“This place is so full of life, even before we have started the term.” Katarina has arrived here to work together with Guðmundur, who is starting his new position as Rektor at UWC Red Cross Nordic. He expands on her early impressions with enthusiasm, “This is a place where people can embrace the people around them and discover themselves in ways that are unique to this multicultural environment. It clearly is a great source for joy, a place where you can have faith in each other. Our job as educators and fellow human beings here will be to foster kindness and mutual understanding.”
Guðmundur and Katarina would describe themselves as global nomads. They have lived together in many different settings, but wherever they have been, they find that the fundamentals are the same. People are people. “We have great faith in people and their potential. In all our lives we have been able to continue to learn and to foster learning.”
Guðmundur finds great satisfaction in being part of the process of young persons making their discoveries – both in the classroom and beyond. He sees RCN as a place that is genuine about its mission “to use education as a uniting force”, something that goes hand in hand with the humanitarian values of the Red Cross. “It is a pleasure and an honour to be trusted to lead an institution with such a clear non-profit profile and a credible set of values.”
On a strategic level he sees possibilities for strengthening the environmental pillar of the College, “I see our environmental pillar as the common thread that connects together the values we aspire to, both as a UWC and as a partner to the Red Cross. Learning to live in harmony with our environment offers potential solutions to many of the humanitarian challenges we see today, and the Nordic concept of friluftsliv weaves together all of these concepts so elegantly.”
Guðmundur has always had the UWC movement on his radar, having been mentored by a former colleague who had worked at Gordonstoun in Scotland, and who first introduced him to the ideals of Kurt Hahn. He was delighted to find the opportunity to be Rektor at RCN, which has also presented itself as a homecoming of sorts, with the many similarities between western Norway and his own country, Iceland. “Sadly, one has to say, the relevance for the UWC mission has become more pressing everywhere when you look at the needs for the near future. In the political world there are strong forces that aim at building walls and barriers. Our job is to educate young people who can lead – at all levels – in building bridges and connecting people, rather than separating them. Also the environmental threats that follow from global warming, is something we are becoming more and more acutely aware of. We need to educate a generation who have an awareness and knowledge of the crisis we have created – and who can find the complex solutions to building a society that can take us out of it. As educators we have a task to channel the strategic development of the College in the right direction. But on a day to day basis, the most fundamental aspect is to have the support in place for each and every member of this community so that they can thrive, learn and be part of fostering a culture of human growth.”
Guðmundur sees himself as patient and accepting at heart, an attitude that Katarina also embraces.
“We have always had faith in people – we see our role as working together with all staff and students in generating opportunity and optimism.” Both of them have very much enjoyed meeting all of the staff and students. “Seeing the first year students arrive on campus, and the way in which they were welcomed by the second years was very special. Their genuine excitement and sense of adventure has been marvellous to behold. This has also been true for both of our children, Aleksandar and Petra. As parents we have loved seeing them explore the freshly found freedoms they have here – and they have already started to learn Norwegian at the wonderful Flekke school. We look forward to getting to know this community and building links beyond our campus.”
Photos by David Zadig