or Things I Wish I Had Known When I Started UWC Dilijan
It has been one and a half year since I have started studying in Dilijan and it has been only one semester that I can confidently say that I have been mentally and emotionally stable. There are many things that you realize in your third term when everything is kind of done and that makes you realize what have you done wrong in the past, or what you could have done better. Take this prose as a honest reflection and a sincere advice to those who will serve time in a UWC.
Mental and Physical Health
UWC might be the most challenging environment you would ever be in your life, without any exaggeration. At such an early age, you will be studying alone in a (most likely) different country whose culture might be very much different than yours, or even opposite. IB is also one of the most demanding high school programmes in the world and the amount of workload is sometimes simply unbearable and you feel that you are reaching your breaking-point, or even worse, you have been stretched far beyond your breaking-point that you keep struggling under constant stress. You have to take care of yourself, whatever it takes.
Stay away from toxicity, or in another words, do not be around while shit hits the fan. These shall you abstain from:
- Drama queens whose lives are full of exaggeration and built upon the perception of other people. It’s very easy to be false “to thine own self” in a environment full of people that you see all the time. Do not let the consideration of what others might think of you influence yourself.
- Overly depressed people who sucks your energy out. Remember that being there for your friends doesn’t mean that you should be drown in their problems, especially if this recurs over time. Kindly direct them to the psychologist, both for your own and their sake.
- Doesn’t-matter-had-sex people. Isn’t it truly sad that “UWC Challenge” now means not trying to bring peace in a world full of violence but sleeping with someone from every continent? Those people not only create a peer pressure but also makes the most intimate in the world a matter of social reputation and a source of pride. I do not suggest you to be romantic, but to be honest to yourself about what you want and why you want it.
- Hi-bye people. Although they are the most harmless kind, they can be really annoying given their amount. Hi-bye people are, well, the people you say hi and bye and nothing in-between. The banal questions about how you are (“Good, and you?”), how was your project week (“More or less like yours.”), how was the winter break, and so on are (personally) really annoying given that the sole purpose of the question was to break the silence. Be okay with the silence.
- Overly-interested swots. Surely one should study since (hopefully) UWC is not the end of ones education path. But then there are also swots who you wouldn’t care if they didn’t pry into your plans that much. Questions about which universities you are applying, the score you have got from the latest test, what your predicted grades are and so on are ways of gathering information for those swots while planning their own future. The cunningness might be accompanied with underestimating one’s self and achievements, which is super annoying when you got 34/42 and they are dissatisfied with their 41/42.
Also some general advice:
- Do not take things personally. People are likely to be more indifferent than hostile.
- Be disciplined. Like, D I S C I P L I N E D. Discover your own morals and values and stick to them whatever it takes. The difference between being conservative and being disciplined is that you should keep re-evaluating your values (but not right before going against them!).
- Sleep. Do not push your body far using chemicals whether it be caffeine or pills. If you need to sleep, you need to sleep. Not only that you will perform really badly when you are trying to write an essay at 3 AM fuelled with Red-Bull and being full of self-hatred, lack of sleep is also one of the main causes for depression.
Choose teachers, not subjects. This is something often advised against since teacher might leave (true) and you might hate him/her (also true), but a passionate philosophy teacher can teach you much more than what you can learn in history.
If you know what you want to study in university, be aware that your subject choices does matter a lot in many countries. Make sure to check the student portals of the countries you are planning to apply (I know that it sounds scary when you are a first year, but realizing this in your third term is much worse):
- Switzerland: https://www.swissuniversities.ch/en/services/admission-to-universities/international-baccalaureate/
Switzerland do not even recognize any arts and some other subjects such as Philosophy as well.
- U.K.: http://search.ucas.com/
- I know that Germany as well has similar requirements,
though I do not know the website.
Edit: http://www.kmk.org/fileadmin/Dateien/pdf/ZAB/Hochschulzugang_Beschluesse_der_KMK/IB_Diploma_11.pdf (in German, see below for English translation)
- Canadian universities have their own requirements so you need to check them individually.
Guide for IB students applying to Canadian institutions (official IBO guide)
- Your home country. If you are planning to go home, make sure that your IB diploma will be recognized, both by your home country and by the universities you are planning to apply. Even if you have no plans to return, it is always nice to have a backup option.
- Also, do not take Mathematical Studies, or at least make sure that you won’t regret it. It is not recognized by many countries, or highly discouraged unless you are far far away from any thing that involves calculations.
There is trade-off between pushing yourself far too much and realizing in your third term that you could have taken much easier subjects and get higher grades, and being so much in your comfort zone that despite the high grades you have got, you haven’t developed yourself at all. Keep in mind that at the end, if you are planning to go to university, you need some good grades, but at the same time, this is the prime time of your life to develop yourself and discover your interests in a friendly and forgiving environment (compared to university).
English Translation of the Minimum Entry Requirements for Germany
- All subjects have to be taken for two years;
- A language that is not your native language on A or B HL;
- The second language at least on B (no ab initio or self-taught);
- Natural Sciences (Physics, Biology, or Chemistry);
- Human Sciences (Economics, History, or Geography);
- Although Lea said that all human sciences except Global Politics are recognized, caveat emptor
- No less than Maths SL (so no Math Studies), and either Maths or Science on HL;
- 6th subject you can take whatever you like.
Thanks to Lea Hohl!
The list can grow even more, but I have to cut at some point (maybe I can write a part 2 in future, who knows?). If you have any questions, feel free to shoot an e-mail (see http://boramalper.org/).
Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison
If instead of being hanged by the neck you’re thrown inside for not giving up hope in the world, your country, and people, if you do ten or fifteen years apart from the time you have left, you won’t say, “Better I had swung from the end of a rope like a flag”-- you’ll put your foot down and live. It may not be a pleasure exactly, but it’s your solemn duty to live one more day to spite the enemy. Part of you may live alone inside, like a stone at the bottom of a well. But the other part must be so caught up in the flurry of the world that you shiver there inside when outside, at forty days’ distance, a leaf moves. To wait for letters inside, to sing sad songs, or to lie awake all night staring at the ceiling is sweet but dangerous. Look at your face from shave to shave, forget your age, watch out for lice and for spring nights, and always remember to eat every last piece of bread-- also, don’t forget to laugh heartily. And who knows, the woman you love may stop loving you. Don’t say it’s no big thing: it’s like the snapping of a green branch to the man inside. To think of roses and gardens inside is bad, to think of seas and mountains is good. Read and write without rest, and I also advise weaving and making mirrors. I mean, it’s not that you can’t pass ten or fifteen years inside and more-- you can, as long as the jewel on the left side of your chest doesn’t lose its luster! Nazım Hikmet
Source: poets.org (emphasis mine).
P.S. The title is just an allusion to the poem above; I am not drawing any similarities between a prison and a UWC.