The Open Space is nearly a tradition at the annual 0-1st-Year-Meeting in Fronhausen. It all starts with everybody sitting in a circle. In the center there is paper and markers provided and on the wall three time slots have been marked: 13.30, 14.30 and 15.30. For each of these time slots rooms have been assigned, which are indicated by symbols. Now the Zero- and Firstyears can write a topic, that is important to them or that they want to discuss and talk about, on a piece of paper and stick it onto the wall into a time slot and assign a room to the discussion time. For example you can start a round with the topic “being homesick” and allocate it to the fish-room at 15.30. Now everybody, who wants to talk about being homesick can come to that room at that time and talk about it. In the beginning, mainly we Firstyears put up topics – the Zeroyears did not seem to have the courage yet. My Co-Year from Mostar opened a round on “homesickness, fears and hopes”, my other Co-Year from UWCiM wanted to talk about “roommates and the life in a full room” with Ali, as the two were roommates.
I gave consultations and advice on how to pack: I pointed out the different weight restrictions for different air lines and many Zeroyears told me, that they had already booked and payed for overweight luggage. I personally don’t think, that is necessary – many things are passed down from former generations and others can be purchased in the local area of the UWC. I also recommended to take personal things from home: photos, a German flag, a national costume. With time, these grow a lot in importance and it is always better to take something of personal value, like a small stuffed animal or your favorite book, than lined paper and all colored pencils – these things can all be bought, often for low prices, or are provided by the school.
Other topics were: Is the IB too hard for me?, The UWC-Values: Expectations and Reality, Difficulties with Language and Culture, What comes after UWC and Love, Friendship and Family in the Time at a UWC. Many worried about the contact to their old friends while being away and wondered if it was good to deactivate Facebook in the time in a UWC – all of us Firstyears recommended to be on Facebook, as it facilitates the contact with friends and family and is also an important way of communication in the individual UWCs: in LPC, many events are organized in Facebook-Groups, and LPC even has its own group every year, where all current students have been invited, can announce meetings, ask questions and share links.
Again, the discussion rounds were very helpful, especially for the Zeroyears, as they could ask direct and individual questions. Surprisingly many were already interested in the life after UWC and universities, but the questions mainly focused on the life with so many different people – and that is anyway the essence of UWC: the internationality, the gathering of so many different cultures, languages, religions, personalities and backgrounds. That is, what makes UWC so special in the end. As many Zeroyears said, the IB is offered at many schools, also in Germany – but a United World College offers more than the IB. It offers the whole world in one school. Another reason, why this is the best existing school and educational concept in my eyes – it really brings people together and we actually change something!
Best example is the Initiative for Peace at LPC, where I participated last year: we organized a conference with students from the Philippines on the Mindanao-Conflict in the end of the year, and gave workshops on conflict management, the origins of conflict etc. Afterwards, these students went back to they home region and gave conferences and workshops themselves. They actually started to change something in the Mindanao region and increased awareness about the conflict! This is only one example where UWC really is the source of direct change by students, and this is one of the actions, organized by us, that convince me, that students from the United World Colleges can actually bring change to the world. When I was at the 0-1st-Year-Meeting last year, this idea of “changing the world” was only very vague in my head, and it must be similar for the current Zeroyears. But only one year showed me that it is not only an idea: it is happening. And I am proudly part of the change.