People of RCN

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.

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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.

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June 21, 2019

Eduardo Campbell (RCN ’13-’15)

2019-06-21T12:24:54+00:00June 21st, 2019|

Eduardo Campbell was profiled in a piece written for Oklahoma University’s student-run magazine, Forum, that looks at his journey as an Afro-Latinx individual and his leadership role with activism.
We reprint it here. Follow the link to see the original.

Ask Me About My Blackness, Not My Hair: A Conversation with Eduardo Campbell
April 25, 2019 by Pickles

An epiphany is what Eduardo called it. A sudden realization about the nature of being or the realities associated to oneself. About three years ago, Eduardo had a coming out with his Blackness.

He was raised in Panama with his family and he had the darkest skin color compared to his other relatives. However, he was never labeled as being “Black” until he moved to the United States and people started associating him with the term “Black.”

Then, he had a sudden realization that he was not aware of race categories and has never identified himself as black back in Panama.

“I started to question why did my family never allow me to consider myself Black?”

When Eduardo left Panama to Brazil to study before coming to the U.S. when he was 17, he described the utmost shock from realizing he had curly hair when he first had the freedom to grow it out. He was baffled by living in a Panamanian society that perpetuated whiteness through physical looks such as always maintaining straight hair at a young age to be beautiful.

Curly hair wasn’t accepted in the workplace and looks were given if your hair was unruly rather than stripped back and straight.

Yet, he grasped onto his identity of being an Afro-Latino AND Black.

Eduardo began to participate in social movements, rallies, and marches in Brazil and later all the way to Norman, Oklahoma.

During his spring semester, he was motivated by his passions in social activism to broaden awareness for racial justice.

However, the blackface scandal by two white sorority girls on campus deeply affected OU students of all colors by its outright racist acts against Black people. Eduardo took the initiative to contact the Black Student Association, OU professors, and friends to organize a Rally Against Racism in the Molly Shi Ballroom in January.

Hundreds of people came to the rally to stand in solidarity and sit in a space for students to feel heard about the injustices brought onto OU’s campus. Beyond physically standing alongside one another, Eduardo wanted to promote inclusivity and acceptance of all races through awareness and education.

“Race is so limited in America to the point where there is no concept of intersectionality and understanding that a Latino can also be Black, White, Indigenous, and Asian.”

Eduardo is more than a student, leader, and social activist. He is an ally to all communities. Walking hand in hand with everyone despite their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexuality is powerful. As students, we have the power to change OU to become a safe space for all marginalized voices to be heard.

A special thanks to FORUM Magazine. for considering me to be part of the project.

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Tsering (RCN ’17-’19)

2019-06-10T10:00:02+00:00June 4th, 2019|

Tsering Tashi is in his second and final year at UWC Red Cross Nordic. He came to know about this College four years ago, when he was in 8th grade. A video documentary he watched about students who have attended the College inspired him. So he started studying hard in order to get good grades – a criterion for winning a scholarship.

Tsering says UWC Red Cross Nordic impacts his life and his attitude in various ways, ranging from recognition of his identity to becoming an independent learner. He is a third-generation Tibetan refugee living in India, and he became aware that his status is different from many others. “When we were introduced to the other students, their citizenship and the country where they came from is the same. But my case is different. I am a Tibetan without a country. I came from India but am not Indian. It intrigues me now in different ways than before. I became more conscious about my identity and the situation I am in.”

This realization makes him more open to learn about other cultures and accepting differences. “I believe UWC Red Cross Nordic is an ideal environment to learn how to adjust to a different place and assimilate with different people and a variety of cultures. I have become a responsible Tibetan because when I share my culture with others I must do it properly and I want to learn from others too.”

For Tsering, accepting others’ opinions is the difficult part of assimilation with diversity. He acknowledges that he used to have strong opinions about his religion and culture, and he was using it as the basis for his judgement of the right and wrong doings of others. But this has changed. “I know UWC education has had a huge impact on me. I have become less biased now. I can understand the other person’s perspective even though it doesn’t represent mine. Also, I became more rational rather than emotional and will no longer try to impose my ideas on others or show them that their ideas are wrong. Here I have learnt that there is no such thing as a black and white picture, it is more about accepting people as they are. For example, I meet people who are nice to me personally, but are doing things that might be considered as wrong in my culture. Learning this, I got more comfortable in socializing with people from different backgrounds.”

Tsering has set his goal to be a neuroscientist. This ambition and his personal principle of being a lifelong and active learner gives him the energy every morning to get out of his bed and start the day with enthusiasm. He sees a good combination of his passions, his principles and accessing education at UWC Red Cross Nordic. “The IB curriculum has helped me to be an independent learner. I had never written any paper on any subject before I came here, now I am building my capacity on that. The IB curriculum is intense with lots of work to do and UWC with all of its diversity is also demanding but this is what makes UWC so rigorous. It makes you a person who does not shy away from challenges.”

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