Thursday, February 9, 2017


Hello, friends!

Wow. Let me tell you: being at AC basically means never having a spare moment. Between classes, homework/studying, service, activities, trying to talk to the amazing people around you, attending the cool UWC events (for example, national evenings), and sleeping, it can get pretty wild. Before I came to UWC, I always wondered what a day in the life of a UWC student would be like, so I thought I would try to lay it out for you, even though it seems an almost impossible task in something as condensed as a blog post. First of all, here's my class schedule:

(Also, not in pictured in this schedule is Theory of Knowledge, or TOK, which we take during our second and third terms; however, I'm now in my fourth term, so it's no longer in my schedule.)

So, here you can see my classes and my service, but we also participate in lots of activities throughout the week. Everyone is required to sign down for two activities every term, and all activities are student-led. The two activities you sign down for are simply your "official activities," so you can end up doing ninety-seven "unofficial activities" if you so choose. I have done a plethora of activities at AC, and I ended up leading a few myself. I led things like Amnesty International, UNICEF, Mock Trial, and Model United Nations. They're all so fun and very different in their own ways.

While at Atlantic College, you can also choose to take part in councils. There's Student Council (StuCo), Peace Council (PeaCo), Sustainability Council (SusCo), and Student Life at Atlantic College Council (SLACC). I chose to run to be a representative in SusCo and SLACC, and the representatives are elected by each house to represent that house's students within the council and bring back new information every week to pass along about the council's initiatives. SusCo does what it says on the tin: it tries to think of new ways to make the school more sustainable. Living in a thirteenth century castle, that's actually more difficult than you may think, as just heating the castle takes such a large amount of energy. SLACC organizes different activities for students of Atlantic College to take part in every weekend, from organized trips to Cardiff to dances in the Bradenstoke Hall. I don't have as much experience with the other two councils, but I have attended a couple of meetings for each. StuCo addresses things that concern the students. For example, they got us free laundry last year, as we were the last UWC campus that still had to pay to do our laundry. PeaCo has different initiatives that generally resolve around cultural understanding, and they work closely with Ashoka, as we're a partner school.

There are also LOTS of different rep positions throughout the school. I was also elected by my house to be a curriculum rep, which meant I met with the Vice Principal in charge of curriculum every week to discuss how to make Atlantic College a better place in regards to the schedule, classes, and syllabi. This was one of my favorite things at AC.

On top of everything else, you can always work to start up your own initiatives. Although this wasn't a new concept to AC, it was one that was dying in my first year, so my friend and I decided to take up BISH again. BISH reps were reps in every house that dealt with sexual health and healthy relationships. It can be very difficult to start up a new student initiative, and we definitely faced some hardships with UK health and safety laws when trying to get this to be an established and school-recognized position. For example, students aren't allowed to give out condoms to other students and things of the like. It's still a work in progress, but students should always try and get initiatives going whenever they can, in my opinion.

I hope this cleared some things up for you, and gave you some idea of what you can expect as an incoming UWC student or a potential applicant! Although there always seems to be no free time, I will try and update this blog a lot more in my last term here. There's just so much material to cover, and no blog can ever do UWC justice. Time here is so amazing and invaluable, but there are also very hard times as well. There were times when I felt I couldn't handle it all. I think what makes this place so special are the people, and they've always gotten me through. 

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Music Therapy: Term 1 // "It's All About the Client"

Hey, guys! I promised I would update you on my community service activity, and I always keep my promises. Here we go!

Music therapy is the only time I ever get excited about an elderly man telling me to "Shut up, you stupid kid." It's something that I look forward to all week long, but, afterward, I need at least an hour nap and a face massage from smiling so much. All of that being said, it's my absolute favorite thing in the entire world, and I wouldn't trade my community service activity for any other.

Music actually affects the part of peoples' brains that has to do with language, so when we sing to people with Alzheimer's disease, they're actually more capable of telling us to "shut up" or "go away" in response, which is a victory in and of itself. It can also bring back memories, which can make people laugh or cry. Our motto is, "It's all about the client," and we strive to make the people we're singing with as happy as possible. However, if people aren't feeling particularly musical that day, it can be difficult.

I had some absolutely amazing times working with people with Alzheimer's disease this term. My favorite place to sing is in a section of the home for the elderly where the Alzheimer's has progressed so much that the people are no longer mobile or able to speak. Although it breaks my heart to see people this debilitated, it's also amazing when they start smiling, participating, singing along, or using an instrument.

