A New Usual

Classes started today after a week of introductions. Perhaps it sounds weird to say but I was actually really looking forward to classes beginning. It’s a chance to meet new people and to begin “real life” here. I mean swimming in the Adriatic twice a day and eating gelato is good, but I guess it was a nice reminder that I came here for a reason.
IB classes, part of the curriculum taught at the school, are divided into two levels: higher level and standard level. Students generally take three higher-level classes and three standard-level classes. I will be taking Economics, English language and literature, and Italian at higher level and Mathematics, Environmental Systems and Society, and World Arts and Cultures at standard level. I love that most everyone takes the same amount of higher level and standard level classes. Everyone has already worked hard to get here, and I think this system helps to eliminate students overworking themselves and any unnecessary competition.
My first class of Italian this morning moved at rocket speed and I loved it all. We covered so much in one hour. Our teacher, Cristina, is a native Italian and she forces everyone in the class to guess, and try, and really put themselves out there. My second and final class of the day was economics. We talked about the news over the summer and how nearly every issue related back to the economy on either a local, national, or global level.
The academic subjects, however, are not the only part of the IB. Students are also required to participate in at least one social service activity, physical activity, and creative activity. This week first years are having “taster sessions” for the different physical activities and next week will be creative activities. This week I will be trying kayaking, international dance, yoga, and badminton this week. Yikes.
The highlight of this past few days was definitely the “Welcome Show” that the “secondi” (second years) put on for all of the “primi” (first years) on Friday night. There is a lot of Italian lingo here, I know. It started with an incredible rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” and then continued with many other songs, skits, and international dances. The whole thing was kind of breathtaking. Some things really are not meant for words.

9 Weird Things About life in Italy (because I couldn’t come up with 10):
1. No screens on the windows.
2. Everyone says ciao to everyone.
3. The dogs are really vicious.
4. Binders and notebooks have four or two hole punches, but never ever three.
5. One must hunt for college-ruled paper.
6. There is pasta at every meal forever.
7. Bidets.
8. You have to pay to use a shopping carriage.
9. Cats wander the streets. So do little geckos.

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Lasts and Firsts, Bests and Worsts

I guess I’ll start with an end and a beginning. Last Wednesday, over a week ago now, my hometown began school again. I watched all my friends return to school and finally become seniors. Although I never thought I’d miss my old school, it was a bittersweet day. That was the ending. One of my American co-years from UWC Adriatic, Spencer, came to stay in Boston with me that day, too. That was the beginning.
Over the next four days, him and I explored Boston, my home city. Our first full day was spent in Boston. We ate Mike’s pastry, shopped around in Faneuil Hall, toured Harvard, and enjoyed the beautiful weather and the not so beautiful Boston subway experience.

The next day we toured Salem, MA. The city has a rich cultural history, and it has a lot of strange people walking around all the time. We walked into magic shops selling tarot cards and magic wands, toured Nathaniel Hawthorne’s (author of the Scarlet Letter) house, ate lunch right on the water, and snuck into the Peabody Essex Museum by saying we were 16 instead of 17 years old.

On Saturday we spent the day at the beach. This was Spencer’s first time touching the Atlantic ocean, and it was pretty stinking cold, but we went in anyways. Saturday also brought the arrival of Alicia, our other American co-year. Spencer and I drove into Boston to pick her up at the airport. I dropped him off at the wrong place and then was kicked out of the waiting area by police. Driving into Boston is an experience in itself.

After she arrived we went to a Greek Festival in a nearby town where we ate Greek food and tried Greek dancing. On Sunday, all three of us departed. My luggage, which was well over the 50lb. (23kg.) limit, was fortunate enough to avoid being weighed at the airport. Spencer walked through the metal detector approximately six times before finally making it through without any beeps. But that was just the beginning of our travel adventure. Our flight from Boston to Montreal was delayed so long that we were in danger of missing our connecting flight from Montreal to Munich. After finally arriving in Montreal, we sprinted, had to wait forever to go through customs, and then sprinted some more until we reached our gate. There was even time to pee! What a gift! The rest of our travel went smoothly, and we were greeted Monday afternoon in the Trieste airport by our second years.

Upon arriving We toured the school briefly and found our dorms. My residence hall is called Lucchese. It is home to 18 girls, both first and second years. It is the farthest from the school buildings and the center of town, but the closest to the port where students can jump in and swim or sit and be by the water. To enter the residence building there is a beautiful iron gate leading up to the very old, Italian building. My room is big and lovely. I have two roommates: one from Latvia and the other from Ireland.

Then there was Tuesday. Tuesday started out wonderful. It sounds cliché to say that “I met so many people from all over the world and finally started to feel comfortable here,” but I really did. I drank my first Italian cappuccino, and then an hour later I had another with different people because why not? On Tuesday I also went to this little convenient/grocery store with my American co-year Alicia. We made fools of ourselves trying to pick the right Italian laundry detergent and spent 10 minutes debating over umbrella prices and appearances before finally deciding we could just walk in the rain sometimes and save ourselves 10 euros. And because we did such a great job shopping productively for necessities, we had gelato on our way out.

Tuesday night I accidentally ate something with tree-nuts in it for dinner and ended up spending the night in an Italian hospital on my second night in Italy, as I am severely allergic. Being in a new country with a different language and different people just wasn’t exciting enough for me. Fortunately for me the doctors spoke English fairly well and there was a nurse who spoke French with me. I also have to say that although that whole experience was horrible, I met some really cool people from school who helped me immensely throughout that “adventure.”

