Re-living some of the best UWC Atlantic College moments
5th September 2012
Conversations between ex-UWC Atlantic College students are surprisingly predictable. More often than not, they include the lines ‘Can you believe it’s x years since we left college?’ and ‘We’re 4th/5th/6th… years now’, usually followed by various expressions of incredulity.
Just over a year ago, I was talking/yelling to an college friend over Skype. ‘Can you believe it’s four years since we left college?’ she asked me. ‘We’re 6th years now,’ I pointed out. After a brief pause to count the years on our fingers, the conversation turned to our five-year reunion, which at that point was still a comfortable distance away.
Until fairly recently, the college organised official five-year reunions, but the practice was abandoned for sound reasons. The obvious alternative was a meet-up in London, but it seemed contrary to UWC ideals not to challenge ourselves a little… Once we’d created the obligatory facebook group, we came up with two ideas. The first (‘semi-decent’) idea involved either renting a hostel or forcing all the budding AC investment bankers to put their bonuses towards booking hotel rooms for everyone. The second (not at all decent) idea involved going back to camp, sleeping in tents and living off beds of rice for a few days. It didn’t take a Psychology PhD to work out that most people would rather head for the bright lights of London than the sheep-blighted wilderness of West Wales...
Twelve months later, around 50 of us arrived at Pwll Caerog Farm for a second (or, in some cases, third) UWC Atlantic College camp experience. As the bus squeezed through a labyrinth of country lanes and the driver scrutinised his SatNav with something between suspicion and outright disbelief, it felt oddly as though we were travelling back in time. With the exception of a few receding hairlines, it seemed that nothing had changed in the last five years: we could easily have been first years in the opening week of induction, or second year camp leaders. Once the ‘can you believe it’s five years since we left college?’ line was out of the way, it was easy to fall again into those long, involved conversations which used to take up hours in dorms and dayrooms each college night.
Inevitably, we arrived at the campsite in monsoon conditions and were confined to the barn for the first evening. A small group of people who looked vaguely responsible were dispatched in the approximate direction of civilisation (the nearest branch of Tesco) to buy enough food to get us all through the weekend, and then the attempts to summarise the last five years of our lives to everyone within listening range began.
On the second day, the rain stayed away long enough to permit Lifeguard types to head to Abereiddy beach and Arts Centre types to head to the nearest pub. Wading wetsuitless into the icy Atlantic, I found myself wishing I’d joined the second group, although a few minutes of bodysurfing and a can of Carlsberg on the beach were almost enough to convince me I’d made the right choice.
Back at the campsite, we posed for a round of house photos against an implausibly postcardesque sunset and ate Malaysian dhal, a meal which provided confirmation that most people’s cooking skills had advanced significantly since UWC Atlantic Colelge days (I remember an earnest dayroom debate about whether or not it was necessary to add water when cooking pasta).
And suddenly it was over again, perhaps for another five years. We spent the last morning lugging bags of recycling through the rain, sweeping the barn floor and working ourselves into a mass panic over whether the bus would arrive in time for people to make their connections at Cardiff. Before leaving, the reunion group signed a UWC flag for the current UWC Atlantic College students (arriving at the same campsite the next day), each of us providing a slight variation on the ‘best two years of your life’ message. But that unique experience doesn’t end once the first two years are over: if our ‘official unofficial’ reunion proves anything, it’s that – after a bit of forward planning and a few dozen pushy facebook group messages – it’s possible to relive some of the very best UWC Atlantic College moments, if only for a couple of days.
by Jacob Silkstone (class of 2007)