Longings of an alumna

Imagine finishing high school in Costa Rica.

*     *     *

You overpack your luggage with traditional sweets, swimsuits, and flip-flops. Actually, this is the third time you’re packing because you’re just too excited. Your mom tries to be excited too, but you may or may not have seen some tears the night before. Your dad drives to the airport and you see him crying for the first time ever. You think it’s some sort of a joke.

“What’s your final destination?” asks the sleepy airport worker.

“San Jose, Costa Rica”. You sound just a bit too eager.

You should have finished Costa Rica’s Wikipedia page instead of scrolling through your second year’s Facebook. Should have spent more time with your sisters. Should have walked your dog more.

There’ll be a lot more ‘should have’s’ along the way. But you will learn how to live through them as the opportunity cost of every decision you make at UWC will be extremely real to you.

Imagine finishing high school in Costa Rica where you will meet 240 beautiful souls from every corner of the world. Imagine living next to them for two life-changing, stimulating, painful, perfectly complete years, and seeing every single one of them go back to their own corner of this simultaneously small and big world.

*     *     *

Two years is a long time. You grow taller, get a gringa tan, shave your head and let your hair grow out again. You grow out of your winter coats and even when you’re back in Ukraine, conversational Spanish slips out at the grocery store. After a year at UWC, the family photos on your dorm room wall are joined by the pictures of your second years and you fear that you will never find a home without them. But then your firsties introduce you to a newer, younger vision of casa where you can even be an occasional guide for them. You start realizing that your teachers aren’t scary and come to tutorials to ask them about their interesting lives. You apply to universities but you can’t imagine existing outside of the bubble. You keep falling in love with all sorts of people, from day one to the morning of graduation.

*     *     *

And then just as you find out who you are and where you belong to in this place you call home, you end up leaving your last IB exam. It doesn’t go as well as you’d expect, which would make younger you cry and get stressed, but instead, you go drink sangria in a fancy shot-glass with your closest friends on a local hill until the tropical rain is so strong, you can barely see. You get back to campus fully soaked and just a bit too giggly. You only have 5 days left, but 5 days can last a lifetime, no?

*     *     *

And then you wake up, energetic but never rested, the usual way. You go to the cafeteria with your pajamas and eat with your self-proclaimed ‘breakfast club’. But an hour later, instead of doing homework or grabbing orange juice at the local feria, you’re passing through a tunnel of firsties holding different flags and spot your Russian first year holding a Ukrainian flag. She looks beautiful. Your parents are there and mom’s definitely crying this time, but you can’t really see because you’re crying too. You give hugs and kisses to first years, coyears, some of your second years who are visiting (while making a mental note that you’ll visit as well), teachers, parents, and staff members. You’ll never have as many pretty graduation photos as your ‘normal’ friends because you cried for most of it.

*     *     *

You cross the gate. This time you don’t have to sign out and there’s no time by which you need to get back to the campus. You think of the people. Some you will never see again, some you will see in years, and some you will see next month when you travel around Germany.

You did it. You finished high school in Costa Rica. And a bit of your heart will remain with this land of pura vida, gallo pinto, and beautiful sunsets.

20945534_1275862479192791_81842937_o

Mi linda casa, siempre estas en mi corazón y mis pensamientos. Te extraño cada día.

Advertisements

HELP MY ZERO YEAR COME TO UWCCR

Dear all,

As my UWC journey is coming to an end, another wonderful UWCer from Ukraine is about to join the UWCCR community. However, he needs to raise some funds in order to join the school. If you’ve been following my blog, you know how life-changing UWCCR can be, so I kindly ask you to look at his fundraising page, spread awareness, and consider donating.

 

And here is a photo of a beach I went to last week with a promise to recap our post-mocks 40 km hike as soon as possible!

17455121_1747173618930551_1109502985_o

 

 

IguAnas 2.0

It’s been a year and I am still pretty awful at puns.

So first of all, I am still alive and here is my classic excuse: UWC is a crazy whirlpool that sucks you in and does not let you communicate with the real world. Ever since we got back, I went on a service trip to a nearby volcano, travelled to some beautiful places, performed a vagina monologue in front of the whole community, completed a bird project aimed at reducing the amount of birds hitting windows on campus, and did many other things I tend to forget about when caught off guard.

