On Thursday evening, the moment I had anticipated with both excitement and anxiety for the last two years, arrived: My graduation from Li Po Chun United World College of Hong Kong. I must say, that till the very moment, I did not feel like graduating just yet. Throughout the awards, speeches and while dressing up together with my roommates, I felt like this was nothing else than one of the many “special events” of LPC, a Cultural Evening maybe, or something like Parents’ Night. Not the definite end of my life as an LPC student, not the beginning of my labeling as now UWC graduate. Even choosing something to wear was not difficult; ever since I had bought the cloth in Amsterdam, I decided that it would be my world-map, qipao-style dress, in which I’d graduate; having the whole world with and on me, representative of my friends and peers here at LPC.
In the assembly hall we sat divided by blocks and in the sequence of our last names. We witnessed the Lions and Dragon dancing, the newly founded Ensemble playing, the awarding of outstanding First- and some Secondyears and the speeches by Arnett and Gabriel from Columbia, who was chosen to speak some last words to us from all the Firstyears. Finally, the call-up of us Secondyears started, and one by one, we stepped on stage, shook Arnett’s hand and received our Diploma. Nobody took more than twenty seconds, and yet it seemed to take ages for a single block to finish. This time, our throats and hands grew sore a lot faster than at the Firstyears’ show, as every single Y2 student was welcomed to stage with roaring applause and cheers as they walked towards Arnett. When it was finally the turn of my row, I descended the stairs of the amphitheater-like assembly hall with three other girls, my heart clearly beating faster with every step I took downwards. We lined up next to the speaker’s desk and watched as one by one, the queue in front of us shortened. When my name was called, I took a deep breath and last look up to some of my best Y1 friends who sat close together behind my block’s seats – and headed on stage. I shook Arnett’s hand, bending over to his ear to thank him. “No no,” he replied whispering, “thank you, for everything you’ve done for us”, and pushed my diploma into my hands. I held it tight, maybe a little more than necessary, fearing that the paper would slip out of my hands if I didn’t hold onto it firm enough. The rest of these twenty precious seconds of my life remain only blurry in my memories. I didn’t pay much attention to the photographer who must have flashed us with his light a couple of times before I left stage. The kiss that I blew to my parents through the live stream camera was equally not quite planned, but just somewhat leaped out of me in the instance, as I suddenly remembered that they were not here with me.
When I was off stage and began my way to the door, through which I was supposed to leave the assembly hall – only to come back through one on the other side, closer to my seat – I nearly slipped because my legs suddenly turned into jelly. Behind the door, out of everyone else’s sight, I had to halt for a moment and lean against the wall. The emotions had suddenly completely taken control. I gazed at the piece of paper in my hand, my eyes rushed over the printed words: “Graduation Certificate: Lara Schech has completed the two-year United World College program that aims to unite young men and women from all parts of the world as they study, live and grow together. Following the educational philosophy of Kurt Hahn and the UWC movement, students are encouraged to stretch themselves beyond their comfort zones in every area of their formation, and go forth into the world as responsible and compassionate citizens, committed to putting into practice the UWC ideals of peace, internationalism, justice and excellence in all things.”
I smiled. I had said most of this exactly in the same or some similar way to my friends at home, had introduced UWC like this to passengers who sat next to me on the numerous train and plane rides – and yet I felt like these words could hardly truly reflect the core of UWC; the whole emotions attached to the experience and these two, possibly most influential and certainly so far best years of my life. I tried to find other words, that could, just as short, reflect the meaning of UWC in a better way. But I failed, and couldn’t find any. UWC is after all simply an indescribable adventure in ones’s life, that will never be fully grasped by someone who did not experience it themselves – not even by those of my dear readers, who have followed this blog since the very beginning. And I am both glad and proud to have been able to embrace this unique opportunity.
With a lasting smile on my face, I entered the assembly hall again through the second door and hurried back to my seat, continuing to cheer and clap for my other co-years. In the end of the ceremony, as the audience gave us another, last and gigantic applause,we all jumped up from our seats, pushing our fists and diplomas into the air, hugging our neighbors and screaming at the top of our lungs. There were year group pictures taken on stage; all of us standing together, presenting our diplomas to the cameras and cheering like non of us had ever cheered before. The joy was incomparable.
And while the lights faded off, and teachers, Firstyears and parents came down to the stage to congratulate the now graduates; many of us fell into each other’s arms, crying and laughing at the same time. We had did it. The Class of 2013 had finally graduated from LPC.