People of RCN

January 1, 2018

Anne Terwitte (RCN ’01 – ’03)

January 1st, 2018|

When I graduated from RCN some 14 years ago I thought I‘d be coming back to Norway: perhaps to be an au pair (with no clue why I would want to look after kids); I thought maybe I‘d study Scandinavistics (with no clue why I would want that); and I thought one day I‘d come back to live in Flekke (again with no clue what I‘d be doing there).

Well, none of that happened. I soon found myself following my love, a fellow UWC graduate from Atlantic College, to St Petersburg – learning the language of the old people we cared for in their homes and setting the foundations for our still vivid relationship.

The RCN experiences found their way into my life in other ways than might have seemed most apparent to me at the age of 19. When our two girls were three and five years old we started living in an intentional community, and we are committing to striving to live a life that respects other beings and provides a worthwhile world to live in for the generations to come. Now these are great ideals and even in our active quest we can still be sure to be contributing our share to the destruction of this world we want to protect and refine. Despite, or even through, ambivalences like these we have found a home in a place far out in the northern German countryside with a group of 25 people with whom we share our everyday life. Finding a home was perhaps the most pressing desire of our recent years and we think we’ve found it. It was an RCN memory of being out in nature, a little bit isolated from the buzz of the world and yet protected by a caring community that marked the pivotal moment in the finding of this home.

Besides the close relationships at home, it is my profession as a physiotherapist that allows me to play an active role in our wider community. Again the Flekke experience has helped guide me along that path, too. The service at Haugland with the physiotherapists sparked my passion for working with human movement as a means of promoting health. As a therapist I try to enable people to understand and respect their bodies; I try to provide care and promote well-being through manual therapy and massages and push those who want to be pushed to their limits in Jympa-like courses where we laugh a lot.

I am extremely grateful for how life has taken its twists and turns since my time at RCN. Growing up feels better every day. For me it’s about learning to accept the uncertainty of where things are going next.

For profiles and news of other students, alumni and friends of the College, click here.

December 20, 2017

Magnea Gná Jóhannsdóttir (RCN ’15 – ’17)

December 20th, 2017|

I remember the time I ran early in the morning to class but stopped to look over the ice-layered fjord mirroring the mountains and being passed by five others who also stopped, breathed in the frozen air and became completely mesmerized by the view for a moment and then ran off to class. It was beautiful for many reasons. My United World College (UWC) experience goes under an umbrella of idealism, beauty and unity. For that time I sat by the rock looking over the campus from above and thinking how small it seemed and realising the world (was) so much greater than this place and that whichever problems we were facing on campus were extremely small in relation to the world’s issues – yet we were a part of it. For that beautiful time when I had a late night conversation on gender equality in different parts of the world, and for the time I had a debate about the meaning of love with people that shared a completely different opinion from mine.

The consistent challenging of my ideals was something I now find beautiful. It broke down the walls of what once created my four sided “box” and allowed me to see the abstract world beyond it. It left me thinking about the world from more than a (single) perspective. Although it feels like it was yesterday that I arrived at Flekke, six months have passed since I left. Around two months after I left UWC Red Cross Nordic (RCN) I arrived at the airport in Phuket, Thailand. There I waited to be picked up and brought to UWC Thailand where I’m now an ‘intern for UWC development.’ When I stood outside the airport around four months ago I had no clue what to expect when I arrived on campus. I had no clue how this new UWC was structured or what my reality would look like. When I arrived on campus after 30 hours of traveling I found myself in a meeting room full of new teachers attempting to answer questions along with a few students whom I had just met on the topic: “What is UWC?” It felt quite surreal being asked by teachers about the essence of the UWC experience. I had just been a UWC student 2 months ago. It was then that I realised that I had arrived to an UWC that was still in transition and I was one of a relatively small team of staff with UWC experience. After all, it had only opened last year as a UWC.

