People of RCN

August 30, 2017

Foundation Year Programme Students

August 30th, 2017|

Sonia Soledad Leiva, or Sole, is a 20 year old student from Argentina.

Sole is a welcome addition to our student body and has shown herself to be committed to the scholarship she has taken. She knows that her English abilities will need to be improved for her to attempt the IB diploma after the Foundation Year but she has shown a real commitment and drive to achieve this.

Sole’s favourite subject in Argentina was Biology, in particular the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Since arriving at RCN, she is interested in developing a broad subject range and is waiting to see what she will enjoy most in the future. She has always been interested in working in education and wants to continue to explore this, but now she is attending UWC – and hearing the aspirations of others – she is considering how best to achieve this.

It is already clear that given the opportunity Sole will grasp it with both hands. She is a capable and mature student with a real sense of respect and gratitude for the chance she has been given and is determined to make the best of this scholarship.

Omar Baiba Mohamed Salem is 17 years old and from Western Sahara.

Omar has come to RCN with a sense of pride in his achievements, and rightly so! He is as keen a student as you could meet and is always looking to the next challenge. He has already started to contribute to our community in many positive ways and we look forward to watching him flour-ish during his time with us.

He claims that he has no favourite subject as all subjects are his favourite – given his enthusiasm during the four week RCN Summer Course and then the start of term, we at RCN can easily believe this!

After RCN, Omar would like to work as a programmer, preferably in the green sector, and if not then a programmer then he wants to be involved in working towards a more sustainable green future. With this opportunity he is sure to make the very best of it and is finally one step closer to achieving his goals.

Kik Vy, at 24, is one of the oldest from our Survivors of Conflict programme and is from Cambodia.

As someone who is confined to a wheelchair, Kik has had to overcome many physical barriers in his education up to this point. He has taken the opportunity to attend UWC Red Cross Nordic and is throwing himself into his lessons and into an entirely new social circle by embracing the UWC values.

When it comes to subject choice within the Foundation Year, Kik is really looking forward to his Mathematics as this is his favourite subject. He wants to get deeper into the subject and build his knowledge and challenge himself. Post RCN, Kik would like to be involved in social projects and wants to be in a managerial position so he can enact change in Cambodia. Kik is a charming young man with a steady approach to his studies who is sure to capitalise on this opportunity and is very happy that he has been given the chance to develop himself here at RCN.

Simon Ramsay (Foundation Year Programme Coordinator)

For profiles and news of other students, alumni and staff, click here.

Wille Valve (’97 – ’99)

August 14th, 2017|

This summer, the RCN delegation had the pleasure of visiting the Åland Islands as part of our Nordic Cooperation tour. Åland is geopolitically unique within the Nordic region: the islands are part of the Republic of Finland, but are the only monolingually Swedish-speaking region in the country, have their own government, fly their own blue-gold-and-red flag, and are an entirely demilitarized zone. During our visit, we had the chance to reconnect with former RCN alumnus Wille Valve (’97 – ’99) in the capital of Mariehamn. Wille currently works within the Åland Government as Minister of Social Affairs and Health, and credits his RCN experience for having spurred some of his initial interest in politics.

“Looking back, I don’t know if I would have ever become a politician, had it not been for my days at RCN. Perhaps at times, it is only years later – in hindsight – that we can recognize and appreciate the transformative impact of this place.”

Wille takes a moment to reflect back on some memories and key lessons learned during his days at RCN: “Looking back, perhaps I can distill some top three key lessons that I took away from RCN. First, critical thinking, always assessing the credibility of sources. This is actually more important than ever in this era of fake news and semi-fake news. It’s a sad thing, for instance, that very few students realize how important TOK is, only years after graduation. Another reflection is that even cross-cultural understanding has its borders. You can’t explain the values of President Trump by saying that he’s from another culture. For many Americans, he is an oddity even in American culture. And finally, the realization that it is actually we who shape the world.”

