Wednesday 26 March 2014

Travel Week '14

You know that 'Can this be real?' feeling?

The feeling of 'What the hell just happened?'
Of 'There must be an easier way to do this...'
Of 'Where on Earth are we?'
And 'Are you sure this is legal?'

When you find yourself somewhere you thought only existed on Google Images.
When you're thanking God you're parents can't see you.
When you're pretty sure none of you know where you are, but you keep quiet until it's too late.
When you see real beauty.
When you're an hour late for the last check-in for your flight, and have to convince security to let you through without any form of ID whatsoever, and still manage to board.
And then you're getting off a train, where you're pretty sure the platform.... should be.

One week.
Really? That's all?

Just at the point where life at MUWCI was starting to become routine, we went off on one week filled with enough adventure to last months.

Ten students, seven days, one trip.

Students travelled all over India, each one with unique experiences and stories, the collection of which made this week, in my mind, one of the absolute best so far.

Our group of ten spent Travel Week south of MUWCI, first exploring the stunningly beautiful state of Kerala, before taking a train up to the beaches of Goa (also beautiful.... but probably in a very different way).

Of course, tourists will be tourists and do what tourists do, but nonetheless, we did see, do and experience a whole lot of a very different part of the country (not to mention the hundreds of life skills we acquired along the way. Because, travelling anywhere in a group, staying where you find a cheap room, hoping such a place will appear, not really knowing what and where you'll be going or doing,working it out along the way... well, it can teach you a lot.)

I wish I could write everything that happened, describe everywhere went, everything we saw and felt. But I will never be able to, for two reasons:
1) A lot of what happened is probably safer kept as memories, and not eternalised forever on the internet
2) As I said, every detail would take forever. Plus, as with all such experiences, it''s something to live yourself.

So, for now, I leave you with some photos which may or may not give a better description of Travel Week than I have done.
Thanks to everyone who made this week so amazing and memorable (despite the 15 hour bus ride back to campus arriving at 4:30 AM) <3

Sometimes I think back and remember how I felt, almost exactly a yer ago, when I found out I was coming to India.
My excitement and thrill was justified.
It just was.

Travel Week, 07/03/14 - 16/03/14
Time of my life.

Maria xXx

Monday 24 February 2014

Theatre Season '14

''I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic. I try to give that to people. I do misrepresent things. I don't tell truths. I tell what ought to be truth.''
~Blanche Dubois, A Streetcar Named Desire

Just when I thought this place couldn't get any crazier, funnier, any more full of ridiculously talented weirdos. 
Then last night, I was sat in a the cafeteria, transformed into a french bar, laughing helplessly at a reunion between Picasso, Einstein, Elvis and some random guy in orange trousers and rainbow braces. This was the last of some thirteen performances that have taken place over the last month, each one unique, each one memorable for one reason or another.

As theatre season draws to a close, I think now is a good time to show exactly what has been going on. Theatre season at MUWCI takes place over the month of February, and is comprised of numerous plays of every genre, performed, produced and directed by students and faculty alike. 
Many take part, as actors, directors, producers, costume designers, lights and sound operators, make up artists, set designers, stage managers...
The whole thing is tiring, tedious, and time-consuming, but, at least in my experience, it's so worth it, for all the laughs along the way, and the feeling of 'yes, we did it', after it's all over.

What's beautiful about theatre season, is that you don't have to know how to act or sing well. You don't have to have any experience, or any intention to act ever again. But there's something for everyone who wants to give it a go. And I for one was blown away by the performances of some people whom I had never expected could act, sing or make us all laugh so much.

These are some of the promotional posters for the plays, so you can see for yourself the variety of performances. Everything from comedies, to musicals, to Moliere, to post-modernist, and the list goes on.

I think we'll all miss theatre season, with the crazy last minute hunt for costumes, the faulty sound systems and the pre-show nerves. Well... until next year!

For now, beak a leg,


Maria xXx

Monday 17 February 2014

Update! (....finally.)

Hello again, 

I would like to apologise for not updating in a while, but unfortunately I'm not that sorry. Why? Well, the reason I haven't been able to update is that we have had so much going on, I've not been able to get around to it- and I don't know where time is going.
It seems so strange, after the first week which went by so, so slowly, that now we are half way through Feb and it seems we just got back. 
Second term has so far had its ups and downs, so many little moments, typical life in any international residential school. 
I'll be writing soon about some of the projects we have been working on in school, and myself individually, but for now here's a quick sum-up of MUWCI-2014 so far:

First week back, we dived straight back into classes, handing in the homework we definitely all did over the holiday (but oops! seems we forgot it back home... well, what else is new), and generally getting back into the rhythm of MUWCI life. This, of course, resulted in most of us looking like zombies for the first couple of weeks, as on top of the usual, already hectic schedule, we had to catch up with each other, share our stories from around the world.... and what better way to do so than on the roof at 3:30 AM on a Tuesday night?