Yesterday was all around a great day. After getting back from the hospital I met some friends down at the port. We weren’t planning on swimming but it was the first beautiful, sunny day since we had arrived in Italy, and so we just jumped in, clothes and all. The water is so beautiful and much warmer than the Atlantic ocean. It’s really salty so it is easy to float for as long as you want. After some orientation activities and meetings, all of the first years and second years gathered in the school’s courtyard and did “ice-breaker” activities. It ended with all of the second years dumping buckets of water on the first years, and then everyone walking to the port and jumping in off the rocks as a UWC “initiation” type thing. At night we had open mic night, where students and teachers sang songs, read poetry, and played instruments. It’s cool how open and ready to have a good time everyone is here.

I think I’m going to like it here.

Andiamo

While I would not trade my place at UWC Adriatic for the world, over the last few weeks I have noted a few small hiccups to studying outside of the United States (or one’s home country) that I think future UWC applicants should be aware of. I think every applicant should fully understand what comes after the acceptance letter and before the school begins, and as the processes are fresh in my mind, now seemed like the time to write about them.
Thus, here is a list of a few small things to consider when applying and ranking UWCs this fall/winter:
1. The Visa: At first I thought it would be super cool and official to have a visa, and while it still kind of is, I now understand the reality behind this piece of paper. There is a vague application full of questions with three possible answers. There are multiple copies of about 10 different documents to be brought; some notarized, some signed at home, some signed there, some blank copies incase you answered anything wrong. One lucky student from Kansas City will even have an approximately 8 hour-long car ride, as his nearest Italian Embassy is all the way in Chicago. Once you get to the embassy, you wait and then watch your neat, organized piles of paperwork be assaulted while you stand and watch and wait a little longer. And then you wait another three weeks to get the actual visa (if everything goes smoothly).
2. Doctors: To attend UWC Adriatic, students are required to have a chest x-ray, to check for tuberculosis, and five or six blood tests. Most doctors in the United States will tell you that x-Rays are not used for screening; they are only used if there is something wrong. This minimizes exposure to radiation. In the United States, tuberculosis is typically tested for by a skin test instead. As a result, many insurance companies will not cover the cost of an x-ray (which can get very pricey) for screening purposes. I went to a different medical center a few towns over where the cost of the x-ray was lower, as my insurance company would not cover it.
3. Plane and Simple: Plane tickets outside of the U.S. are expensive, will have multiple plane changes, and can be difficult to find.
In the grand scheme of things, these are all relatively painless drawbacks (unless you hate blood and pass out during the blood tests like me), but they do take time, patience, and help.
Now that I’ve made it through most of these pain-in-the-butt little things, there are innumerable wonderful things I am looking forward to: a new culture, a new language, Italian food, swimming in the Adriatic, and meeting all my co-years, to name just a few.  Did I mention Italian food? And instead of Visa paperwork and doctor appointments, getting ready to leave now consists of fun stuff like trying to find a bedspread that is relatively inexpensive without looking like it belongs to a sorority sister and choosing which photos to hang in my dorm.
Ci vediamo! (See you soon!)
P.S. Nothing makes me more psyched up to go to school than this video, created by a member of the UWC Adriatic Class of 2014:

Going, Going

Buongiorno! As I often find myself trying to explain the UWC movement, I’ve discovered how incredibly difficult it is to summarize what UWC is all about in just a few sentences. And I haven’t even truly begun yet. On top of trying to explain the UWC movement, I’ve been asked several times to keep in touch while away, so, over the course of the next two years, I will do my best to paint my UWC picture here. I hope to update this blog often while abroad, and I hope that any interested family, friends, or students looking to attend a United World College will find it interesting and informative.

For my first post, I’d like to explain what the United World College movement is all about and how I was first introduced to it:

As of 2014, there are 14 United World Colleges (UWC) around the world. Each is an international school with the mission of creating peace, intercultural understanding, and sustainability. Countries all around the world have “National Committees” that select students from their respective countries to attend these schools. This year, the United States, thanks to an extremely generous donor named Shelby Davis, accepted 52 students on full merit scholarship to the United World College movement. 25 of these American students will be attending UWC-USA, the school in Montezuma, NM. The other 27 are split into small groups of 2 or 3 and sent to the international campuses. Despite the name United World Colleges, the schools all follow the “International Baccalaureate” High School curriculum. Students take six courses; three of these courses they study at a high level, and three of these courses they study at a standard level. All of the courses, except for language classes, are taught in English. Students follow these same six courses for both of the 2 years that they are at the college. Like myself, a vast majority of the American students will spend their senior year and one additional “gap year” of high school at UWC. Other students will attend the schools for their junior and senior years of high school. The school I will be attending this fall is in Duino, Italy. A small town in the north-eastern part of Italy, located near the city of Trieste. At the school in Italy, there are 100 students in each grade level (about 200 students total).

Another question I am often asked is: How did you even hear about this program? Last summer I took a class on Global Politics through Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Talented Youth at Princeton University. I met a student there who was attending the United World College in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was extremely well-informed and well-spoken on the issues we discussed in the class, and so I started looking into the United World Colleges. I told my Mom, who still wonders if I could really be the daughter of two engineers, about it, and I applied on a whim in early January along with 475 other students. Soon after, I found out that I had received a Skype interview. After “passing” the Skype interview, I was invited to attend an on-site interview in Montezuma, NM at the United World College of the U.S.A. I flew to Albuquerque and spent a weekend debating, hiking, and playing games with 70 other finalists. That Monday, I received the email telling me I would be spending the next two years in Italy, and the rest is history.

Here is a short video explaining the UWC movement: