On 19 October, on the occasion of their state visit to China, their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja of Norway visited UWC Changshu China. UWC Changshu China is the only United World College school/college in the mainland of China and currently has 570 students from over 100 countries and regions. Alongside the other 16 UWC schools and colleges worldwide, UWC Changshu China is committed to UWC’s mission: to make education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.
Queen Sonja of Norway is the patron of UWC Changshu’s sister school in Norway, UWC Red Cross Nordic. She has supported UWC Red Cross Nordic since it was founded and has visited many times. The school received Queen Sonja’s particular attention due to its provision of a world-class education to students, independent of their socio-economic background. Students are selected through UWC’s network of over 155 national committees and funded through one of the world’s most comprehensive secondary education scholarship systems.
The royal couple were warmly welcomed on their arrival by the entire school community including Mark Jiapeng Wang, founder and Chair of the Board; Yi Wang, Vice Chair of the Board; Pelham Lindfield Roberts, Principal; and current students from China, Norway and many other countries.
Queen Sonja and Mark Jiapeng Wang first met each other 20 years ago when, thanks to the generosity of Queen Sonja, Mark was awarded a scholarship to study at UWC Red Cross Nordic. After his graduation, Mark pursued his dream of founding a UWC school in the mainland of China, and this became a reality when UWC Changshu China opened in 2015. Visiting UWC Changshu gave Queen Sonja the opportunity to witness firsthand how Mark Wang’s vision to open a UWC school in his home country materialized, and the impact that her scholarship to Mark has had on the UWC movement.
During the visit to UWC Changshu China, King Harald and Queen Sonja visited the newly founded Yushan Academy. The academy is a new addition to UWC Changshu China, hosting a Center for Chinese Programmes and a Centre for Design and Innovation. They planted a tree at Yushan Academy to commemorate this historic visit before attending a short performance by the students.
In an interview with NRK TV of Norway, Queen Sonja said that she was greatly impressed by Mark Jiapeng Wang when she first met him at UWC Red Cross Nordic, and how proud she is to see what Mark had achieved in his home country.
Mark Jiapeng Wang commented on the occasion:
“It is my immense honour and privilege as the Founder and Chair of UWC Changshu China to welcome their Majesties King Harald and Queen Sonja to our College. It was during their State Visit in 1997, that Queen Sonja announced a Norwegian government-funded scholarship for a Chinese disabled student to attend Red Cross Nordic UWC. At that time, I was desperate to continue my education beyond what I had been able to learn while in hospital after being seriously injured in a plane crash. I was so excited to be selected to study in Norway and since then I have been full of gratitude for Her Majesty.
UWC transformed my life and gave me hope to provide many, many more young people with the same opportunity. When Her Majesty invited me to visit her royal castle in Oslo, I told her that I would like to build a United World College in the mainland of China. Her encouragement that day remained with me and kept me going no matter how difficult the journey became.
The UWC movement has an ambition that extends well beyond the education of individual students: it is about creating a better world. Even with so much conflict and turmoil around us, I am convinced education will be the force for a more peaceful and sustainable world.”