It has not always been easy trying to promote what I believe turns a school into a UWC school when very few can relate directly to what you say, although the will to understand is there. My role here is to help the school develop its own traditions and culture with the knowledge I have as a UWC alumna. I’m very grateful having the opportunity to be here and being able to give back what RCN taught me to this new member of our UWC family. Change does not happen overnight and it takes time to create a community where all members share the same values and interact in a positive manner. There is still a long way to go, but progress is being made. We just celebrated the first ever European cultural show and more are on the agenda in the near future. It’s just one example of an initiative that brings a community together. It makes people step out of their comfort zone and perform in front of a crowd and, at the same time, share culture through their performances. UWC taught me a lot of things, one of them is that if you want to get something done you must do it. Things do not happen by sitting by. I guess this is also something I’m learning to understand now – that actions must be made for any community not to become static. There is no limit to a community. UWC is an inclusive community as we do not only welcome differences but celebrate them – or this is what the aim must be. But this does not happen overnight and people have many preconceptions and biases they must overcome in order to be able to celebrate difference.

UWC Thailand

UWC Thailand

UWC Thailand is structurally very different from RCN. For example, here there are students from the age of 18 months. An effective way to spread the mission and values down to the youngest members of the UWCT community will take time to develop. I’m realising that there are many things that will never be similiar to RCN. Here there are day and residential students. Although the experience might not be exactly the same as mine as a residential student at RCN I do think the outcome is the same because you have deliberate diversity of students and for Diploma Programme you have National Committee students that come into the last two years from both deliberately diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, which I believe is a key factor making the UWC movement different from any other international school movement.

One of the pillars of UWC Thailand is mindfulness. This is what makes UWC Thailand unique within the UWC movement. The focus on social and emotional learning I believe can be a great benefactor to the mental wellbeing of all members of the community. Last month I completed a 72 hours silent mindfulness retreat with a group of students and teachers. For me this was a life changing experience, making me understand the importance of silence and meditation. This, I believe, is very important in today’s society especially within schools where stress can easily accumulate. Meditation allows us to calm our mind and body simultaneously. Thus it can reduce mental health problems as we observe our thoughts arising and disappearing and eventually finding us focusing on the present moment without our consistent thoughts.

My two years in Flekke flew by – the most transformative years of my life. The years where I grew and expanded my horizons in the shortest amount of time. RCN is in my eyes truly an ideal place created by people from all over the world that come to live together and share the same values. Values that still unite us today and will continue to influence our decisions throughout our lives. Living in Thailand where inequality is very visible has made me realise more the importance of universally accessible education. I find it hard to view inequality and injustice especially when it comes to the most vulnerable members of any society: children. This led me to further my interest in education and educational systems – as I believe education can play a key role towards a more just world. It also draws my attention to the vital importance of having schools like United World Colleges around the world aiming to unite people, nations and cultures for peace through education. It is my hope that the UWC movement will continue to grow successfully, always creating educational opportunities independent of people’s socio- and economic status.

Magnea Gná Jóhannsdóttir
Iceland
UWC RCN ‘15-’17

For profiles and news of other students, alumni and friends of the College, click here.

Libby Mason

December 4th, 2017|

I first visited UWC Red Cross Nordic in the Spring of 2015, when I was doing a short tour of some UWCs in preparation for the UWC Pastoral Care Conference to be held at Pearson College in June 2016. It was, for me anyway, love at first sight; love of the beautiful setting, of the campus design, the connection with the Red Cross, and the sense of a familial relationship with Pearson College, with which there has been so much cross-fertilization for many years in terms of personnel.
There are many similarities between our two colleges; the geography (water and forest), the “liberalness” of both Norwegian and Canadian culture, which allows for an atmosphere of minimal rules and maximum student agency, the surroundings, which invite outdoor adventures on land and water, and the size of the student body, which allows for a real village atmosphere on both campuses.

Other similarities: the atmosphere in the Kantina / Dining Hall; high energy, inaudible conversations and announcements, raucous singing of Happy Birthday, the feeling (at College Meetings at RCN and Village Gatherings at Pearson College) of this precious opportunity to be sharing space with our deliberately diverse communities; being in one room with 200 students and 30+ adults representing what the UWC is fundamentally about always stirs my heart, student-initiated events and performances; the European day at RCN was very similar to a Regional Day at Pearson, non-timetabled days focused on Global Concerns / Affairs. I was particularly struck by the quality of student presentations and workshops at RCN’s ‘Operasjon Dagsverk [Operation Day’s Work]’. It is often on such days that we see the unique brilliance of our UWC students.

