United World College
💼 IB Student
⏳ Aug 2021 — May 2023
✅ Visa not required
United World College
💰 Partial and full scholarships
I studied from August 2021 till May 2023 at UWC Red Cross Nordic, which is located in the western part of Norway and it's the northernmost UWC.
I would say that definitely what I liked the most throughout my UWC experience was how well-organized and qualitative the education was. The teachers were so involved and helped us at each step, offering tutorials after classes, answering our questions, and even having meetings with us if we needed.
Facilities and campus
Regarding facilities, what you should know about most UWC schools is that they have a campus. They might have an open campus or some sort of residential buildings and school buildings. Our campus included five houses and in each of them lived around 40 students. There were numerous facilities offered. For instance, my school had access to a pool, a gym, and a sports center that was nearby. We also had a small library, which was our place to study. And what was super particular about UWC Red Cross Nordic was the fact that our school buildings were open all day long so we could go there to study. Of course, we had lots of labs, because most of the United World Colleges teach the International Baccalaureate Diploma and it's integrated within the curriculum to do lab work. In addition, we had a baking house and a silent house. The silent house was for those who wanted to be in a quiet place, and the baking house was for hanging out and having a good time with your friends or with people in your residence.
Also in regards to the academic facilities, there were many online programs that the school paid for. We had accounts for many platforms, such as JSTOR, In Thinking, and many online books. Honestly, that's a very useful facility that maybe some people don't think of at first, because they help a lot with exam preparation.
UWC Red Cross Nordic is known for being isolated from everything. We were located in a small village called Fleke, which was 20 minutes by bus from a small town. We were able to go there with school buses once a week. I feel like the advantage of having this remote location was the fact that we as students were so bonded in comparison with other UWCs where they have an open campus. For instance, UWC Mostar, and UWC Adriatic in Italy have open campuses and thus, they live like locals. I feel like for them it is easy to forget about the fact that you are at the boarding school where you have to pursue the UWC mission. It was also quite hard to adapt to this because you could do shopping once a week, which could be very challenging for people that come from big cities.
At first, when we arrived there as students, UWC had its introduction week, full of activities, when you are introduced to the campus community and that's how I bonded a lot with people. As I said, you live in your residence with other people, so, for me, most of my friends were my housemates. Even though we have all these cultural barriers and most of them can be hard to break, it's worth making friends and you definitely can have long-lasting bonds.
UWC allows you to participate in a lot of extracurricular activities. Within the IB Diploma, you have to complete a certain number of extracurricular activities. Our extracurricular program is called CAS - Creativity, Activity, Service. Each UWC has its focus. For instance, UWC RCN focuses on the environment, Nordic values, and humanity. One of my activities was hiking in Norway. It was quite interesting, because we were hiking with locals most of the time. We also had a humanitarian focus, as UWC-RCN has a partnership with the Red Cross and thus, we needed to do a first aid course. Besides these activities, I did ceramics and creative writing.
What's also quite interesting about UWC are the project-based learning weeks. Usually, for five days you practice only one activity. I learned about self-published magazines and I had the chance to do one myself. Another activity that kind of stuck with me even now was intercultural sharing. I had the responsibility to educate other people about Europe and it was fascinating to learn about other cultures. To finish the extracurriculars part, what's also particular about UWC RCN is that we had a ski week. We went skiing in the Norwegian mountains and we could ski 20 km a day with the view of the largest glacier in mainland Europe, which was so unique. We also had presentations from guest speakers that came to our school from Microsoft Norway, Norwegian Trust Fund, and companies like these.
Most UWCs teach the International Baccalaureate Diploma which is very rigorous. In the IB, you have six subjects you need to choose from - language and literature, second language, science, mathematics, and arts. Then you have theory of knowledge, which is a mandatory course and you have two essays to write and do write a research piece on a topic of your choice. What stressed me overall was my subject choice, because I wanted to explore different areas and I managed to choose a very hard combination of subjects, but I feel like what helps you are the teachers and the students because at UWC we also have peer tutors (students that are very good in a subject that teach other students).