Wille with his family

Wille with his family

Wille’s post-RCN academic and professional career has been varied and dynamic. During our talk, he recounts three of his most memorable work experiences which, alongside his studies in International Law at Åbo Akademi in Turku, Finland, culminated in his current political post. After graduating from RCN, Wille completed a six-month internship at the Nordic Council of Ministers in St. Petersburg (thereafter labelled as a ‘foreign agent’ and thus closed). Wille describes the internship as an excellent place to get to know Russian culture, whilst still maintaining a foot in the Nordic zone. A couple of years later, he worked during six months as the Head of the Åland Mediation Office, reconciling crimes and helping people to find solutions for their various issues and conflicts. Lastly, Wille worked during two years as an assistant for a Member of European Parliament in Belgium. He explains, “Here, I got a sense of being proud of being a politician and a feeling that the job politicians do is really important. I think these three experiences – St. Petersburg, being head of the Mediation office and working at the European Parliament were important experiences. Without them (and RCN), I would probably be a different kind of person and politician.”

Today, Wille works as Minister of Health and Social Affairs as part of Åland’s highest political authority, Landskapsregeringen. During the last elections, Wille switched from being Minister for Administrative Affairs (n.b! The same title as in “Yes Mr. Minister”, he jokes) to his current post, receiving +25% more votes than in the previous elections. He notes that he feels humbled by the trust and confidence that the Ålanders have instilled in him.

“In this job, it’s really important to have one’s priorities 100% clear all the time (for oneself). For example, last year we passed a budget whereby we are shrinking the health sector with 2 million euros per year, which is possible but requires a lot of teamwork, will, patience and clear priorities.”

Alongside his political career, Wille’s hobbies are choir singing and running. He describes singing as something 100% disconnected from what he normally does, and running as a good way to clear his thoughts. Wille lives in the capital of Mariehamn with his wife, Linda, and their two young children, a six-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son. The family has recently invested in a boat, in order to spend some time exploring some of the 6,500 islands around the archipelago.

As an alumnus, Wille expresses great enthusiasm for remaining connected to the RCN family and broader UWC values and movement. Wille has formerly served as an RCN board member and former head of the Åland delegation to the Nordic Council. He emphasizes the core importance of having a Nordic UWC, and aspires to seeing that all the Nordic governments and the self-governed territories feel a genuine ownership in the project. Wille remains actively engaged with the Åland UWC National Committee, and extends a warm welcome to any RCN-ers out there who might happen to come to Åland: “Do not hesitate to contact me! A vehement guided tour of both parliament and government building is guaranteed”, he smiles.

“The UWC mission is more important than ever. One of the strengths of the UWC movement is to, at times, challenge itself and its own values. May that spirit prevail.”

Written by Lisa Jokivirta.

For profiles and news of other students, alumni and staff, click here.

Simon Ramsay (’15 – present)

August 3rd, 2017|

Simon Ramsay, member of staff at UWC RCN since 2015, took up the opportunity to teach at Waterford Kamhlaba, United World College of Southern Africa, for the month of July. Here he reports back:

I feel that a major strength of the UWC movement is the individuality of the schools and colleges, the idea of culturally and socially distinct institutions working under wider UWC values and implementing them in ways which further enrich the individuality of the schools and colleges. Therefore, when I was asked if I would like to work alongside colleagues in Waterford Kamhlaba for a month during the summer break, of course I was thrilled!

As our term finished and we said goodbye to our second years, and the first years prepared to head home on their summer break, I prepared to head to Swaziland and see what happens in a sister school and to try and learn more about our own college by comparison.

It must first be said that Swaziland is a gorgeous country with so much to offer and I encountered so much kindness and generosity during my stay. Resting outside of the capital, Mbabane, the school sits on a hill which gives it a remarkable view over the hills and valleys which make up the most populous area of Swaziland. The school runs 5 lower year groups before the IB Diploma Programme and offers scholarships from across Africa as well as from National Committees across the world. Around 70% of the students are from Africa and this understandably lends a distinct flavour to the college. It also reinforces the point that Africa isn’t a homogenous region and the ‘African’ nature of the school retains a remarkable level of diversity.

When I arrived I was given a tour of the campus from the Headmaster Stephen Lowry. The first thing that you notice is the huge range of sporting facilities. There are several full-size pitches, as well as basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. It was great to see these being used almost constantly, even if the students were lamenting that it was ‘winter’. On that note, when I told students how cold it could be during an RCN winter morning walk to class there was genuine horror on their faces and it reinforced to me our own students’ abilities to pull together in Flekke and support each other in that first winter, especially helping those who come from warmer regions!