One of my favorite moments in music therapy was with a woman whom I sing with often. She rarely speaks, but she usually does laugh and cry. It's really beautiful to watch. Once, however, she started replying to my questions with "yes" or "no" answers, even though she had never spoken to me before. When I asked if she liked singing, she said, "Yes." When I asked if she liked the song, she said, "Yes." When I told her we had to go, she said "No." Although she couldn't answer more than yes or no questions, it was absolutely amazing to see that kind of progress with a client, and it brought tears to my eyes.

Another one of my favorite moments in music therapy was with a woman who usually didn't seem to want to sing with us. Every Thursday, I would walk over and try to sing with her, but every Thursday, she would tell me to go away. One particular Thursday, however, I went over to her and started with my usual spiel, saying, "Hi! My name is Jordan, and we're going to sing with you today." She immediately responded with, "No, not today... maybe tomorrow." But I sat down next to her and told her that we couldn't come back tomorrow, but we'd definitely sing some really fun songs with her today. I asked what her favorite song was, but she told me she didn't have one. I decided the questions weren't really working with her because she wasn't feeling up to it. So I started telling her about my favorite song that we sing: Somewhere Over the Rainbow. She became very excited about that song and remembered it! She began belting it out! Everyone in the group then decided that we would switch to singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow first because she seemed so excited about it. I grabbed her hand, and we sang and danced along together. It was so lovely. She has a spitting problem, so I would wipe down her hands and her mouth after every other song. It was so sweet because she seemed so thankful that I helped. Every time she thanked me and grabbed my hand again and started dancing. Then, when I dropped her hand to act out a song, she stopped the whole session to very loudly tell me that she really liked it when I held her hand, and she never wanted me to let it go. It was easily the best and funniest moment of my life.

Starting with the autistic children was much harder for me, however. My first session was filled with three tantrums and a boy asking if he could hit another child over the head to make him stop crying right before he peed his pants. It was so sad to watch these children become so upset during a session. I have to say that it was the worst hour of my life, simply because I wanted to help them to be happy so much. I went back to my dorm and cried and took a two-hour nap afterward; however, my next sessions were much better. I now love working with the autistic children, and I've never had a breakdown in a session since. Everyone just smiles, sings, and dances along with us.

This term, we were lucky enough to visit, for an entire school day, the school that brings students to us every week. It was an absolutely amazing experience. We stayed with a class for the day, and ended with a tour of the school. One of the boys in my class took a particular liking to me, and right after the teacher stopped teaching and play time began, he ran and jumped right into my lap. I tickled him, and we played a game my mom used to play with me when I was little. He seemed to enjoy it, and he was absolutely adorable! The tour of the school was amazing. It was decked out with exercise rooms, music therapy rooms, trampoline rooms, a recording studio, and much more. It was easily the most amazing school facility I've ever seen. So lovely!

I've definitely had ups and downs with music therapy, but whenever there's a breakthrough with a client, all of the bad times seem worth it. I haven't loved every minute, but I have appreciated every moment. It has been the best experience of my life, and I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Percentage Ball

While my friends back home were getting their formal dresses and suits ready to go to an under-the-sea themed homecoming dance, I was getting my cheetah print dress ready to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community at percentage ball! What says UWC more than a dance that celebrates diversity?

At Atlantic College, there's a community of LGBTQIA+ supporters and advocates called "Platform 6." They meet once a week to discuss different things, from how you can avoid stereotyping to planning to go to a march in Cardiff over the weekend (which is actually how they got their name. For their first rally, they took the train on platform 6 to get to Cardiff!).

Platform 6's most recent project was planning the percentage ball. The first thing they do to start celebrating the LGBTQIA+ community at our school is to find out the percentage of students who are queer! In order to do this, they gave out a survey at the house meeting that we have every Sunday, and asked people to write what sexuality with which they identify, whether or not their gender and sex match, and whether or not they consider themselves to be queer. They then announced the percentage at Monday morning assembly, after chanting:

"2, 4, 6, 8, how do you know your friends are straight? YOU DON'T!"

Our percentage of LGBTQIA+ students this year was... drumroll please... 21%! Interestingly enough, it was exactly the same last year! It's interesting because that means almost one person in every dorm room is queer, whether they're bisexual, pansexual, homosexual, or questioning. Pretty amazing, right? Definitely shows that if you're struggling with your sexuality, you are not alone!

