This blog will outline the activities, services, mission focussed periods, summer activities and initiatives that I have been part of during my time at UWC Atlantic College, in order to demonstrate and reflect upon how I have changed and developed during my time here as a consequence of the extra-curricular activities that I have participated in. As well as being for my interest, and for your enjoyment (and hopefully use, if you’re a 0 year or prospective student!), this blog is intended for accreditative purposes, as part of my CAS Programme- Community, Action and Service are an important part of the IB.However, it should also be an interesting read, and provide an overview of the things that I’ve been involved in throughout the past two years (or, at least, as many as I can remember!)
Personal CAS Programme
The below list is in no specific order, and contains both what I’ve been involved with, as well as what I’ve helped to organise or run, which is in bold. It does not contain activities which were part of my IB, or part of college politics, such as study groups, the student council, and conflicts within the college community. Most of these events and initiatives will have been discussed on the blog; if you’re curious, use the search function to find more detail.
Piano Lessons ~ Voice Lessons ~ Clarinet Group ~Folk Band ~AC Apella Choir ~Atlantic College Choir ~Ukelele Activity ~ Ecoschools/10:10/EcoReps/Sustainability Council ~Newsflash ~Amnesty International ~American Contemporary Politics Mission Focussed Class ~Powys Tea Drinking ~Boat Handling ~Doctor Who Club ~German Film Club ~Ceramics ~Atlantic College Acromantulas Quidditch Team
Marine Environmental Monitoring Service ~Language-Related Support
Mission Focussed Periods
Geography of Thought (September 2010) ~ Gender and Sexuality Conference (January 2010) ~Model United Nations (January 2011) ~Interfaith Conference (April 2011) ~Service Period (April 2011) ~August Period Service Period (August 2011) ~ Human Interaction Mission Initiative (September 2011) ~Sustainability Conference (November 2011) ~Peace and Democracy Conference (January 2012) ~Arts Mission Focussed Period (March 2012)
Mission-Related Summer Work
Summer 2011: Travels in Germany- improving my Group 2 Language and doing volunteer work ~ Summer 2012: AOC Summer
Amnesty International Headshaving 2010 ~MSF Fast ~British National Night 2010&2011 ~ ‘AC’s Got Talent’ Concert ~ ‘AC Vibes’ Concert ~ ‘Endnotes’ Open Mic ~ Church Concerts ~Folk Sessions ~ Friday Lectures ~ Shared Planet 2010&2011 ~ Anti-Fracking Protest ~ Language B Day 2011&2012~Middle East Project ~ Amnesty International Street Theatre ~World Water Day 2011&2012 ~International Show 2011&2012 ~MEMS Focus Week 2011&2012 ~Powys Braces ~First & Second Year Shows ~Macbeth Trip ~La Traviata Trip ~Group Six Project 2011 ~Harry Potter Focus Week 2012 ~Age of Stupid Screening ~Storytelling Night ~Attendance at every Focus Week and National Night
Now, I need to write some ‘reflections’ about the impact that these have had upon a number of fields. Writing about every activity/conference/initiative is clearly impossible, so I’ll pick one representative example for each field. More information can be found about each of these examples simply by searching this blog.
The best example for this section is the work that I have attempted to do to improve English language support for non-native English speakers at college, particularly those who arrive here with very little English. The structure which existed before our new system was small in scale, and gave students no opportunity to learn how to support their peers properly. The new system includes two representatives for language-related issues per house, regular initiatives such as Language B Day and a project to simplify the Codes of Conduct for the college, and a clinic which meets for two hours every week to provide a select group of students with one-to-one language support and tutorials. All of these initiatives are planned to continue, and hopefully also to expand, in future years.
It is therefore clear that I faced a considerable challenge when approaching the problem of language support at the college. Although there was general goodwill to improve the system, there was not a great deal in place, and the constant problems of both staff and students being incredibly overstretched in terms of time and resources, as well as apathy and inertia, made the project quite a challenge for me.
I have learnt a huge amount from attempting to conquer this lack of co-ordinated and coherent support in the college- both in terms of general skills of leadership, organisation and perseverance, and specifically in terms of providing good support to people lacking either vocabulary, grammar or fluency in their spoken or written English. It has taught me that I can rise to such a challenge, build a system that I am proud of, and pass it on to others once the times comes to leave it. I’m particularly happy that I managed to actually enjoy the problems and setbacks which I faced!
Awareness of strengths and areas for growth
A major part of how to enjoy and be successful at AC is to discover what spheres you are interested in, and use the community and resources that we have here to turn weak areas of this interest into strong ones. One example of how I have become aware of an area requiring concerted effort, and attempted to transform it into a strength, is music. I have enjoyed playing a number of instruments for many years. However, prior to attending Atlantic College, I rarely performed, generally only as part of large orchestras or concert bands. This meant that I completely lacked confidence and style as a performer, whether solo or in small groups, and was therefore unable to really enjoy myself on stage.
