The thing about UWC Mahindra College is that as you’re walking around campus or sitting in your room with the window open just enough to allow the cool air in or just standing at your favourite spot, you can hear the sound of waves crashing. It’s funny though, because the nearest ocean is more than a hundred miles away. And it’s amazing when you realise, standing there with your eyes closed and ears open, that it’s actually the sound of the wind blowing through the rustling leaves. That’s when you know that you’re living in one of the most beautiful places where laughter and conversation saturate the air with happiness and the feeling of home.
Sometimes it’s strange for us to wonder about the transitioning nature of our college and the thousands of smiles which have coloured the meaning of this place each year. For many of us, UWC Mahindra College means the late nights talking with our friends or cooking chicken and all-too-cheesy noodles at 2 a.m., while blasting Arctic Monkeys songs loud enough for the entire Wada to not get any sleep that night.
For others, the college means Mt. Wilko, coffee shop sandwiches, too many frogs, terrible internet in your corner (which forces you out to the courtyard, and you finally get to know your housemate), “racist” jokes which seem to be more than acceptable, 3 people and one umbrella, 5 fingers and one jar of nutella, 10 people and one bed or 20 people just trying to fathom what the colour red symbolises in George Orwell’s 1984.
At times, I wish I could also hear the stories of 1999 – what UWC Mahindra College meant then and how time waits for no one. Perhaps, even delve into existentialism a little . But for now, I guess we’ll have to settle for 2014.
Welcome to UWC Mahindra College. You must call this place home for the next two years. It may not appear so right now, but just wait one month. And if you ever need help, we’re always here for you!
Last week of August 2014: Integration Week. “What does that mean?” you might ask.
“Crazy!” “Tiring.” “Awesome.” “MUD GAMES!” These are only a few adjectives firsties used describe Integration Week.
One said, “So many names and faces and people! I just can’t remember.”
Jayden Rae from Canada (‘16) says it’s been the wildest experience:
“My first observation of India was the existence of extreme contrasts. When I got off the plane at the Mumbai airport, I walked into a building of modern architecture and luxury. Within three minutes of leaving the airport, we were driving through slums comprised of tarpaulin roofed shacks and countless stray dogs searching for food amidst heaps of litter.
The air on the hilltop of UWCMC is refreshing and pure as opposed to the cities clouded with dense smog. You can start a day searching for peacocks in the biodiversity reserve, sip chai in a local village teashop during the afternoon and finish your day whipping up 60 bananas into a smoothie while discussing philosophical theories with new friends. A lack of normality is normal. I’ve learned in my short time at the college that it’s truly impossible to find a middle ground. Instead, I’ve decided to simply learn and discover the extremes this crazy, beautiful place has to offer.”
Brishti from India (‘16), on the other hand, has lived in India all her life, but she still found her experience to be incredibly unique.
“The multidimensional nature of this lively community, open-minded teachers, beautiful smiles all make it different from any place I’ve ever experienced and I’m more than lucky to be here.”
Ffion Hughes from Canada/USA (’16), breathlessly excited when asked about her thoughts on India, remembered spending a day in Pune and going for an overnight homestay in the local community:
“It was amazing to see such rich and vibrant cultural traditions like the Ganesh festival with so much colour and fun! And going to the village was an experience I could have never imagined before. I not only got a glimpse, but a hands on experience of another’s life during the home stay. The family was super welcoming and it really opened my mind.
Pune was really exciting, getting into rickshaws and travelling in a frenzy, not understanding a word said by the local people. It’s all a big adjustment, but not impossible.”
Maria Jimena from Colombia (’15) knows that adjustment, when done correctly, is beautiful.
“One year has passed and I will say, without a single second of hesitation, that this country is like no other. India is not an easy place; it is not a place that will enchant you immediately. It is a place that requires time, an open-mind and most importantly, the understanding eyes of a mother. Once you are able to look at it in that way, you will meet India’s magic. Another year is left. When the time to say goodbye to India comes, I will assure you and India that it won’t be a goodbye. Rather, it will be a see you later, home.”
UWC Mahindra College is home for everyone; each of us ends up finding our little niches. Mohammed Talib from Sudan (’15) arrived here with little English speaking skills and felt lost to the point of not being able to communicate with others. Week later, however, he became one of the most loved and interesting people in our community. He feels that life in UWCMC never allowed him room to feel sad; he was always occupied and motivated to work and improve his English. He worked twice as hard in academics, but now as a significant, beaming member of our bubble, he realizes that everything has been worth it.
Life at UWCMC is difficult; we come here with absolutely no idea how things will turn out, and it’s inevitably scary. I remembered just how frightening the experience was for me as I watch the first years scurry from Peer Support Group meetings to Intro to UWC presentations and shake their hands with someone new on the way. Integration Week is a kaleidoscope of beauty, a mishmash of unique personalities to create an experience which is unforgettable. You hear more stories and names during that week than you do throughout the two years at UWCMC. You memorise faces and names of your new family and learn that nothing is set in stone. You feel that time waits for everyone.
Integration Week is also never perfect. We try to ease them into “bonding” and “learning” as much as is possible in an overloaded week and hope that somehow the firsties will amalgamate into the cheerful tight-knit community that we foresee. We speak a different language here at UWCMC, so welcome. We will use this week to teach it to you. Stay alert, don’t sleep more than 4 hours a night or you’ll miss out lessons, take notes, never ever reply all to mass emails, be nice to your second years (free food adds brownie points), and don’t forget that your teachers are your best friends, too.
Welcome to UWC Mahindra College. You will have the time of your life, we promise.
By Numaya Shahriar