Vivina Berla (UWC Atlantic College) is senior partner and European managing director at Sarona Asset Management where she works with private equity in emerging and frontier markets. Vivina serves as a member of the London School of Economics Court of Governors and Audit Committee, as well as being a mentor for the “Business Start-Up Programme” for the Prince’s Trust.
Vivina has previously worked in a variety of management positions with international responsibilities at companies such as IMC Asset Management (part of IMC Financial Group), Gartmore Investment Management and Merrill Lynch Investment Management. Before obtaining an MBA in North America at Amos Tuck, Dartmouth College, Vivina worked in the steel industry for 12 years in Argentina, Belgium and the United States.
“My early school days were spent at a typical Italian provincial state school, a system where students chose between classics, sciences and the arts. I choose to study the classics. (Latin, Greek, etc.) We lived in Lucca - in Tuscany - and I traveled to school on my little scooter,” Vivina said.
“My parents were about to move from Lucca to Kenya. A big move…! Continuing school in Kenya would have meant missing a year to learn English, and there was a feeling that a Kenyan high school would not be the best for me or my future education. My mother did a lot of research and dismissed Italian boarding schools. She heard about UWC through one of her friends whose son went there, and she was very impressed by what she heard. So was I, and I applied.
“It was such a wonderful surprise to get to UWC. It was different in every single aspect from my Italian schooling: firstly it was a boarding school and not a day school, it was in a beautiful location, there were students from all over the world, and English was the main language. I didn’t speak any English at the time – it was a big change for me. The relationships between teachers and students were so much more causal and trusting, which resulted in better relationships not only between students and teachers but also between the students. UWC really creates an environment of mutual support. The subjects we were taught were much broader too, wider ranging.
“My time at UWC taught me that school can be great. I did not know this before. I was shown that there is so much more to learn than just pure academic notions. In Italy, we were taught facts, this was the priority to pass exams. At UWC, we learnt how to learn, how to think, how to analyze; not just how to memorize information. Most importantly, we learnt how to interact with all people; students, teachers and visitors to the school.
“If I look at my old school friends, I can see the impact that UWC has had on me. My friends have not had the same opportunity to learn about the world and its different people. I would have been more like them if I had stayed in Lucca. I would have missed the opportunity to see the diversity of possibilities that exist around me and within me. It is such an amazing chance, especially as a 16-year-old, to be exposed to such a diverse, dynamic, thoughtful and beautiful environment. There is no doubt that my experience would have been narrower – and not just in the academic sense.
“UWC changed my life, altered it dramatically and definitely for the best. It changed my attitude and approach to opportunities and people. UWC gives students the most amazing opportunity to learn - about themselves and the world - and it helps them to create a set of unique skills for the future. I know that some of my achievements are the result of who I am, but my confidence and some of the opportunities came from my time at UWC.”
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