This week is also kind of a mess as we’re hosting Bald for a Cause and performing our musical, Hairspray, twice and I am in both of those. Which is quite unfortunate as mocks (mock IB exams aimed at preparing us for the actual ones) are coming up in 8 (!) days and I haven’t opened a single textbook.

So I decided to quickly update you on a little thing that’s been making me insanely happy. As you might or might not know, my residence, Cabo Blanco is new this year so we’ve been working on creating a proper culture. Last month, we finally painted our walls and it feels nice to leave a relatively permanent mark on the resi. So here are our two iguanas that we painted in less than a day!

And the final outcome *drumroll*

16667467_1101890666589974_1569009806_o

16709562_1101890649923309_1282246942_o

Not going to lie, sometimes I forget how crazy talented people around me are and then I look at these iguanas I walk by every morning and appreciate all of us and our unique quirks and traits a lot more.

Mucho amor & I will try to avoid disappearing for a while x

Sobreviviendo [2]

I am not good at making promises, but I’m exceptional at keeping them, so back to some vignettes of my daily life.

5. Definitely not scared of heights. CAS – creativity, action, service, is an extracurricular aspect of the IBDP and in order to get the diploma, you’re required to demonstrate a commitment to it. Last year, due to a coincidence of a sort and some serious peer pressure, I signed up to participate in Aerial Silks, a club where we climbed two stretchy pieces of cloth and did tricks on them while falling down and getting bruises. The masochist in me loved it and I diligently came to practice, did the drills, and hoped for improvement. My beloved Greek second year asked me to lead the club this year and so I did. Now my Saturday mornings start with acrobatics and taking attendance and quite frankly, I love it. Here are some of the tricks I’ve been working on this semester (level up since the day I couldn’t climb the silks).

6. The time ‘Rock me like a Hurricane’ was overplayed despite being very inappropriate. The little, peaceful Central American nation of Costa Rica barely ever makes headlines, but this November, my parents hair turned gray because every newspaper was following the Hurricane Otto. The first hurricane to ever hit Costa Rica killed a dozen of people and destroyed homes for thousands. Due to the hurricane, school was canceled and I made an unusual discovery: UWC is pretty damn great. When the tías, ladies who cook for us, couldn’t come to campus due to safety concerns, many of our staff members and even our principal made meals for 160 hungry teenagers. And many of these teenagers gathered donations and volunteered at the local municipality helping those affected by the hurricane. To be honest, I came to UWC for the adventures and fell in love with it because of the community.

7. Babycamp for babyfirsties. Imagine enough mud to swim in it, cold, rain, and the wind in a remote part of Costa Rica. What if I told you that it’s the warmest place I’ve ever been to? Every year, 10 second year camp leaders, 5 staff members, and the entire first year generation heads out to a camp directed at bringing firsties together. Even though UWC kids love their second years and firsties, your generation is very special and the camp is there to make you feel at home with them if you haven’t yet. We organized a tedious amount of ice breakers, team games, rally activities, and a candle night where anyone was welcome to share anything. As a second year, watching my first years bond with people they haven’t talked to yet and get out of their shell was very a special and a very nostalgic experience. I’d say that I miss being a first year, but I just don’t have time to.

image.jpeg
Setting up for the candle night

8. Your quintessential ‘I’m an international kid’ pictures from the annual flag parade. Pretty self-explanatory. (Every year Santa Ana and pretty much the whole Costa Rica hosts parades to celebrate independent pura vida, so UWC showcases itself to happy ticos – that’s how we call Costa Ricans).

9. Good morning, Baltimore! I’m a semi-decent dancer with absolutely no pitch and a complicated case of stage fright. So what did I decide to do? Of course, I joined our musical production, ‘Hairspray’! Fortunately, I’m only in the ensemble (a dancing/singing tree or a rock). But it’s something new and different, so I’m very excited for the performance this March (will post updates later). Also I have yet to watch ‘Hairspray’!

