“We were looking for people who wanted to do something creative,” said Ama-e Witbooi, who, along with Siya Motwani, Daniel Tran and Edgar Quiñones, decided to compose and record an entire song in a single day — UWC Day. Despite her experience with writing music, Ama-e feared the expectation of having to perform at a set time and place. However, she explained, after speaking with her group, she realised there were no expectations…for anyone. Siya had no experience composing music but a strong interest in creative writing (particularly spoken word poetry, which she demonstrated at this year’s first Musical Cafe). The group simply leaned into stepping out of their collective comfort zones by exploring songwriting in a comfortable, flexible, and yet exciting, way.
This is exactly what UWC Day is all about: encouraging individuals to take on the new and sometimes seemingly impossible in the annual global celebration of the movement’s values and mission “to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future.” It coincides with World Peace Day, a United Nations-sanctioned holiday observed annually on Sept. 21 to strengthen the ideals of peace through observing 24 hours of non-violence and cease-fire. Throughout the UWC campuses, students, faculty, and alumni participated in a variety of activities in support of this year’s theme, “Peace Begins With Us.”
Many students took part in 12 hours of silence. However, it wasn’t that simple. Not only were they unable to talk but they also had to refrain from communicating in any form, whether that be through texting or miming. Additionally, the quiet students had to complete both a writing exercise in the morning and another small, personal challenge during the day. One student took it upon themselves to improve their art skills by creating a piece (pictured to the right) without having a plan. In the end, they surprised themselves with what they were able to accomplish. The doodles turned into something weird but beautiful with bright colours that immediately captured the imagination.
While this student eagerly embraced the challenge, saying they were excited to have such an “introspective experience,” others who took part in the “silent challenge”, like the social Francisco Patarata, were a little less keen on the idea of being quiet and isolated for so long. Still, when asked how he felt about the challenge, he responded with “I feel confident with it. Not comfortable – confident,” which is the ideal attitude to have when trying something out of your comfort zone.
Ash Brooks set out to spend his Wednesday clearing the soccer field of long grass. Even though he was the leader of this particular challenge, it was hard for him to ignore how tiresome it would be. When asked if he regretted his challenge choice, he replied, “Perhaps I will after 3 hours of weed whacking in the sun.” However, he added that the difficulty would be worth it if he could complete the longstanding goal of making a real difference on campus. “Everyone says they’re going to cut the soccer field, but no one ever does it.” Now having successfully completed the challenge, he and his team have provided Pearson with an extra recreational space anyone can enjoy.
Other challenges included hiking to Victoria, beekeeping, building a floating sailboat/raft, kayaking, and canoeing. Daniel Tan, a 1st-year student, took part in the latter and travelled over 20 km. When asked how he thought it went, he explained once he pushed through the tough period at the beginning and settled into a routine, it became much more comfortable. By constantly reminding himself to not give up, he managed to relax and enjoy the day. This is not to say the challenge didn’t remain…well… challenging. “We were rowing for 30 minutes, and it seemed like we didn’t move at all,” Daniel said. Still, it managed to be an incredibly positive experience that left him exhausted but happy.
Challenge day gave everybody a chance to break away from their normal day-to-day activities. Funnily enough, though, doing such a thing at this campus isn’t exactly a rarity. All of us, to varying degrees, step out of our comfort zone on a daily basis. That’s the nature of living and studying with people from across the globe who are participating in the International Baccalaureate. With new and exciting challenges presenting themselves so frequently, it’s easy to question if UWC Day even stands out. I believe it still does. In having an entire day not only dedicated to completing a challenge but also recognizing those completing it, we remind ourselves of how many strong individuals (in all different contexts) form part of this worldwide movement. Most, if not all, are here to better themselves and the world at large, but sometimes that’s a pretty hard thing to do. At times, it’s simple enough to just be happy with yourself for being here and pushing yourself to do better, to learn more, and to live authentically with compassion. As long as you do that, you cannot fail in embodying the values of UWC.