It was worth it in the end, but it was quite hard to manage all of this. The research part of the IB was very rigorous, but shaped me so much and will stay with me forever. It consisted in an 4,000 words extended essay. I did daily research on my topic for six months. Extended essays are very treasured by universities, particularly because their structure is exactly like a mini bachelor thesis.
To apply to UWC, you can apply either through a national committee or you can apply directly to the school. You only receive a scholarship if you apply through a national committee. Particularly for me, the application process was quite simple, but complex at the same time. We had 12 essays, which asked you about everything related to your extracurriculars, what you like reading, what challenges or what issues you see in your community, and also about your motivation to attend a UWC school. After I got through that stage of the application process, I entered the interviews stage and I had an admissions day when we had to prepare a creative presentation of ourselves. I still remember me having this creative story about who I am and presenting myself through a book I just drew. Then we had some debates and an interview with the admissions officer. There we had to present them an idea we want to implement to solve an issue in the world. I'm not going to lie, you will have to work a bit for it, but it's worth it.
Within a month from when I found out what UWC is, I already sent my application. I didn't know anyone that could help, so I did this by myself only with the help of my English teacher. I feel like resources in my home country are lacking at that point. That's why when I entered UWC, I found the first NGO in Romania that tackles particularly high school abroad opportunities and I started publishing resources through the NGO I founded. Currently, it is blowing. We have a huge project, we extended in Moldova, we launched a podcast and it's amazing. It's named Liceu In Strainatate, which is a Romanian name because there are mainly resources for Romania.
At first, I genuinely just wanted to show students from Romania and Moldova that there are endless options for each person and that studying abroad doesn't have to be expensive. There are numerous scholarships available, like the UWC ones, and also there are countries like Denmark where you can study at boarding school in a very affordable way. We have helped numerous students in the application process this year to get into UWC, boarding schools in Denmark, and also some other international schools in Europe.
Genuinely, I feel like all students that want to go abroad and pursue something should ultimately contribute to something in their country as well. We should use the resources we get in other countries to help communities in our home country or somewhere around the world. That's inspiring and is what UWC has taught me - the importance of helping others.
The UWC Scholarship a student receives, if they apply through a national committee (their country of residence or of citizenship) entirely or partially, covers the academic tuition, the stay at a boarding school as well as the meals for 2 years. In some instances, the flights are covered for the student.
Each year, national committees receive several scholarships to particular UWC schools. When these are published it is also mentioned if they are full scholarships or partial ones. If the student applies through a NC they cannot choose which school to attend as this is selected for them, out of the existing scholarships of that NC, by the selection committee based on which school they match most. After the student is nominated by a national committee, they will be required to provide official documents about their finances.
There are also additional costs the students’ family needs to cover. The main ones are personal costs revolving around food, for snacks, and personal items. These costs are highly individual but an indication of additional costs is also specified when the scholarships are published.
Study abroad opportunities
What's good about UWC, especially if you're a low-income student or you seek to do college in the US, is that after these two years in the IB and within the UWC, you have the Davis Scholarship Program which allows you to study for free at universities that are partners with the Davis Foundation. Most of them are in the US, but there are also a few in Canada, the UK, Europe, and Hong Kong.
Advice for prospective applicants
First of all, I wish everyone the best of luck. Generally, UWC seems like an enormous opportunity, but it brings equal amounts of challenges. I don't believe UWC as an institution is a perfect educational model. There are different options, but if it fits you, you should apply. I feel like sometimes people have this ideal image in their mind when they think of high school abroad. That's another thing I promote through my NGO, Liceu In Strainatate - it’s okay to want something better than what you had in your home country, but at the same time, you should know that the institution you're going to enter it's not going to have zero problems. It's challenging because you have the IB, so many extracurricular activities, so many people that are challenging your life views, and at the same time, you are pushed at a very young age towards independence.
Allow yourself to make many mistakes until you find out what you like and don't give up in a way. Overall, when you finish and take a step back, try to reflect on everything that has happened in the past two years, and you’ll see changes.
At UWC we had this saying: “UWC brings out your highest highs and your lowest lows. Then it's going to shape you, change you, and allow you to build your value system.”