Anyhow, in weeks that followed up until now, things have been falling into place. Days are getting warmer, pretty sure nights are getting colder, although what I consider 'cold' has become drastically warmer since leaving Europe for this place.
Although, it was pretty nice to celebrate Valentines Day in 30 degree sunshine, instead of the usual depressing rain, with everyone sending flowers to each other, to raise money for people in the community who may need it.

UWCGB applicants will soon be finding out if and where they will be attending UWC, which I know I'm really excited for. A year ago, that was me. It's so scary it's been a whole year.

As I said, prepare for updates soon about specific stuff that's been happening. For now, I'll leave you with these pictures (people back home- hope you're enjoying February rain and cold.)

February? Really?

Student house. And a bamboo table. And two trees.
...and a picture of a typical student's corner
(one of the rare occasions where mine is actually kind of tidy...)

Social Centre- pool, gym, coffee shop, etc.

Valentine's day flowers

One of the best chilling spots on campus- outside the arts centre

Thanks for reading, more coming very soon :)


Maria xXx

Sunday 8 December 2013

''So, how is India?''

36000 feet up, somewhere above Ukraine.
8:40 PM, Mumbai time.

Three hours left of the Mumbai-London flight. Then, a ‘hope-I’ll-make-it-on-time’ connection at Heathrow, and the final journey from London to Lyon.

It feels so strange to be heading back, especially as it feels like I only just arrived in India. I don’t dare imagine what it’ll be like in a year and a half, when this chapter of our lives will close and ‘goodbyes’ will be more significant.

But for now, I’m choosing to look back on this first term, enjoy the memories (and try not to think about how fast the whole thing is going.) J

So. As the title of this post may suggest, the thing I’m dreading most about returning home is that one question: “So, how is India?”
Why? Well, this is a question it could take me days to answer in full, and our lives at MUWCI cannot be summed up in a simple “yeah, it’s good, thanks”.

I could write once again about diversity, culture, special bonds, fantastic experiences and crazy fun, because in essence, that’s what characterises MUWCI at first glance. But MUWCI is also about sitting on the roof at 4:30 AM, still nowhere near concluding the debate about whether or not marijuana should be legalised. It’s about the spontaneous 2-minute dance parties with your roomies, singing along to bad music, and head banging like you didn't know was possible. It’s about the principal showing up to College meeting in a ridiculous wig, and for it to be considered normal. It’s about being told to get the hell out of your friend’s corner by their roommate, because it’s 5AM and you are STILL jamming together. It’s about coaxing frogs off your bed, and out of your laundry. And your cupboard. And shoes. MUWCI is about learning the hard way that if you’re white, you really do need to wear mosquito repellent and sun-screen. And that the others will give you shit for it.
But, as with all of these things, we learn to live with it, because it’s MUWCI, and to put it bluntly, that’s kind of what we signed up for.
Ask me if I would have it any other way, I’d say no. That may not be the case for everyone, but something tells me these little things are what make this place genuinely special for all of us. Different. Crazy. A bunch of weirdos from all around the world, living together in the ultimate mish-mash of ideas and identities.

MUWCI, I’ll miss you over winter break. :’) Thank you for this first term. Please, let next one not go by so fast. 
See you all in a month’s time!

Maria xXx

Thursday 31 October 2013

Project Croc.

Project week is a major part of all UWC experiences, and an aspect of which we have all been excited for from the very beginning.
Before even coming to MUWCI, we were sent an email with all the proposed project weeks, and as students we chose which one to participate in. From Himalayan hiking, to working with sexual minorities, to teaching young children, to interacting with the tribal communities of India, each Project has a unique angle, mission and interest.

Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, home to 27 reptilian species including 2546 individuals, was set up with the aim of promoting the conservation of reptiles and amphibians on the Indian subcontinent.
Last week, we travelled in a group of ten MUWCI students and two faculty to Tamil Nadu, in South India, for seven days of sweat, bad smells, cold showers, more mosquitoes than we knew existed, early mornings and shovelling shit. 

Sound like fun?

Well, upon return, I can tell you that 'fun' doesn't even begin to describe it.

Night walks on the nature trail, learning about the animals and their conservation, amazing wildlife everywhere, jumping in a pit with the largest captive crocodile in Asia, feeding the magnificent gharials and pythons, butterfly surveys, good food, sightseeing, chill time on the beach, seemingly endless games of 'never have I ever'... these just a few of the many activities that kept us (very) busy during our stay at croc bank.  

The staff on hand were fantastic- so interesting and keen to share their knowledge, as well as facilitating numerous activities and talks for us.

A five o' clock start on one morning saw us on a walk with two members of the Irula tribe- known across India for their snake tracking and catching techniques. After environmental legislation outlawed the catching and killing of wild snakes, the Irulas were left somewhat stranded. Thankfully, they were able to continue their practice, by using their unique skills to track snakes for venom-extraction, used later for antidotes to snakebites. On our walk, we witnessed these skills first hand- something truly special.
The same afternoon, we met with some of the women of the tribe, and learnt about their work, in the growing and production of medicinal plants. ITWWS (Irula Tribe Women's Welfare Society) was set up for the documentation of Irula knowledge and culture, as well as the creation of strong leadership amongst Irula women, allowing them to carry on their practices and increasing opportunity for them. 