As the tour continues we visit classrooms and see the refurbishments that have been taking place. The school is undergoing a period of rejuvenation, the opening of spaces and taking down of walls, as well as landscaping – and this lends to a feel of real collegiate interaction. It is becoming a wonderfully light and open campus and I would love to have seen it in the summer sun when it must be buzzing with students. As we finish the tour there were a few notes to be made. Firstly, the internet is terrible. Never again will I go to Sven and Bill in our IT Department and complain of slow internet. I am sorry…truly. Secondly, there is no internet in the classrooms – everything runs off laptops and obviously there are no smart boards. To be fair, I knew this already but once I was there I started to think … how would some of our RCN students manage without their internet-connected laptops in class!? The answer, obviously, is that we all work with what we have and to the limits and limitations of our environments … I think that perhaps we do not dwell on this enough as a college and perhaps at times we can all take what we have for granted. Perhaps we should consider turning off wi-fi on campus from time to time just to let ourselves know that it isn’t the end of life as we know it.

The largest difference between Waterford and our college at an academic level is almost certainly the inclusion of years 1-5. The younger students on campus makes it feel like a normal high school rather than an IB diploma college, and gives lots of opportunity for inclusion. The students interact a great deal with the younger years through sports and through ComServe (Community Service). The ComServe program is extensive and an absolute credit to the school. It is carrying out fantastic work locally and I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Mpaka refugee camp on a trip as part of a long running association between the two.

At the weekend it was possible to travel around the small country and to enjoy the animals, reserves and hospitality. It feels like wherever you go in Swaziland the reputation of Waterford precedes you.

I would encourage all of us to read more about the formation of Waterford and the work that has been going on for the duration of its existence – as well as for UWC teachers and students to reach out and connect with those in our sister schools and colleges. We talk so much about the diversity within our campuses. It strikes me that now is the time to look at the diversity across UWC – the people are there and are eager to collaborate and we should be looking at connecting with them.

From the staff to the students, the leadership to the maintenance staff, there is a wealth of experience to learn from and it was a pleasure to explore such a remarkable school in such a unique setting. I feel we would all gain a lot from understanding more about our sister schools and colleges, and that is most definitely true of Waterford!

For profiles and news of other students, alumni and staff, click here.

July 20, 2017

Jeanette S. Pedersen (’02 – ’04)

July 20th, 2017|

Although I graduated from the United World College Red Cross Nordic (UWCRCN) over a decade ago, I still think of my two years in Flekke often and refer to them as the best two years of my life. It was during these two years that I not only learned a lot about myself, including my core values and passions, but also about the world. I am grateful to have lived and learned with other young people from across the world and different social, economic and cultural backgrounds at such a tender age. Not surprisingly, my two years in Flekke have had a huge impact on who I am today, and the choices that I have made.

When I graduated from UWCRCN on a sunny spring day in May 2004, I was not exactly sure what career path I wanted to take, so I was thrilled to do a UWCRCN supported Third Year Option Project that allowed me to volunteer at a school and hostel for children in rural India for several months followed by travelling around the world. I felt a keen sense of wanting to contribute to making the world a better place after having lived a life of plenty of opportunities growing up in northern Europe. When I reflect back on my time with the excited and curious kids I was fortunate to meet, I am certain they taught me more than I ever taught them.

After a year of learning, growing and exploring, I moved across the world to study Sociology and Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. Resisting the urge to select a program that had a clearly identifiable career outcome, I decided to learn more about how society and the world we live in shape the health of individuals and communities. In my final year, I found myself as an intern at an Indigenous community health centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. There a dedicated Family Physician and advocate showed me the many possibilities for promoting social change as a Family Physician, as he tirelessly helped and advocated for patients whose lives were complicated by poverty, homelessness, complex medical conditions, addiction, and trauma. I remember clearly the day when I decided: “I want to do what he does!”

My path in medicine has not always been linear or easy, but it has been guided by my core values, which has always provided me with a sense of purpose and being “at home”. It is this “at home” feeling, which I can take with me wherever I go on my journey, which is one of the greatest gifts that the UWCRCN experience has given me.

Jeanette S. Pedersen is half Danish and half Thai. She lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband. She completed her medical school training at the University of Calgary, Canada, and is currently a Family Medicine Resident at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She considers herself fortunate to be training at St. Paul’s Hospital and in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside – the community that inspired her to become a Physician.

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