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The Critical Engagement team visit the College

The Critical Engagement team visit UWC Atlantic College

The Critical Engagement team stayed at the campus for a week, from Monday 9 October – Saturday 14 October. The three-day short course was developed by a group of Atlantic College / UWC alumni’s over ten years ago, and has since been delivered to UWC students around the world.

Jon Morten Steinveg, Teacher of Scandinavian Languages and Global Politics describes the programme as an “excellent programme, routinely hailed by students as amongst the most ‘UWC’ programme they do as students.”

Critical Engagement (CE) is a three day short course which builds strong foundations for critical thinking. The programme encourages students to explore different perspectives on crucial global, local and personal issues.

The programme is designed to foster critical thinking, creativity, teamwork, communication and confidence. The week is centred around the broad themes of identity, diversity, and global justice. The facilitators use inclusive and student-centred methods such as workshops, role play, games and discussions, but will also include lectures, film screenings and more!

As mentioned, the Critical Engagement team have all graduated from UWCs around the world. From this, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up with some of the team, and find out how they are continuing to live the mission.

Pema l'Anson

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how it feels to be back at the College:

“My name is Pema l’Anson, I’m from the UK, and I was at UWC Atlantic College from 2014-2016. It felt so normal to be back on campus, to be going to and from the castle (although sleeping there was a bit different!) and walking down to the seafront for an afternoon. It’s been strange for me to come back to university in Scotland afterwards, I miss Wales!”

How do you find delivering the Critical Engagement course to the students?

“Every afternoon each facilitator would lead on a workshop on a topic that is important to them personally (mine was low-carbon living) in order to give things a bit more of a personal touch. It’s important to me because it was my favourite diploma period whilst I was at AC, and I want to be able to give others the same great experience I had! We aim to deliver the programme in as diverse a way as possible to cater to everyone’s interests and needs, and find something they are interest in or want to discuss or learn about. Everyone takes something different from it, but everyone does get something from it, which is the point.”

What inspires you about a UWC education?

“For me, UWC education is the way forward. It’s a way to learn about the world around us, about the good and bad parts, and how to make change. It’s about thinking about the world in a different way, about learning to recognise our own biases and lenses and try to work around them, and I think that Critical Engagement is key in that sort of learning. I believe that the three themes we used in CE, of identity, diversity, and social responsibility, are the three things that are perhaps most important about UWC and AC, the things you learn to talk about and understand in-depth while there, so I'm really glad it was organised that way.

What was the highlight of your week?

The highlight of the week for me was the honesty and rawness with which the students treated the theatre improve performance we did – it was based on the stories that students told us on the spot and we improvised a re-telling of it, either in a single image or a moving storyline. We listened to some things then that were clearly very close to their tellers' hearts, and had had a huge impact on them and their peers;  it was an honour to be able to interact with those stories in that way.

On a more light-hearted note, I also loved meeting all the other facilitators. Considering I'd never met most of them before, the bond we formed over the week is quite impressive and I really cherish it and them in a way I never could have thought possible after only a week of knowing one another. Overall, Critical Engagement is a really important experience, both for facilitators and participants, and I am so, so glad that I was involved this year.

Sebastian Weejes:

Hej, my name is Sebastian Weesjes and I’m from Amsterdam. I didn’t study at UWC Atlantic College, I studied at Lester B. Person UWC of the pacific in Canada and graduated in 2008. Critical Engagement intends to get students thinking about themselves, the relation to each other and the UWC values. We do this through experimental learning and ask for Critical thinking (the C in C.E.) and the active engagement (the E in C.E) from the students. I am attracted to this since I truly believe that education can be a force to unite people and create a sustainable future. This is why I believe CE is an amazing, semi-formal, space to think about the UWC values and mission statement.

How did you start working with the team?

On Facebook there is an active Alumni group, where two years ago one of my now co-facilitators posted a call out for new facilitators to the CE programme. I didn’t hesitate and today I am still involved with the informal group of alumni who organise CE all over/

What inspires you about a UWC education?

A UWC education is looking beyond the walls of the classrooms and beyond the borders of a nation. It is about bringing the world, with all its diversity, onto campus, dorms and dining halls. It is so much more than just a school, it’s about talking about world issues while you “should” actually study for that mathematics exam.

What was the highlight of your week?

I would say one of my highlights of the week was Saturday morning, the group we were facilitating was sitting in pairs scattered around on the top lawn and with the sea in the background I picked up some great stories of things the students are passionate about. Seeing the smiles on the face realising that this is why they came to a UWC, made me realise the beauty and importance of what we do here!

Zane Linde:

Hi, my name is Zane Linde, I am from Latvia, and I studied at UWC Adriatic (98-00). The Critical Engagement programme is an opportunity for the first year students to experience the UWC values first hand through cooperation and discussions with their peers. I am very passionate about this programme, because it creates a safe space, where students can share their thoughts and feelings. It also helps to build a much stronger sense of community among the first year students.

How did the students respond to the CE week?

The students at UWC Atlantic College were an absolute joy to spend the three days with. My only regret is that I didn’t have the chance to get to know more of them and to hear their stories.

What inspires you about a UWC education?

I think the most inspirational part of the UWC education is the fact that it slowly and almost unnoticeably helps you become aware of your own potential and allows you to be the best version of yourself ‒ a person who believes in equality of all beings, in the necessity of genuine and loving relationships with others, and the need to cherish the environment we live in. And of course, a million other things.

The coordinators of the programme have put incredible amount of work and love into what is now known as the Critical Engagement week, and I hope that we as facilitators did justice to their efforts and intentions. And I hope the students could feel how passionate we all are about the programme.

Thank you AC for having us!

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