After finding out the percentage of queer students at our school, we had a ball to celebrate them! The catch, however, is you must go to the ball with someone of the same sex. I went with my friend, Katie, who's also from the United States. I asked her by putting a fake ear (that was probably the weirdest thing I have ever ordered on the internet... the British government is probably tracking my computer now, after ordering fake body parts) in a box with a print of the painting "Starry Night" pasted on it, and writing, "Will you Vincent Van Gogh to percentage ball with me?" I know, I'm kind of a romantic. She surprised me by giving me a note telling me to meet her in my house's day room an hour before the ball, and she had set up a little table underneath two trees with fairy lights, music, soda, and a blanket! We talked and then walked down to the room where the percentage ball was held. There was a photo booth, refreshments, and lots of dancing! It was such a fun and wonderful way to celebrate our diverse community. On top of that, we also have a pride flag hanging in the day rooms of all seven houses on campus. I'm so lucky to go to such an accepting school!

Sitting at the table Katie set up

Katie and me at the photo booth

Friendship is beautiful

Another picture at the photo booth (I'm kind of an attention seeker, I guess?)

Our surprises for each other

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

First Week and Initiation at UWC (AKA Induction into the Illuminati)

Hello there!

Wow, it has taken me quite a while to write this blog post! I keep re-starting it because I feel like there's no good way to begin to tell you how amazing my time has been in these short 17 days, but I'll try!

When I landed in the London airport, I was greeted by smiling first and second years, who were all super excited to meet everyone. Then, we got on the bus and had a THREE HOUR BUS RIDE. I could barely stand the wait of being in the UK and not being able to see the castle yet. When we finally got to the school, there were second years standing all around the bus in their national costumes, which usually consisted of fun clothing, face paint, pots and pans to bang, and their country's flag. We then had to say our names, houses, and countries into a megaphone. It was the most terrifying and amazing way to begin the UWC experience! I may or may not have tripped and fallen into one of my second year's arms when I got out of the bus. Yikes, I'm really glad I never do anything embarrassing...

The second years sweetly helped everyone get their things into their dorms, which was extremely lucky for me because I had three large suitcases and two carry-ons that I needed to bring up a flight of stairs. All of our second years from our home states, dorm buddies, etc. left welcoming notes on our beds with lots of candy and nice things, and it was all such a lovely way to start the year. I came down from my room into the day room, a room where everyone can hang out that's meant for socializing, after unpacking, and we played hilarious games.

The next morning, there was a delicious breakfast in our house day room, where we had yogurt, fruit, bagels, salmon spread, etc. We had some initiation activities throughout the day, which included a maths test to tell us whether or not we were allowed to take higher level maths. However, the fun and important stuff began when we went to camp. They gave us a large, trash-sized, plastic bag for us to put everything we needed for three days, and then we were off on a three-hour bus ride.
When we got the campsite, a scary, for lack of a better word, second year came onto the bus, and she screamed, "Go get your bags, stand in line, don't talk or make noise, and don't laugh. If you do, you'll have to do pushups." I definitely witnessed someone who had to drop down and give her ten. I had a mini heart attack because I was so afraid that's what all of camp would be like, but, thankfully, it wasn't like that at all. It was amazingly fun!

We walked inside, set down our bags, and were instructed to sit down. Fun music played, and the second years' smiles were all back. They laughed, danced, and put on a show for us. We were then given time to settle into our rooms and meet our roommates. Throughout camp, we had six activities that we did with the same group. The activities were: walking, coasteering (where we got to dive off of a cliff and climb around the rocks on the coastline. We even got to swim in a cave! This was my favorite activity by far!), surfing, kayaking, environmental work, and games. All of the activities were incredible, and it was the experience of a lifetime. On top of this, at night, we also had a talent show and a different show where everyone sang their national anthems. The United States went first with this because, obviously, we're the best. Just kidding. But there really are so many stereotypes about us. I have had to tell a lot of people that not everyone in the United States likes Trump and watches Fox news. THIS IS WHAT THE WORLD THINKS OF US, GUYS.

Throughout all of camp, they only played a couple of songs on repeat, which I don't understand the point of... the only explanation I can think of is brainwashing. Which explains why we were also deprived of sleep. It worked. We all came back loving UWC.

When we got back to the school, we had to go to initiation for faculties and all of the classes we could take. I ended up choosing higher level economics, global politics, English language and literature, and standard level maths, Spanish B, and chemistry.

The faculty choices are extra amazing. You can choose from being in outdoor, social justice, global, or environmental faculty. Within social justice, we were introduced to music therapy, in which music is used to help autistic children and elderly people with dementia. I was so inspired afterward, and, thankfully, I was selected to participate.

