UWC Thailand is preparing to host the much-anticipated UWC International Congress 2024, in a tranquil nook of Thailand tucked among beautiful flora. As the excitement grows, I had the honour of having a conversation about the significance of this international congress and how the UWC Thailand community is getting ready for the big day with Lural Ramírez, UWC Thailand’s Head of School.
Bringing Perspectives Together
Lural began by emphasising the importance of the UWC International Congress in fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose among the diverse members of the UWC movement. "It's not every day that we are reminded that we are more than the school or college that we are in," Lural remarked. In her opinion, having those times when we come together as a group is crucial because we can't lose sight of the entirety of things. Our Head believes that magic happens when we bring everyone's perspectives together. The power of collective thinking and the exchange of ideas on a global scale is indeed at the heart of the UWC movement. As Lural Ramírez aptly put it, "It's hard for each of us to do that in our own space. But when we broaden that perspective and bring everyone together, that's where the magic really happens."
In taking on the role of host for the International Congress 2024, UWC Thailand embraces the opportunity to celebrate diversity within the UWC movement and beyond. Moving on to the significance of Thailand hosting the Congress, Lural expressed the uniqueness of the opportunity. "It's such a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the newer schools in the movement and what we offer. It's a chance for people to have a personal experience with the newer campuses," Lural explained. In addition, she highlighted the broader global message conveyed by hosting the Congress in Thailand, “Bringing the entire UWC movement to Asia, and Thailand specifically, sends a powerful message about the importance of the UWC movement in the East" commented Lural.
Preparing for the Congress: Turning Challenges into Opportunities
Delving into the preparations, Lural acknowledged the extensive work underway to ensure a seamless experience for attendees. Drawing a relatable analogy, Lural likened the preparations to hosting a big dinner. In the preparation the main objective of the host is thinking a lot about making everyone feel comfortable in Phuket, knowing what to expect, and understanding how they might contribute to the event. When asked about challenges faced during the preparations, Lural touched upon the abstract nature of a Congress, making it challenging for some to grasp its essence. "Helping people understand what a Congress is has been a challenge. It's kind of an abstract concept, so we're working hard to make it concrete," Lural stated. Some of the preparation includes sessions with student ambassadors, information sessions within our school community and many others.
The preparation for the Congress can be overwhelming and there are challenges as mentioned above. However, there is a lot of excitement on the campus which unites the community. Lural expressed excitement about gaining diverse perspectives and feedback from the alumni, emphasising the potential for the UWC Thailand community to benefit greatly from this wealth of experience. As the conversation turned to the role of UWC alumni in the Congress, Lural revealed the significant presence of alumni among the attendees. "There's actually a huge group of alumni coming. What an opportunity to experience a different UWC school or college, even for a short time, and reminisce about those years as a student in the movement." Our Head of School likened that moment to someone coming for dinner: “You know, I think it's just that pressure you feel, like when you have somebody over for dinner and you think ‘I hope they have a great experience in my home, and I hope they enjoy the food that I prepared, and I hope that they feel welcome in my home’. I think this is an opportunity for UWC Thailand to open its campus as a home for everyone.”
Unique Spirit and Community Involvement Ahead of the International Congress
Having such a significant event at UWC is an extraordinary opportunity and each college has its uniqueness which deserves to host an event like that. When asked about what makes UWC Thailand special, Lural succinctly described it in three words: "Mindful, peaceful, global." Explaining further, Lural pointed out the tangible sense of mindfulness on campus and the peaceful, calm environment that offers a space for global impact. Lural also touched upon the advantage of being a through school, emphasising the vibrancy of a mission-aligned community with students from age two to grade 12. Additionally, the beauty of Phuket, the serene campus, and the harmonious coexistence of diverse beliefs in Thai culture were highlighted as unique aspects.
The UWC Thailand community is actively involved in several ways as it gets ready for the International Congress, from the lively celebration of identity on Intercultural Day to the insightful viewpoints of alumni. The dynamic interplay between Intercultural Day and global connections illustrates the UWC movement's expanded and linked principles. Discussing how UWC Thailand is involving its community through Congress, Lural highlighted the importance of pre-Congress activities and the upcoming Intercultural Day. "Intercultural Day is going to be huge, and I hope our community brings their enthusiasm. It's an opportunity to celebrate identity and create meaningful connections," Lural said. Looking at the broader impact on UWC Thailand, Lural emphasised the opportunity to build personal connections and networks with accomplished individuals attending Congress. "What an opportunity to build our UWC Thailand community network and develop personal relationships with these amazing people. I hope our community takes advantage of that."
In closing, Lural shared a message for those planning to join Congress at UWC Thailand. "Come prepared to enjoy the nature of Phuket, engage in outdoor activities, experience Thailand authentically, and most importantly, be ready to have fun, be inspired, and feel the belonging that is a core element of the UWC movement and UWC Thailand." As UWC Thailand eagerly awaits the global community on its shores, the anticipation for the International Congress 2024 is palpable. With a commitment to mindfulness, peace, and a global perspective, UWC Thailand is set to offer an unforgettable experience that transcends borders and fosters meaningful connections among the diverse members of the UWC movement.