Maria Emma Franco Cecena

UWC attended: United World College Robert Bosch College (Germany)
Class Year: Class of 2020

“Emma, never stop telling your own story. You’re good at it.” These were the words of one of my co-years at UWC Robert Bosch College. Following good advice has never yet failed me, so here we go!

My name is Maria Emma Franco Ceceña. I am Mexican. However, when asked where I come from, I usually find myself giving a longer answer; I was born in Mexico City, spent my early childhood in Florida, USA and had lived in five different cities by the age of 11. Nowadays, I usually say that I come from Sinaloa, a state in northwest Mexico which is known as the Barn House state, known for its beautiful sunsets and international tourism. It’s also known for its ugly side, giving its name to the world’s most powerful drug-trafficking organization: the Sinaloa Cartel.

Growing up in such a context is quite peculiar and shapes you in a particular way. It is easy to see that “Narco-culture” is prominent in Sinaloa’s society; the excessive wealth displayed by Narcos propagates superficial values and ideas in my home city of Culiacan. This affects even the majority of us who are not related to the Mafia: people define their worth by their appearance, social circles, and the type of car they own. I’ve seen that these values shape people’s – especially young peoples’ – aspirations, reducing them to a world limited to a population of only 800 000. I never felt I could (nor that I should) conform to these standards. Therefore, growing up I was always involved in as many different types of activities as possible, from Musical Theater to National Science Fairs to volunteering at my local language school.

With this different outlook, I was always interested in any topic with international scope and sought out opportunities to meet people from other countries and cultures. And then UWC came along. As a friend of mine once described the serendipity of getting to know UWC, “it seemed like an opportunity I had been preparing for my whole life without even knowing about it”. And so, after a long application process, I was selected to be part of the first generation of UWC Robert Bosch College in Freiburg, Germany. 

Never in any other moment of my life have I grown as much as these past two years. It is not possible for me to describe in just one paragraph, or even in a whole conversation, what made my experience at UWC so special. Sometimes I might mention the incredibly talented, motivated and kindhearted friends I got to live with. Other times I talk about the many new experiences I had, such as leading a Musical Theater production, getting involved with climate change activism at COP21 in Paris or giving a lecture about corruption in Latin America. But what marked my experience the most was being part of a pioneering community in charge of building everything from zero. As unbelievable as it might be, when we first arrived to our campus it was literally – and metaphorically - a construction site.

However, to fully explain how much being at UWC transformed me, I must say: it empowered me. The ideals of the UWC movement gave me a truer sense of my everyday actions, and made me realize that I am capable of much more than I had previously thought. This conviction in my capacity made me realize that not only can young people be agents of change, but that it is our duty.  This truth is needed most in places like my home city in Mexico. But in order to preach this truth, I now have to build upon what I have begun to develop at UWC.

At Lewis & Clark I hope to further my education in subjects such as Economics and Global Politics, focusing on the ideals I hold close to my heart. A number of things made me particularly keen on applying here; the great support given to international students, as well as the many opportunities available to students both inside and outside the classroom. It is no wonder that this college creates a community which advocates for progress and change. So, whether it’s being part of the student council, having a midnight Latino dance party or learning a new language, you will definitely see me writing the next exciting chapter of my story.