I could go on for four volumes about our project week, but instead here are some pictures, which will probably give you a better idea of what this incredible week was really like:

So there you have it.
Thank you so much, croc bank!
I'll be back soon...

Thanks for reading,

Maria xXx

Tuesday 1 October 2013

B. D. Somani MUN 2013

On Friday, a group of first year MUWCI students travelled to Mumbai for the B. D. Somani MUN 2013 conference. Apart from the MUN conference itself, for many of us it was our first time in the city (excluding landing at the airport, which doesn't count).
It was a great experience, and this post will be about our weekend :)

MUN (Model United Nations) is one of the many extra-curricular activities offered at MUWCI. 
Let me briefly explain the concept.
MUN consists of a stimulation of UN conferences, as students represent various countries (and their particular policies) in different councils. A particular topic of discussion is proposed beforehand, and delegates are expected to prepare and research prior to the conference. There is then debating, with the aim of coming up with a resolution to the issue.

This MUN was hosted by an international school in Mumbai, and lasted through three full days of conference. (the link:
Being the first MUN I have attended, I don't have a frame of reference to compare with. But my personal experience was exciting and interesting, not just during the conference, but also meeting and spending time with the other delegates from Mumbai.

Then, of course, there's Mumbai itself!

As I said, this was for many of us our first time in what is India's largest city. Unfortunately, as the conference took up most of our time, we didn't have a whole lot left to explore the place. 
However, from where we did go, and what we did manage to see, I know that personally I can't wait to return!

Mumbai is unlike any place I have ever set foot in before. It isn't just physically miles away from my life in Lyon, but in all other aspects as well. The colours, the markets, the streets, the sea... all this produced for me an atmosphere like no other.

The wonderful family that hosted us said: 'Mumbai is somewhere that really gets under your skin', and honestly, I couldn't agree more!

I am hoping to go back in November, over our Diwali break :)

But for now, I have a hundred other things to be thinking about, so I'll leave it there for this time!
Thank you so much for reading,

Maria xXx

Sunday 22 September 2013

One month after

I like these times when campus is quiet. When all I can hear is the song of some bird I don't know the name of, and the snoring of my roommate, of whom I do, but won't share here ;)

It's Sunday morning. Lie in day.
But this particular Sunday, I am not catching up on desperately needed sleep.
Instead, I'm sat on my windowsill, reflecting upon the last 30 days, my first month at MUWCI.
Trying to think how I can possibly convey through words the experiences  and emotions of living so far away from everything I know, in such a place as this.
It probably won't work. But I'll give it a shot.

It's scary to think how quickly this month has gone, considering there are now only two and a half left before the end of term. This term, the first of four, in our MUWCI journeys.
After the initial excitement of integration week, along with meeting and getting to know everyone, we started to settle down into our new home, our new lives. (Not that everyday didn't bring a new surprise, of course. In a place like this, where everything is so different, new, and undiscovered, surprises are pretty much routine!)

Now, a month in, with pretty much all our trivenis (non-academic activities) and classes started, we are beginning to find our rhythm. I can't get my head around how different this place is to school back home. In fact, sometimes it's easy for me to forget it's school at all.

I couldn't possibly tell you about everything that has happened since we arrived here. For one, I'd have to go into detail about every day, as each one has been meaningful in one way or another. For two, I hope to describe most aspects of MUWCI in posts to come, over the next two years.

But for one, these first 30 days have confirmed that the diversity of the student body makes a UWC experience what it is. So many backgrounds, cultures, languages I can't make head or tale of, so many people with so many stories to tell.
Out first moth here has seen many late night discussions, sharing experiences, opening our eyes to parts of the world we thought we knew about. Everyone so different, yet perhaps even more strikingly, so similar in so many ways.
I think this aspect of our MUWCI journeys is one we'll always treasure, even when, years from now, the school work is long gone, the photographs faded and other memories buried in the back of our minds.
Because it is this diversity and exposure to so many different people that will shape our lives here at MUWCI, and ultimately shape who we are later in life.

Now, on another note:
Yesterday marked the 32nd International Day of Peace, or World Peace Day.
Here at MUWCI, we celebrated by having a day of action, with the aim of making our beautiful campus more sustainable, and conserving the biodiversity we are so lucky to have.
Similar projects were undertaken worldwide, on large and small scales.

But unfortunately, in other parts of the world, things are not looking so optimistic.
Yesterday, the tragedy in Kenya took us all by surprise.
All over the world, prayers and sympathies are going out towards Nairobi, and the families of the victims in Westgate Shopping Mall. One MUWCI alumnus was eye witness to these events. Please take the time to read this, her account of yesterday's tragedy.

Thank you so much for reading,

Maria xXx