10. Crossing borders, embracing volcanos, and visiting an unhealthy amount of sights in 3 days. As you might have figured out, I’m a traveler to the bone. I grew in an international family that never set around and spent an insane amount of time traveling and exploring new places. Ironically, after I moved abroad to Costa Rica, I started missing the feeling of crossing borders and entering new countries. So this October break, two of my friends and I headed out to Granada, Nicaragua. In 3 days, we saw over 40 little volcanic isles (isletas), watched the sunset from a colonial church, visited a traditional market, swam in a lagoon (which used to be a volcanic crater), tried Nicaraguan pinto (traditional rice and beans) and concluded that Costa Rican one is way better, went to the museum of chocolate and stuffed our faces, and, most importantly, went to an active volcano and got to look at its lava, which is a very rare sight. Before going to Nica, many people warned me about Sandinistas and the war even though it’s been over for so long. I, myself, was scared of crossing the border only with two other European-looking girls because I’ve been told stories about shootings and assault there. However , Granada turned out to be extremely safe and I was a bit ashamed of being ignorant and prejudiced. So, once again, I was reminded to keep educating myself and exploring people, nations, and cultures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

11. College Bound. I’m still not used to the sound of this, but I sorted some of my post-UWC (so weird!) plans out. I’m excited to announce that I matriculated at Brown University and will be a part of its class of 2021. Even though Brown has been my dream for many years and I feel so fortunate and blessed, I’m also insanely relieved that I (sort of) figured my life out and can enjoy my last semester at UWC. I feel like my last months were consumed by work, standardized tests, and fear/stress/agony of waiting. Now I can look at the sky, take a day off, and go to the beach without fighting the guilt. Now I can also focus more on some of my projects (next entries will focus on those), Coexist, the musical, and try out some other stuff. But for now, I felt like this was an important (and a very surreal) update. Go Brunos! (If I decide to continue this blog, it might become ‘From Ukraine to CR to Rhode Island’ or I might focus on the post-grad part of a UWCer’s life, you never know)

I don’t know if I’m writing this for myself, for my loved ones, for  my prospective zero or minus one years, or just for the sake of writing. But I smile while I relive these little snapshots and even if they only make one person happier, it’s worth it. Pura vida.

Sobreviviendo

Every once in a while, a distant relative or an acquaintance mentions my blog about aventuras of a bubbly naive Ukrainian in a place that’s not Puerto Rico, but sounds a lot like it. Fighting the suddenly evoked embarrassment and a bit of guilt, this Ukrainian changes the topic and then, under the cover of the night, opens her WordPress account (after an obligatory password reset), makes an even more obligatory cup of coffee (obviously, Costa Rican 1812), and sporadically types up a brief recap of a very small number of events that took place in this wonderfully ratchet and tropical world of UWCCR. Sometimes I lament over my inability to capture late night talks, wet sand, spontaneous roof climbs (I hope my teachers don’t read this), and the juxtaposed tears and laughs in this weird place 160 lost kids call home. But these memories are for me – I cannot and don’t want to share some of them.

– But seriously, what have you been up to this semester? What’s new? 

Uncles and cousins, former classmates and my mom’s childhood friends all want to know this. So I’ll try and update y’all on some of the highlights of the first half of my second year.

1. The time we played ice breakers, missed the past, and pretended to be second years. So first, Roble Alto happens, it always does. Two generations of UWC kids head out to an unusually cold (for the tropics) mountainous region of Costa Rica and engage in an unhealthy amount of team bonding activities. Overwhelmed by ice breakers, I started to get to know my firsties beyond ‘name + country’ but mostly, without this nessecary information as there were 90 of them, and I couldn’t tell most apart. Firsties were a bit of a touchy topic back then as they seemed to occupy niches carefully crafted by my favorite second years without giving them a second thought. It was easy to blame everything on the firsties, but also, it became easier to love them as they created their own spaces on campus and as it turned out, didn’t want to ‘invade’ anyone’s niche, only to explore. Perception is a funny thing, is it not?

image
UWCCR’17 & ’18
14095985_1173899042674391_2115428275252904507_n
So many things changed but I’m glad that some didn’t

