Rareș Zaharia Lefter
UWC Robert Bosch Germany 2016-2018
How do you feel at the end of your UWC experience?
I'm not going to talk about the way I went through perhaps the hardest baccalaureate in the world, nor about how that gave me some chances for future studies and a good career with an international character in a much more natural way than an education in Romania would have. All these things are true, but perhaps not really essential. UWC has meant personal development on all levels for me. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that this experience occurs at an age where maturity and change in character occur in many young people, but I think that much of this change is actually due to the environment we have learned in, to the type of school, and to the community where I lived. Before I left home, I considered myself liberal and I was more open about any subject related to ethnicity, sexual orientation, identity, religion, visions. Almost all of my colleagues considered me to be a bit too "Western". When you get to UWC, however, everything you knew before as principles, examples, abstract ideas, or information from the Internet, everything becomes reality. You meet people who, unlike 99% of Romanians, have different origins, ethnicities, religions, orientations, etc. Everyone is close to you, and the whole world is represented in a more or less balanced way. The notion of community gets a whole new meaning and is no longer based on the character and way of living of each of its members. Nothing, in abstract terms, links people from 90 different countries to one community. No tradition, religion, or vision. Nothing, in fact, besides the fact that we all want, among other things, of course, one thing: to be a community, to be together. From being labelled as a "Western" person, I simply became, I would say, "Universalist". Even before UWC, while I had no problem with interacting with anybody, if I saw someone in the street with a different skin colour, I could not help but notice them, recognise them as someone different, and I did not see a lot of different types of people in Romania. After I returned home, however, I somehow realised that I no longer "saw" that someone had another skin colour or looked in a certain way. They were all just people, and I was surprised to hear from those around me any remark, be it good or neutral, not necessarily negative, about any person who looks different, either physiologically or by their behaviour or the way they dress. I started thinking: "Oh, yes, indeed, statistically speaking, this individual is different in some ways from most people around." But I also realised that, in fact, I had not noticed this. In my mind, every individual is very different in his own way and I do not think I will ever make the difference between people in the same way, because these differences do not mean something very important to me, more precisely, they do not mean that I am part of a community with those who resemble me, and that individual "does not fit". Because in UWC, nobody ”fits”, but we are all a community.
Tell us about the transition from the Romanian education system to the International Baccalaureate.
I think the International Baccalaureate is not for everyone. It is a baccalaureate that has 7 subjects, but one in which you have 15 written tests at the end of the 2 years, plus three more oral tests and 4 to 5 meticulous works sent to the IB. By contrast, in the Romanian Baccalaureate you have 3 written tests at the end of the 2 years plus 3 oral tests and ... that’s it. It is true that the Romanian system has much more subjects, but from experience and from what I have talked with colleagues, I can say that most of these are usually neglected. But the International Baccalaureate seems to me to be much more focused. What you learn there, especially in high-level subjects, often rises to the level of what is learned in university in the first year or even the first 2 sometimes. All this sounds great and it is really great, if you can keep up. Why do I say that the International Baccalaureate is not for everyone? Because a pupil's schedule, from classes to individual work, to compulsory or non-compulsory extracurricular activities or "highly recommended" ones can sometimes leave very little free time, or, other times, no free time, and other times may actually not fit in the physical time established by science as 24 hours a day. Do not misunderstand me, however, everything you do in this program helps you a lot to develop intellectually, culturally, personally, but it can be very stressful, because no matter how beneficial it is for one to evolve constantly, each person has their own rhythm, and some get exhausted and yet they can not finish what they have to do and fail to get the grades they wish and they can be very affected by this, being accustomed, perhaps, with a system like ours, where the grades are strictly based on academic activity, and all that matters is to be as close as possible to a 10. Personally, I'm not sorry (on the contrary) that I have passed the International Baccalaureate. Many say that after going through the International Baccalaureate, you are much more prepared to go through college, and I think I have learned many things that would have been impossible to teach in the Romanian system and that, no matter how hard the experience was, I accumulated so much that, looking back, I'm convinced it was worth it.
How did UWC change you?
Somewhat weirdly, the experience of living with so many different people around the world helped me discover myself. When I was living in Romania, everyone was more or less like me. Some sympathised with this or that party, some were more religious than others, or more tolerant, it all depended on the character of each person. Culturally, in one way or another, we were all similar. In this context, there was a phenomenon that anthropologists call home blindness. It refers to a man's inability to see and understand different characteristics of his own culture, and various factors that determine them, because, by studying his own culture, he considers many things subconsciously "normal" and therefore can not objectively observe them and can not study them as such.
Getting to UWC, I felt like when you get to the construction store and want to buy lime for the walls of your house, and you get those colourful cartons with an impressive number of say, 10000 colours. In this analogy, I am another colour. And what I was able to do best was to look through these thousands of colours and see with which I fit best with what I feel best and therefore to identify exactly what colour I am . And I did not do it just as consciously, but simply, over time, I found out who my friends are, who are my dearest people and whom I understand best. In Romania, if I wanted to understand who I was, I could only compare myself to shades of the same colour or, at most, a few shades of some of the main colours. Perhaps for this reason, I was seeing only the nuances. In UWC, I've been able to find out much better, what colour I have, what colour family I am from, and even the most subtle nuances.
Regarding your immediate future, what plans do you have?
In autumn I will start the University of Amsterdam with the European Studies Program, the European Law Major. I have chosen this somewhat as a continuation of what I have understood after the experience of UWC. I chose this program, being passionate about justice and righteousness in general, which is characteristic in my family and being passionate about foreign languages, of which I have tried to learn as many as possible so far and will certainly continue to do so. I chose a country and a community, I think, quite close to the UWC values, a community in which I felt very comfortable and well received when I visited it. I plan to use the experience and opportunity I had to study in a UWC in the future and to learn to see the world in a certain way and to work in the international field in places where it matters, to be part of a system that will help people across the globe, or at least in the European area that I am focusing on right now, to understand what peace, understanding and universal justice is all about, so that we can live together, collaborate, and give everyone the chance to participate in a world and community without prejudices and without impediments of a discriminative nature.
Why should a 10th grade Romanian student consider applying for a UWC scholarship?
A 10th grade student should apply for a UWC scholarship for all the reasons above and more. To become a citizen of the world and not just a citizen of a country or region. To find out who they really are in the big scheme of the world, not just who they are in their community. To try to capture even a small part of how beautiful and complex the human race is. To conceive and learn that it is possible and how it is possible to live together and to work for the good of all, instead of everyone struggling for their own. To understand that the human race is, as it is beautiful, selfish and individualistic. To follow the only path to eliminating this feature. To begin this change from themselves, from one individual.
10 words about UWC. Anything.
UWC is not about you. UWC is not about everyone else. UWC is about how you and everyone else are not two different entities.