I therefore did my utmost to embed myself into the ‘music scene’ here. I recognised how vibrant, exciting and diverse it is from the moment that I carried a Danish co-year’s bag up from the bus in August 2010, and learnt from him that it contained a number of percussion instruments from across Africa! My dive into the world of musical performance began by auditioning for both the acapella and larger school choirs, continued further by becoming heavily involved in the small folk bands and groups, became ever deeper as I sung solo and in a duo at a number of school concerts and shows, and matured to a comfortable depth as I came to co-lead ACApella and run two folk sessions during my second year.
Throughout this period, I have noticed a gradual loss of nerves or concern for public performance, which has extended to other aspects of my life, such as public speaking and theatrical performance. The process of preparing performances with groups has taught me a lot about the different ways people learn music, prompting me to discover further areas requiring effort, such as my inability to play by ear and to improvise. It is clear that AC and the musical activities that I have enjoyed here have strengthened both my love of music and my ability to play and to perform. But what excites me more is that it has also shown me a myriad of further skills, styles and instruments which look forward to developing in the future.
Cooperation and collaboration with others
Although it is perhaps a cliché to discuss team sports in this section, I believe that what I have learnt from my time as Ref of the Atlantic College Acromantulas Quidditch Team extends beyond the simple camaraderie of tossing a ball about.
The college Quidditch team was founded by a dear friend of mine, who shares with me a love of alternative and quirky media and culture, which is probably best described as nerdy. The majority of the rest of the team share this personality trait, which is unsurprising, given the origin of the game! We relish the fact that Quidditch has over 700 rules, and love finding explanations for them, in and out of the Potter canon. However, this does not make us particularly proficient players.
In contrast, other members of the team are fast, strong and able to tackle excellently. They have backgrounds in sport, particularly the team sports from which Muggle Quidditch is derived; rugby, dodgeball and basketball. Some have never read the books; others care little about the minutiae of rules and positions.
It is clear that this could provide a considerable problem, both to the Captain in terms of ensuring the unity of the team, and to myself as Ref, in terms of ensuring that every member of the group is challenged to their limit, and feels that they can have a legitimate impact upon the game.
These potential disasters were successfully averted due to a combination of the general good humour and spirits of the entire team, and by figuring out positions and tactics which reflected both the physical skill of some players, and the intelligent attention to the rules of others! This led to a team which was excellent at cooperating and working together, for mutual benefit, through training exercises and in both mock and real matches. I only wish that the rest of the college had ‘cooperated’, by coming to practices and boosting team numbers!
Developed new skills
I discovered during my application to MEMS that I wasn’t able to dive. As I said in my blog at the time, “This was pretty hard to find out”. However, it is only a small part of MEMS, and gave me opportunity to learn a different new skill- how to handle power boats! Although I have some sailing experience, I’d never used a motor boat prior to learning through the college. After some persistent badgering, I was able to organise the opportunity to learn this skill. This was done through a combination of learning from the diving instructors during our service trips, and by going out with the Inshore Life Boat service. I gained the skills necessary to provide boat cover for divers, finishing at the end of the week by rescuing the instructors, as they were carried out by a current a little way! I also gained the RYA Power Boat II qualification, which could well be useful in the future.
This was a classic example of the value in turning bad circumstances into opportunities- I have developed an exciting new skill, which I’m sure will serve me well in the future!
Engaged with issues of global importance
I remember reading an Edmund Burke quote once, which said (to paraphrase) that without truly understanding our local communities, we are nothing but ‘ghostly cosmopolitans’, unable to know or engage with anything. Atlantic College is such an international community that what is ‘local’ is also essentially what is ‘global’. One example of this is that I distinctly remember my first reaction last year, when I walked into the Breakfast Room and saw news of the tsunami in Japan on the television. Instead of considering the larger picture of chaos, destruction, and huge loss of life, I turned and asked the Japanese girl standing beside me whether her family was okay.
It is therefore clear that when one lives in a microcosm of the world, Burke’s statement becomes blurred. I have found this to be true to an even greater extent regarding environmental issues at AC: although we make small, local-based actions, they are constantly considered as parts of the global picture. Through my involvement in the 10:10/EcoRep group at the college, I have become involved in everything from improving recycling facilities to discussions on the proposed ‘Sustainability Charter’, which would assess every aspect and level of policy making at the college in terms of sustainability.
I have come to understand more fully the oft-repeated mantra that small changes have a big impact- teaching someone to recycle properly here at college may well mean that they return to their home country and teach others similar skills. Extrapolating from this, and in clear danger of over exaggerating the importance of what we do, it is clear that education itself is an issue of global importance: every time that we are taught or that we teach here at AC is of global importance in a tiny way, simply because we are part of the world, and are sharing our knowledge about it.