2. The new place to be. As I mentioned last year, I was a proud resident of Hermosa. However, this year, a new residence was opened and in need of second years. The secondies in my former residence played a crucial role in my UWC experience, so I wanted my baby firsties to have some mentorship and together with my German roommate Ann-Katrin, we became the second years (and queens) of Cabo Blanco. I’m also the residence’s RA, Residant Assistant who’s there for peer support, knowing school rules, first aid, and to perform other undefined duties (I’ve been asked to hang a hook in the middle of the night), so it’s been a wonderful journey teaching me about boundaries and responsibility. It’s been hard to have privacy while your job implies that your doors are always open. But I’m learning to be vulnerable while helping others, a slow but steady improvement (also getting better at hanging hooks).

image
My little Cabo Blancitas ❤

3. Eastern Europe best Europe. Hi, my name is Anna and even though I’ve been a tad international for most of my life, I take excessive pride in being from the part of the world known for sincere (grumpy) people and vodka. For geographic and financial reasons (yeah, I just called my school poor – we make up for it in UWC spirit though), UWCCR doesn’t have that many Eastern Europeans: a Ukrainian, a Romanian, a Russian, a Bulgarian, a Serbian, and a Slovakian. But Eastern Europeans love to trash our politics and listen to obscure songs, so family gathering are a must. As we are accepting and in need of people, a Zimbabwean with Polish roots, a very stubborn Fin constantly claiming that Finland is Eastern European, and a Greek guy joined out cohort, making us the most inclusive family on campus. As the Mama (head) of the family, I’ve been trying to organize more events like a traditional dance for UWC Day and family dinners. Sometimes even successfully.

image
The time we publicly embarrassed ourselves by dancing to Moldovan pop
image
Dysfunctional, but still a family

4. Coexistir. Coexist is a very UWC initiative, a group facilitating the practice of religion and spirituality on campus as this aspect of our lives is often times ignored. I’m organizing talks and events related to these topics on campus – for example, we recently brought in a speaker discussing how yoga and Christianity overlap in her daily life. I’ve been questioning my beliefs a lot recently, so I’m educating myself in order to define them instead of letting them define me. To be honest, I’ve been super busy with academics and didn’t do much for Coexist lately, but hey, we took cool promo pictures. By the way, like and support us here.

image
Spirituality is cool (and so is paint)

My tablet has 5% of battery and I wrote up less than 5% of what has happened.. So hasta pronto, part 2 coming soon (for real though!)

Pearson One World 2016

One World Show is a yearly tradition at Pearson College in Canada where all of the students bring the culture and performances of their homelands into one amazing show. A traditional Ukrainian dance is something they perform every single year, regardless of whether there are Ukrainians at Pearson or no. I just wanted to share this amazing show (the dance starts at 44:00) as it’s one of the things that inspired me to apply to UWC.

One World Show es una tradición de Pearson, el colegio en Canada, donde todos los alumnos comparten sus culturas a través de un show multicultural. Un baile tradicional ucraniano es un costumbre del cole y lo hacen cada año incluso los años cuando no tienen alumnos ucranianos. Solamente quise compartir esa mágica y la inspiración de UWC.

 

Oh what a year it has been!

A year ago a very lost Ukrainian girl got her own acceptance letter from Hogwarts. Only this magical mystical place was located in a land that was even father away, in Costa Rica. So she reviewed some Spanish vocabulary, got vaccinated, purchased a one-way ticket, and never looked back. And today, after a year of warmness and craziness in a place so far away from home, she has no words to express her gratitude and love for people who basically made me who I am today, a slightly less lost and a much happier person.

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 10.28.42

El año pasado una ucraniana muy confundida recibió su propia carta de aceptación de Hogwarts. Pero ese lugar mágico estaba más lejos que Hogwarts, en la rica costa de Costa Rica. Ella repasó un poquito de español (debería repasarlo y aprenderlo más jaja), obtuvo vacunas, compró un billete de ida, y nunca se arrepintió de su decisión. Y hoy, después de un año del afecto y de todas locuras, quiere agradecer a todas personas increíbles que me hicieron tan feliz. Pero no puede. Porque no tiene palabras para describir su gratitud.