UWC has been absolutely amazing thus far. We started school on Friday, but on top of that, I went to our first social, went late night swimming, and stayed up late many nights talking about the world with people from all over. It has all been so beautiful and fun. I'll definitely keep you posted about everything, especially music therapy, activities, and classes!

Here are some pictures:
This is the castle

From coasteering at camp (I actually made friends wearing this helmet, surprisingly!)

The seafront outside of the castle

The view is absolutely gorgeous here

In front of the castle

This is the picture of the view! I can't get over how beautiful it is!

Until next time!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Application in My Nation (Just Call Me Dr. Seuss)

Hello, friends!

This year, I was fortunate enough to be chosen to attend UWC AC (United World College of the Atlantic)! Atlantic College is in Wales, so hallelujah, rejoice, amen - I get to study in a different country! I'm so excited about it, and I promised myself that if I was accepted, I would create a blog. So, hi! Hello! Here it is.

What is UWC, you may ask? Well, UWC is a school with campuses in several different countries. In total, it serves more than 7,500 students per year, and there are students from approximately 150 countries attending. But those are just statistics. What is UWC really? UWC's mission statement is, "UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future." In the United States, the people who apply through the national committee (as opposed to directly applying to a certain campus) are competing for a full scholarship, funded by Shelby Davis, which is what I received.

Here's a little bit about me: I'm from the United States, and I found out about United World College when I was in middle school. As soon as I read about it, I knew that it was the perfect place for me. A place where everyone's goal was to come together and create an appreciation for cultures all around the world through education, while studying alongside some of the most passionate, intelligent, and hard-working students across the globe? Sign me up! I applied twice - once when I was a sophomore (I didn't even get an interview), and then again when I was a junior. If you're like me and don't make it very far in the process your first time applying, don't let it deter you. I am proof that it really can work out the second time, and I'm so incredibly glad that I tried again.

Let's talk about the application process.

First, we had to fill out a written application, which consisted of seven essay questions, a place to send in your test scores, your ranking of the campuses (which you get to reorder twice throughout the application process... point being: don't stress about it), a place to fill in your class rank, three recommendation letters (one from a teacher, one from an extracurricular activity advisor, and one from your guidance counselor), your activities that you take part in, and the last six books you read. It's very much like a college application, so if nothing else comes out of it, at least you will get some experience with applying to schools!

A couple of months later, I received an email about a Skype interview, for which 130 students, out of the 460 applicants, were chosen. I was so excited to have progressed to the semifinalist stage! I remember receiving my email during a Law Academy meeting (a club at my school), and I had to do everything in my power not to show how excited I was after reading it.

You see, I didn't tell anyone, other than my mom, that I was even applying. I wanted it to be a private process for myself, and I thought it would be much more enjoyable if I didn't have to update everyone along the way. I definitely don't regret my decision, but it was hard to keep the secret sometimes, and it came as quite a surprise to my friends when I suddenly popped up saying that I was going to study in a completely different country within just a few, short months! It's really up to you whether or not you tell your friends and family, and I would take a while to think about it before you do it. Anyway, I digress.

Saying that I was nervous about my Skype interview is an understatement. I vaguely (because I was so nervous that I genuinely thought I was going to pass out) remember staring up at my ceiling in the living room ten minutes before my call, after having researched what some potential questions might be all week and practicing with my mom. I remember thinking, "If I blow this, it's okay! I will still be able to sit in my living pondering life and looking at my ceiling in the same way. My mom will still love me, and my friends won't even know. Maybe it just wasn't meant to be? And maybe it is?" When the time came, I received a message from my interviewer, who said that he was ready when I was. My heart was beating faster than a bunny's who had just consumed 12 cups of coffee. My interview, to my surprise, wasn't brutal at all. It was like catching up with an old friend who wanted to ask me a lot of questions about my life and what I was choosing to do with it! There were questions like, "Tell me about this club you're in," and "Why did you decide to switch schools?" I do, however, know people who had much harder questions. I think it just depends on the things you wrote about in your essays and your interviewer. The interview consisted of thirty minutes with just my interviewer and me, followed by fifteen minutes of a Q&A style talk, as my mom joined in. My mom then asked, hilariously, "SOOO... what's the onsite interview like? If I picture the Hunger Games, will I be somewhat correct with that? 75 kids fighting to their death?" I ACTUALLY ALMOST CRIED LAUGHING. MOM! Spoiler alert: the answer was no.