Considered ethical implications of their own actions
The clearest and simplest examples are sometimes the best. Although my head shaving occurred a year and a half ago now, this action to raise money for Amnesty International is the most visible manifestation of the way in which I have found that AC offers students the opportunity to commit actions with profoundly important ethical consequences. In very few places would one have the emotional and social support, as well as the practical structures, to do such a bizarre thing!
The ethical implications of head shaving for charity seem quite clearly positive: the money goes to a good cause. However, there were some at the college who questioned Amnesty’s operations, whether in terms of how the organisation is managed, or regarding the issue of whether human rights are a useful concept, from either practical or ethical relativist perspectives. There were others who questioned whether my action was efficient: was there really any point in cutting my hair off- couldn’t I raise just as much a different way? What about the moral aspects of raising money from friends and family, instead of by confronting those responsible for human rights atrocities? I greatly enjoyed these conversations/confrontations, which allowed me to see the issue in a more complex light, and to make an informed decision that I am proud of, based upon weighing up my now-conflicted perspective. It is wonderful to be able to think back on a decision with absolute clarity of conscience and with contentment. For this, I must thank those who helped me to consider all of the implications of my action.
Initiative and planning
As the co-leader of AC Apella, the college acapella choir, I enjoyed the opportunity to practice initiative and planning skills, to ensure that the activity ran smoothly and was enjoyable for our 10 other members. As well as the simple bureaucratic skills of organising and arranging music for the group, I ran the weekly rehearsals with my friend Andy, and learnt useful skills for stopping to group from getting flat, in both senses of the word! Indeed, we got on so well that the main problem was realising when we’d fallen into conversation, and ought to get back to the scores! I also further developed my organisational and initiative skills by giving tutorials to a member of the group who struggled with some aspects of technique and sight reading. It seems to me that running an activity is a wonderful way to keep these skills developing and improving.
Perseverance and commitment
What was likely the most challenging aspect of my CAS programme was my service, MEMS. Upon joining the service in September 2010, I quickly realised that there was little focus, structure or plan to the service- often the first years would arrive at sessions to find that our second years had no idea what to do, or what projects to attend to. Many of the second years drifted away from the service within months of our arrival, taking with them useful pieces of knowledge and information about how projects should be run.
With my co-years and a few of my second years, as well as the ‘constant revolution’ of Paul Dowling, our service manager, we managed to create some momentum and purpose to our sessions, though we were still woefully lacking clear structure. It was only after the service was fully passed on to my year group that we managed to build an outline as to what should be achieved by every MEMS student during their two years. We also started to create clearer, more methodical methods of documentation, so that projects and initiatives could be continued or reused by future years, instead of starting afresh annually. This was done predominantly through the leadership team of myself, dubbed the ‘Bad Cop’, my co-leader, the ‘Good Cop’, and our ‘Chinese Communist Party-style secretary’.
Throughout hours of discussions over dinner and meetings during service time and hundreds of emails, and despite the constant temptation to give up on the whole project, to be lazy and skip a few service sessions, we managed to create both a structure and a system which we could be proud of. This was developed, improved and test-run by the arrival of our wonderful first year MEMS group, who cheerfully picked up the baton, bringing a joyous creativity and sense of fun to our sessions and constant email dialogues.
The new system of four faculties will doubtless change the shape of the Marine Environmental Monitoring Service; as well as being renamed, it will be restructured, and integrated into one service, formed of all of the environmental initiatives in the college. I hope that the skills of dedication and hard work to the cause of marine conservation which my service taught me will still be available to future generations to learn, in whatever form MEMS becomes!
There we are: I have reflected!
The small, scared, shy girl smiling from the passport photo that I took just before coming to Atlantic College has been forged into a challenge-loving, improvement-driven, cooperative, skill-learning, global, ethical-implication-aware, enterprising, organised, committed young woman.
What I’ve really learnt from my two years of the UWC Atlantic College CAS programme is that you can always improve.
You are always a little bit scared of the next challenge.
You can always grow a little bit more.
You never lead, facilitate, work with or learn from a group quite as well as you could.
You never have all of the skills that you want out of life.
You can never have both a truly international mindset, and a developed understanding of your roots and background.
You can never know the full implications of your actions, no matter how aware you are.
You can never take the initiative quite quick enough, or be as organised as you might like.
You can never be 100% committed to every project you are involved in.
Reading the 2011-2012 yearbook, I see over and over again the concept that our two years at Atlantic College are the best time of our lives.
I completely disagree. If that were the case, this school is a failure. The college lifestyle and experience has certainly improved me in every aspect of the CAS form, in more ways than it is possible to express with finite time, hard drive space and web hosting bytes. More importantly, it has given me the passion to live and experience more, and the tools with which to start seeking both.
All the very best,