This is, where my UWC experience started after I had mastered the written application and the selection weekend: the German 0-1st-Year-Meeting in Fronhausen, near Frankfurt. And this is also, where I spent my last weekend together with my Co-Years from all the other United World Colleges and the new German Zeroyears, who will start their time at a UWC in this year’s autumn. It has been an exciting and very interesting weekend, with a lot of opportunities to plan, reflect and discuss and it all started on Thursday.
My train from Dresden to Frankfurt, from where I wanted to take another one to the town Fronhausen, departed from the main station very early. I had already packed some days before and even though the weather didn’t seem to become so sunny, my backpack was filled with shorts and t-shirts – hope dies last ;) The LPC Yearbook was in there too, of course, as well as hiking shoes and other important things. My train ride lasted 5 hours. On the way I had a very interesting discussion about data security and the worldwide Facebook-Boom with two elderly men. Later we talked about the necessary changes in the German education system and the future of universities. At the Frankfurt main station I met Genia, my Coyear from the UWC in Costa Rica. She took a different train and after another hour of watching the fields and cows drifting by outside of the train window, I finally arrived in Fronhausen, too.
Not many people had arrived in Fronhausen yet. The meeting took place in an old district court, which had been built in 1904 and had originally been used as court and local prison. Today it is a lodging place for the meetings of organizations, student trips and big celebrations. When I arrived, four Zeroyears and three of my Co-Years were there already. I was loudly and wildly welcomed and then we starting telling each other about our individual experiences in the UWCs. The Zeroyears could only listen and marvel at our stories. Project weeks, trips, the canteen food and the different CAS programs were evaluated, the German train system was criticized and we wondered, why we were still alone in the house. Only a few hours later the rest of us arrived, and at around 5 pm our group was finally nearly complete.
The evening itself started with a camp fire in the garden, a few games and ice breakers so that we could learn each others names and so that especially the Zeroyears became more relaxed and comfortable. In the beginning, I must say, they all seemed extremely shy and did not talk too much to us. I already knew some of the Zeroyears from Facebook and many of them had read my blog or at least heard of it – but to meet people personally is always much more exciting, than just chatting or skyping with them. That is another reason why Michi and me have been rather disappointed that we could not yet meet our LPC-Zeroyear this weekend. Now we have to wait till September … For a start, the ice breakers really helped a lot and the whole atmosphere became much more pleasant. We played a lot of games that are very popular in UWCs: “Ninja”, “1,2,3, Polizei” and “All the people!”
Especially the last one is very useful to learn more about other people: one person stands in the middle of a big circle and thinks of something that is special about him, for example his interest in literature or his favorite sort of pizza. Then he calls for everybody, who shares this interest, and whoever from the people in the circle reaches him first, can then stand in the circle himself. The difficulty is to actually reach the person in the middle, as all people in the circle have a partner behind who has to hold them back. The game was a lot of fun, and our boys had intense fights on the ground just to defend their interest in economics etc. :)
We also had an introduction round in which everybody drew some things on a piece of paper that characterized them. It was remarkable, that many of us Firstyears drew symbols for UWC – it is another sign for how important UWC has grown for us in only one year. Very popular were also the symbols for sports, languages, friendship, family and single subjects, such as History. After we finished that introduction round, our dinner got delivered and while we were eating delicious and gigantic chunks of pizza, we Firstyears continued our talks on the overall experience in a UWC. We gave tips in terms of packing, vaccinations, subject choices etc and also asked about the selection weekend ourselves: what kind of questions had the Zeroyears been asked, which topics did they present ? Apart from the topics that were discussed – while we had to evaluate Wikileaks, the women’s ration in companies and equal rights for boys and girls at school, the Zeroyears had talked about the education system, the scandal about our former president Christian Wulff, Facebook and the German withdrawal of troops 2014 in Afghanistan – everything else seemed to have stayed quite similar.
The evening had an open end. While few of us played basketball and others took a look at the Yearbooks that we Firstyears had brought, most of us went to bed early, struck by all the new impressions, exciting stories and important informations and ready for the next day.