My advice for this part of the application process is to be as honest as you possibly can. I know saying "be yourself" is such a cliche, but that's my advice. You'll hear over and over in this process that the admissions committee is really good at weeding out people who wouldn't enjoy going to UWC, and that's true. You should want to be accepted for who you really are, not for a person you were pretending to be. It could be the difference between you being happy or unhappy. In this process, they're just trying to get a feel for who you are as a person and where your passions lie.

About two weeks after my interview, two weeks of waiting, wondering, and worrying, I received another email from UWC. To my surprise and delight, I progressed to the finalist stage, and I, along with 75 other potential UWC-ers, was going to the UWC-USA campus in New Mexico for a weekend to participate in a series of activities and be followed around by people with clipboards. Sounds terrifying and competitive, right? WRONG. It's fun, and there's such a laid-back and easygoing attitude throughout the entire weekend. I genuinely forgot that we were all competing for 50 spots.

If you're anything like me, though, you'll do extensive research about this onsite interview and what activities you'll participate in that weekend. You'll be frustrated that you can't find out exactly what you'll be doing, and you'll begin to wonder if this interview is the precursor to the Illuminati or if they swear everyone to secrecy at the end of the weekend. You'll prepare by running five miles a day and watching at least 14 hours of CNN each week... not kidding. I did that. And it was very, very unnecessary.

I, like everyone else, won't go into much detail about the onsite interview. I know, it's frustrating, but it's really not something to worry about! There are just a series of activities, much like the activities you probably do at school or in your hometown. It's so casual and fun that you'll hate yourself afterward for stressing out so much about it. It was genuinely one of the most fun weekends of my life so far. My advice for this portion of the interview process is to 1) wear clothes that are comfortable, but still cute and give you confidence. 2) Be yourself (*GAG VOMITS VIOLENTLY!!!!! GROSS!!!! JORDAN, SERIOUSLY STOP SAYING THAT!!*) I know, but I remember a current student telling me beforehand to just be myself because there are people who don't really like UWC because they need lots of time alone or for some other reason they just aren't getting the experience that they thought they would. If you're just yourself, then it's much easier for the admissions committee to know exactly how you'll fit into the school. They're looking for all sorts of people. Just be yourself, and everything else will fall into place, I promise. 3) Your phone isn't going to help you. Leave it in the hotel room. 4) Get on the Facebook page for your group of applicants and get to know people beforehand! It made me so much more comfortable to come in knowing a handful of people. Also, current students are heaven sent for answering questions! You should contact them to find out about different campuses, what kind of activities they're in, etc. 5) Bring a pen and paper to write down other peoples' names and numbers! It's great to have that contact list after the interview to talk to everyone and to be like one big support group.

Speaking of that, I really think that's the greatest part about the onsite interview: all of the wonderful people you'll meet. I became so attached to each and every one of them, and I wish we could all attend the same school next year. But, I think that's what's so beautiful about it. After leaving the onsite interview, I genuinely had no idea who would be attending UWC for the next two years. Everyone was so lovely, intelligent, and deserving. Everyone there had a story. That's what made it a lot easier, I think. I felt so lucky to have even been able to attend that weekend that it began to matter less whether or not I got in. That's not true, I wanted in more than ever. But, what I'm trying to say is everyone there was so deserving that I felt lucky just to have met everyone. At that point I considered getting in as being a huge plus! But, if I didn't get a spot, I knew my spot would go to someone just as deserving, if not more.

Now, and here's probably the best part of the story, I met my friend, Nate, through the Facebook page. We began messaging on Facebook, and we were instantly friends. I don't know how to describe it, but you know how sometimes you can just start talking to someone and automatically you know that you're going to be friends for a very long time? Well, that's exactly how it happened. On our way home from the onsite interview, we sat next to each other on the bus, and quickly realized that we'd both ranked Atlantic College high on our lists, and we suddenly hoped that we would be going to the same school! How amazing would that be?! Well, wouldn't you know that on the day that the UWC emails came out, we were both on the edge of our seats and messaging back and forth basically every second wondering what would happen, when we'd know, and CASUALLY FREAKING OUT ABOUT THE WHOLE THING. When emails started going out, we had a conversation that went a little something like this:

That's right! We'll both be attending Atlantic College in the fall! What are the odds? Wow. I can't even tell you how excited I was and still am. I'm going to school with my best friend next year. Am I the luckiest girl in the world or what? I still can't believe it.

I'm so excited to be able to share my UWC journey with you throughout these next two years. Feel free to comment with any questions you may have at any time, and I would be happy to help you in anyway I can. Good luck, and may the odds be ever in your favor!