It began to be the differences, however, that most interested me, and what both Colleges might learn from these differences, which I will try to summarise:

Libby and Jennifer

The Student Voice: at RCN the primary system for students to articulate their concerns is through an elected Student Council, their regular meetings with the Education Management Team and their membership of various committees, which have calendarized meetings. At Pearson College the primary system is the Village Gathering, at which any community member, adult or student, can have an agenda item discussed by the whole community. The former is more efficient and means that most issues of significance to students do at least get raised. The latter, however, means that lively discussions between all community members encourage us all to develop our skills of active listening, patience and compassion. I would argue that the Village Meeting, at its best, nurtures healthy inclusive dialogue between all students and all adult members of the community.

Student Safety: “Connect” at RCN is a wonderful system (similar to check-in at other UWCs) whereby every student has to connect with the adult on duty in their house every evening. At Pearson College the assumption is that all students and adult community members are keeping an eye out for each other, so no system is necessary.

Project / PBL Week: at RCN these are largely adult-led (with some wonderful projects: cheese-making with milk from a local farm, a “Silent Retreat” in a cabin for artists, musicians and writers, a visit to Bergen National Opera to work with their choirmaster are just a few examples). At Pearson, CAS and Project Weeks are more intentionally linked to the CAS program and are largely student-led and initiated, with adult supervision.

Jimmy, Taren, Hana and Libby

Jimmy, Taren, Hana and Libby

As I prepare to leave UWC RCN (hopefully to return as a visitor one day), I am overwhelmed with gratitude. Gratitude to Larry and the RCN management for having the crazy idea to have me work here for one term. Gratitude of course to Désirée and my colleagues at Pearson College for supporting me in coming here, despite the considerable inconvenience of finding a temporary replacement for me. And gratitude for the opportunity to deepen my sense of the connections between UWCs, to experience again the UWC as a movement in which we each play a part to help move the world towards a better place. I heartily encourage all colleagues and students at both (and other) schools to investigate the possibilities of further inter-College connections; exchanges, Professional Development visits, subject and theme-based conferences. Isolated we sometimes become absorbed in minutiae, stress and negativity; widen the lens and you will, like me, experience a boost of energy and commitment to this extraordinary movement.

Libby Mason, December 1 2017

For profiles and news of other students, alumni and friends of the College, click here.

November 21, 2017

Josh Macfarlane

November 21st, 2017|

Last week, we were pleased and honoured to share the news that Josh Macfarlane has been awarded the highest honour of the British Red Cross: the Dunant Award.

Josh joined us at RCN in August 2016 as our annual Red Cross EVS volunteer. He comes to us with a wealth of experience and training with the British Red Cross, being an active volunteer since 2012, including his work with the Wrexham Welfare project, which won him and his team the award. The Wrexham Welfare team dedicate their time to serving their community every Saturday, from 10pm to 5am, offering first aid assistance, and general welfare support, which involves anything from psychosocial support to giving out flip flops to women finding it hard to walk in their high heels – and therefore reducing the risk of falling and injuring themselves. The Wrexham Welfare project truly demonstrates the core values of the Red Cross – responding to the most pressing needs of the community and offering help where help is needed in an empathetic, humanitarian and non-judgemental manner. We were so pleased to hear that this important voluntary work with the British Red Cross is being recognised, and hope that Josh passes on our sincerest congratulations to the rest of his team back in the UK

Here at RCN, when he has not been busy in his role as Leirskule assistant, Josh has been working hard on helping us to develop our own Red Cross portfolio. He takes an active hand in helping to manage the RC Youth Group, and has been involved in developing our work with Sogn og Fjordane Red Cross’s Stop the Violence project. Josh also helped to develop our partnership with the Sogn og Fjordane Red Cross’ biannual youth camp, which has been extremely popular with the students: a role which is now managed by Josh’s EVS successor Jennifer Griffiths. Josh also assisted with the Red Cross’s Ferie for Alle scheme, which provides holiday opportunities for people in the local area with less financial stability. We are extremely pleased to have recruited Josh now as a member of staff, working full time in the Leirskule department and in the kitchen. Luckily for us, Josh keeps an experienced hand in the Red Cross Youth project, and we look forward to developing more projects with him in the future. Having such an experienced and committed volunteer on board is a great asset, and we hope that his commitment to the core values of the Red Cross will be a source of inspiration to the student body.

Well done on your great news Josh – we are so proud to have you with us.