Based in Singapore, the United World College of South East Asia has 2 campuses, the Dover campus on the west side and the East campus on (you guessed it) the east side. There’s a bit of a rivalry between the campuses, so it can get intense on various occasions including sports and academics. Because the East campus only opened a few years back, there weren’t many students or traditions when I first started there. Pretty much the only thing they had going was to line up for the super popular Naan at lunch. We had this “Naan guy” that made amazing Naan, who we totally didn’t steal from the Dover campus back when East first opened.
In a way, this lack of traditions gave us an opportunity to produce and set our school community on a rightful path (to defeat Dover). The UWC experience pushes us to the limits and allows us to break free from our own binds and grow, not just academically but as a person. No matter how tough at times it was, our resilience and supportive faculty always helped us get back up and spring into motion. That’s why even in some of the toughest 2 years of our lives, we were able to create and leave behind not just traditions but our will in the community. From events like Culturama, Hair for hope, Film Festival, Bollywood Dance, Reggae Night and Unplugged, no matter how crazy the idea was or how impossible it was to fit the time in our already bleeding schedules, we still did it.
As a boarding student, I had to suffer through 2 years of Sodexo catering, the food was all right but it got pretty repetitive. One day I had an idea with my mates, to set up a small cafe upstairs at the boarding house kitchen to be open on weekends for students to grab some cultural foods cooked by us. The staff was fully supportive of this idea, and we even got the funding to maintain it. This is one of the things I love about UWC. It gives us opportunities one normally doesn’t get and allows us to rediscover who we are. With the right attitude and interests, you could accomplish anything here. Cooking happened to be one of my interests so that’s how the cafe thing started. Our campus has a program that allows students to borrow DSLR’s from the school for projects or any kind of school related work. I’ve always had an interest in photography but never had the opportunity to use a proper DSLR. This was how I joined the yearbook club and took pictures for it. It was hard work having to take photos of any kind of school event including sports with only 3 photographers, including myself. But I didn’t mind, because now it’s one of my favorite hobbies. I still don’t own a camera, but lend me one and I’ll be able to take a decent pic.
There are a lot of things I enjoyed about UWCSEA East, but the best one has to be boarding life. There were 2 corridors on each floor with 8 people on each corridor. Not a lot of room, but it certainly was enough. Spending each night with your friends has got to be one of my greatest experiences ever. My corridor had people from 8 countries, no one from the same, so it was definitely the most diverse. At times, we learnt about each other’s cultures and language or went into deep discussions about serious or weird topics long into the night. Sometimes we helped each other with work or gave words of encouragement. But most of the time we did “Things” (lets keep it at that). Sharing two years of my life with such a small number of people on a daily basis, really made the bond between us that much more special.
Coming back to culture and languages, I’ve been exposed to various countries from a young age. More than half my life, I’ve spent it outside my home country Japan, both in the US and Singapore. I’ve visited many different countries, some by myself mainly because of my hobby to backpack. I went to places like France, Italy, England, Thailand and Indonesia, I used to travel mainly for sight seeing, but here again lies another influence from the UWC experience. Coming to UWCSEA, I was exposed to the idea of service. I did a bit back when the Japanese Earthquake in 2011 hit, to help clear the debris. But the service I did at UWCSEA was very different; it touched the lives of people and actually was a learning experience for myself. I got hooked quickly and wanted to do more even during my holidays. So I started out small by volunteering at local hospitals back when I was home. Eventually I pieced together my hobby to backpack and service where I would be able to meet new people, see new things and learn new cultures, but also do service all at the same time. I was able to do this during my visit to Nepal, Bangladesh and India. Some of the volunteer work I did there was at local schools, farms and hospitals. It was absolutely amazing.
I suppose this is why I’m interested and intend to major in International Affairs, to learn the interactions between countries that I’ve visited and experienced their culture. In terms of other academics, I find psychology and biology to interest me mainly because it allows us to understand why we humans might behave a certain way or act a certain way. Because I’ve lived in the US, I always wanted to go back and visit. What better way to visit then to go there for college? So I began searching various schools, at which point I came across the Davis scholarship. Looking through the list of possible schools offered, I came across Lewis & Clark College. A small liberal arts college, surrounded by greenery and not too close but not too far from the city, it sounded perfect. Looking more in-depth I discover the various opportunities it offers from service to activities and overseas programs. I immediately felt like I could have another UWC experience but a slightly different and better Lewis and Clark Experience.
I’m Kodai Kubota, a Davis Scholar from Japan, heading to College thirsty for more.