Sheryl Ofwona (19) is a first year student studying at UWC Atlantic College from Nairobi, Kenya. Sheryl is here on a full annual giving scholarship, and would like to inform you about her experience so far!
Life at UWC Atlantic College -
“I am really enjoying my experience thus far, I feel that I have finally settled down into AC life and I can see my position in the College, and where I would like to be as I am progressing.
The two months have gone quickly, but also slowly at the same time, when you are experiencing AC time just flies, but as you look back two months feels like a very long time. The progress you make as a person in two months, all of the friendships that you make, the bonds you create, and the way you change as a person, it makes it seem that two months is two years.
I feel extremely privileged to be living here, every time I walk outside of the house (Morgannwg) to go to breakfast, I am like ‘wow’, I think for the first three weeks I took a picture every day, so I have a full gallery of the same picture every morning - I just think it is so beautiful.
When I am in the library, there is a nook in the corner of the long gallery, and when you look outside of the window you can see all of the way from the top lawn down to the ocean, after studying physics and maths for so long, I just think to myself ‘ok you are actually in the castle on the coast of the Atlantic, enjoy it.’
How Sheryl found out about UWC Atlantic College -
I had a childhood friend who transferred from the Kenyan system to the international system, she went to study at UWC USA, and has graduated this year. This friend told me about the UWC movement, I looked it up and found it so interesting I thought to myself ‘this is quite a place’ so me and one of my friends applied through our National Committee. My friend is now studying at UWC Maastricht, and I’m here at UWC Atlantic College.
I was really excited when I found out that I was coming to Atlantic College, I received an email to say that I had been accepted and I realised that this was really happening! I remember feeling that this was the correct move to take. I called my dad to tell him and he was over the moon. My mother was equally excited for me to have the opportunity, they were both proud and happy, as were my siblings. From everybody being so happy, I became really happy to know that I was coming, it was a joyous moment.
Life in Kenya –
Kenya is a very pleasant place to live in if you are in a higher social economic bracket, but in general it’s a very beautiful country, it has a bunch of different landscapes. It’s very diverse, there are many high altitude areas which are cold and mountainous and then you have the plains which are green and beautiful and the sky is very very blue all of the time. The famous Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o (who starred in Oscar winning film, 12 Years A Slave) wore a dress to the Oscars which reminded her of the Nairobi sky – the sky is that blue.
The people of Kenya are also very friendly, everybody would like to be your friend and support you many a time. Kenya is very rich in culture and diversity, it has 46 different tribes, and many different languages. Usually each tribe will speak a different language, my parents are from Western Kenya, my dad is from the Luo tribe and my mother is from the Luhya tribe.
Currently there is a big issue of Tribalism in Kenya (the behaviour and attitudes that stem from strong loyalty to one’s own tribe or social group), many tribes are very close knit, and then the post-colonial structure divided countries arbitrarily – 46 tribes of people who do not speak the same language or have the same values are put together to live together and operate as a society. From this we have the issue of tribalism from time to time, unity is hard to achieve but also there can be favouritism towards a tribes.
My new friends at UWC Atlantic College –
I have made a lot of friends here, I have gone out of my way to learn the names of most people and I have made many connections. There are so many people here from many different places, there’s such a wide variety of people, I find that maybe I am friends with a 15 year old Israeli or a 19 year old Jamaican. There isn’t any correlation between the group of people you end up connecting with, except that they are all inspired and amazing people. We are all very like-minded in some way, so there is never a point when I don’t have anybody to speak to.
When I first arrived at UWC Atlantic College, I wasn’t too sure about the living arrangement, about how it was going to pan out, but now I understand how amazing it is. I think that it definitely fits into the mission, you become so close to a group of 52 people (52 people in one student residency), and it does force you to step outside of your comfort zone. You become very close with every single person in the house.
Living with my roommates has given me a good foundation, you can always fall back on them, and it’s very nice to have a core group of people who are there for you. Whatever issue I am facing today, they will be facing tomorrow or they faced it yesterday, so you know that you have people who understand you no matter what. You all become considerate of each other - it’s part of the UWC mission.
Codes at UWC Atlantic College –
It is really interesting to be in codes (lessons) with people who are from all over the world. In my first few lessons in Maths, the teacher went through all of the ways in which one thing is done across the world. It reminds you of how little you know, and how much you have to learn. So no matter what you are doing, you are reminded that there is always more for you to learn, and there are people here for you to learn from. If I am in Global Politics and something is happening in Kenya, I will put my hand up, or there is something about the Arab Spring someone else will put their hand up. It’s a very dynamic learning environment because everybody has something to say which is unique.
As much as many of us come from countries which feature in the news a lot, you will not always find that we necessarily have a first-hand experience of being in the news, but we do have attitudes and opinions that are very interesting and that you can only get from somebody who comes from that country.
What Annual Giving means to me –
At first I thought that my sponsor would be this one person, and we would have this lifelong friendship. At first when I heard annual fund I wasn’t sure what to think. But then when I thought about it more, I feel even more blessed and privileged to have the annual fund sponsoring my scholarship because it is, in effect, the UWC mission in action. All of these people who have had different experiences are coming together for this one common goal, to provide a UWC education to somebody.
I feel that the annual giving fund is one of the things that the UWC mission does right, it encapsulates what the UWC is trying to achieve, I hope it can continue and grow to a bigger scale.
I don’t want to be corny and say thank you to the people who sponsored my scholarship, but I would genuinely like to thank them, from the person who donated £20, to the person who donated £2000. At the end of the day, what it came together to make is bigger than the value of what they put down.
I am extremely grateful and indebted, and I would like to put their minds at ease to let them know that I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that the contribution that they made, is going to go forth to mean something more. I would encourage them to do it more, and to get more people to join the cause because what they are doing isn’t just donating some money, they are creating a whole other experience and gateway for somebody.
Highlight of my first three months -
If you asked me this question a few weeks ago, I would have had to have said first year camp at St. David’s. It was amazing, it was a really nice experience and unlike anything I have ever done before in terms of the people, the energy and the activities. We had the opportunity to go kayaking and coasteering (I had never heard of it before), going through the Atlantic cave to cave, walking along rocks and jumping off cliffs – it was a lovely experience.
If I wasn’t at UWC I’d be…
If I wasn’t studying at UWC Atlantic College I’d probably be in University, whether that would be in Kenya or elsewhere. However, if I was in Kenya, the conditions under which I would be studying in would not be ideal, they do not have all of the necessary facilities, the universities are always striking, there are very few situations which I could be in that are better than this one. This is definitely the best place I could be right now."