- Stories of Alumni
Aleksandra Szczęsny (Ola) UWCD’18, who is currently a student at Connecticut College, USA, reflects on her experience at UWCD and how it “brought the whole world closer”. Ola also shares how becoming a young mother changed her priorities making her life richer and more fulfilled. When the pandemic hit, she joined a fundraising effort with the other Polish alumni of UWCD to help their college buy antigen tests. (In the picture: Ola with her daughter Amelia.)
It’s amazing how the perspective of UWC changes with time - at first, when I got accepted, I couldn’t believe it was going to happen. Then I was there - and that was my new world! Now, all these years later, I’m back to square one - did it really happen?
I don’t think I fully appreciated this experience until it was over. And don’t get me wrong! I love Armenia with my whole heart, and living on campus with such a unique group of people was awesome. It just seemed normal because everyone around was in the same shoes. We were brought from all over and dropped off at this location, far away from what we know, and that brought everyone together.
After these two years in Dilijan, I felt like I moved planets, not continents, when I went to college. That’s when I realised the value of the UWC adventure. Through all my interactions with peers who didn’t go to UWC, I realised what the two years in Armenia really gave me! They brought the whole world closer. The disbelief on people’s faces as I was sharing some casual story from UWC made me realise that it’s actually not normal to live with people from all over the world. It’s unique, and it shapes, teaches and shows points of views you didn’t even know about, all first hand, raw and beautiful. UWC took away the layer of remoteness and distance to world problems, so now when I read the news, I don’t see 6.8 million faceless, statistical refugees, 130 victims of an attack. I see friends, family, fellow countrymen of someone I knew. I think it really brings a different quality to my studies too. I always make sure I know enough when I make judgments about international issues because I always have my friends from these countries at the back of my head - I don’t want to be just another person who twists the facts.
Brief note to every student who can’t imagine life after graduating from UWC just like I couldn’t - life goes on and it’s great. No one will ever take the Dilijan experience away from you, and you’ll have new, totally different adventures!
After graduating from UWC Dilijan in 2018, I started my undergraduate degree at Connecticut College, USA. I had a very active first year, got involved in many clubs and associations, even sailed on the varsity team for a bit. I took a wide range of classes that gave me an idea about what I wanted to study. Flash forward - I’m currently writing a proposal for a self-designed major in Child Psychology and Development.
My post-UWC story isn’t a very common one. After finishing my first year of college, I spent two years back home, in Poland. I found out that my now-husband and I were going to have a baby! Everyone was shocked and many people thought I dropped out of college. Even if I did - going to college isn’t the only right way. I always wanted to have a family with kids, and I wanted to be a young mom, so I’m very happy with the turn my life has taken.
This fall I returned to Connecticut. I am glad I’m able to study and now I see it as a privilege because not all young moms get to keep their scholarships and continue their studies. Is it difficult? Yes - the school by far isn’t my biggest responsibility. My schoolwork often has to wait for better days because there’s always something else to do. I am the cafeteria lady, the houseparent, the cleaning lady and the taxi driver, sometimes even the doctor. But it all keeps me organised and helps me make the most of my time. Sure, sometimes it kicks my butt, but I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world! After all, coming back home to the loveliest human on Earth - your own kid, is what makes me smile and forget about all the difficulties.