Much like in Hong Kong, international schools in Singapore are melting pots of different cultures, where students from all four corners of the globe receive an education. UWC South East Asia (UWCSEA) has two campuses in Singapore, offering boarding for ages 13 to 18 years, and is home to over 300 students from nearly 60 different countries. We spoke to 19-year-old Kenyan scholar Nawal Abdulrahman Ali about how she came to be studying at UWCSEA and what she loves about it.
I started at UWCSEA in August 2015. On completing my secondary education at an all-girl public boarding school in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, I was unsure about what career path I would follow. So, I figured that UWCSEA, with its vast choice of subjects, expertise and facilities, would help me work out what to pursue.
Additionally, the prospect of studying with people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures was very appealing. My previous school was a small bubble; everyone had almost the same perspective. I wanted a challenge, and knew this would be possible with the exposure to world issues that UWCSEA continually tackles.
Settling in to the boarding lifestyle was bittersweet. It was my first experience of living in a different country, without my family, and the culture shock was evident. However, the boarding house staff and community were warm and welcoming. They helped me settle down and were always there in case I had any problems.
The boarders are from diverse backgrounds and cultures, so the discussions over dinner are interesting! We argue, discuss, defend the stances of our countries, and even correct misguided assumptions. For example, at one of the regular International Evenings, we simulated a Kenyan wedding for the boarding house community, and other boarders presented songs, dances and interesting facts. This was an effective way to come together and tap into the rich culture embodied by the school. A favourite memory is when my Honduran friend excitedly surprised me with the lyrics of a Kenyan-Swahili song.
UWCSEA’s wide variety of activities has helped me to become more confident, vocal and passionate about world issues. I’ve participated in The Hague Model United Nations in Netherlands, acted as a Chinese imperial administrator in a school play, helped raise funds to aid reforestation efforts, and learnt self-defence skills in martial arts. I will be eternally grateful for these experiences.
When I complete my studies, I intend to major in international relations with a minor in environmental policy and I hope to return to Kenya and make a difference within my field of expertise. Being a UWCSEA scholar is a life-long commitment to taking decisive steps to be a change in society. I hope that in learning from others I’ll take home the values needed to make the future safer, sustainable and more peaceful.
UWCSEA is two of 17 UWC schools and colleges worldwide. Boarders live in the boarding houses at the Dover and East campuses in Singapore. The school offers a genuine pre-university residential experience in a safe and cosmopolitan city with familiar Asian values. Students get a world-class education in an environment that encourages them to develop self-management skills and independence.
To find out more, visit uwcsea.edu.sg/admissions.
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This article first appeared in the February/March 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.