through the co-operation with the Red Cross Haugland Rehabilitation Centre. Like the other students who are in the Foundation Year Program, Sara has stayed at UWCRCN for three years. The first year, there was much focus on independence training, and since she has been able to move around on her own with a wheelchair. Sara describes her ability to do things for herself without asking and waiting for others to help, as a new chapter in her life. Managing the challenge(s) starts(ed) with laundry. ‘For some reason, doing my laundry was the most difficult task of all the housework I have had to help myself with. Simple chores like making my bed and cooking were all new experiences I never had to do before. Now I can do everything by myself. And the process of acquiring this independence typically starts with making someone introduce you to how to do it. Angie (Toppan) was especially important in helping me gain this.’ The ability to run her life independently, has given Sara a new understanding about herself. She has found herself to be much stronger than she previously thought. ‘It is ironic that I was assuming I was a weak person because of my disability. leaving behind things I want to do thinking them not possible.That attitude has changed now’.

Sara’s new passion for making art is something she relates to the experience of gaining independence. By doing things for herself by herself and by planning for it, she is developing an attitude of challenging barriers with the purpose of expanding her horizons. Planning my next day sometimes keeps me awake at night’, Sara says. And after graduation there are some more big decisions and plans to be made.

Archives by category