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International Students and Scholars

Pamela Nassar Altabcharani

Class of 2021

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I was born in a tiny mountain village in the middle of Lebanon, and have lived there for the most of life so far. My father is Lebanese, my mother is Syrian, and that mix has given me so much that I am grateful for. My intense love for English, the discovery of the internet, and the outside world led me to UWC Dilijan, Armenia, where I’ve spent the last two years of my life, smack in the middle of the Caucuses. UWC was for me, as it is for a lot of people, an escape from the closed, dead-end life I felt I was living back in Lebanon.

I’ve gotten to know people who are alike me, who share my passions. I’ve been able to choose the subjects I like, wear the clothes I want, and experiment with the many upsides that come with being a budding teenager away from home. I think UWC was amazing because it stuffed my brain with so many tools of social and academic survival in the two years in which I would change the most drastically in my life; it helped me crack my rose-tinted glasses about what I would discover to be propaganda everywhere I looked, stand my ground on things that I actually cared about. My favorite parts of the whole “UWC Experience” would have to be the presentations and first-hand accounts and opinions about ongoing Global Affairs around the world; students giving gut-wrenching, mind-bending, all-around-controversial discussions and debates.

For many reasons I feel like Lewis & Clark is a possible continuation of what had started at UWC; it felt to me like a strong, diverse platform to discover myself in more depth and with more freedom; Portland is eccentric and buzzing with life; the academic programs and things I can do outside on campus seem so promising. It is all around a place I see myself growing and living in for the next four years of my life.

When it comes to my academic future at L&C, I am a diehard visual artist with a side of ancient history. I am also really involved in trying to facilitate learning about sexuality, gender, race and facing issues that have long restrained me in my conservative Arab environment. Four years ago I was a racist, homophobic teenage girl who swore by nothing but the bible, and my last two years were spent largely discussing and leading in what is known as O.R.G.A.S.M (the Organization for the Rights of Genders And Sexual Minorities) in Dilijan, and I believe that good change can happen with people. What else… Music! Slam poetry! Archeology! Languages!

Going to UWC in Armenia meant getting on my first plane. This meant going somewhere I would have not willingly gone to; but I discovered the post-Soviet world of Armenia and Georgia, and it has taught me a lot. The next two years that followed included going on a mini-Euro trip, visiting Bali, Indonesia, for ten magical days, and to Turkey. One of my favorite destinations would still be Syria, though. Growing up in between Lebanon and Syria has made me more aware and proud of my Arab heritage (something that I tried to push away with English for years). The next episode of this tiny travel saga is the United States, headed to Portland, Oregon. What Lewis & Clark will help me to achieve is something I am not entirely sure of; I know it is far from perfect (which is good knowledge), but what I know is that I get to see more, think more, and make more with the people I am with to make that place somewhere I am proud to be.

United World College

United World College of Dilijan (Armenia)