Alumni Feature: Nora (Class of 2018, Myanmar) - UWCISAK JP

Alumni Feature: Nora (Class of 2018, Myanmar)

In this issue of the UWC ISAK Japan newsletter, Dilrabo (Class of 2017, Tajikistan) interviewed alum Nora (Class of 2018, Myanmar). Nora is now in Decorah, Iowa, studying at Luther College and double majoring in International Studies and Women & Gender Studies. She is doing all of this because after her experiences at UWC ISAK Japan, she wanted to be an active global citizen while fulfilling her passion for diplomacy and gender empowerment. Nora mentions her CAS project about gender equality, Project Iridescent, to be a contributing factor towards her choices.

Do you have any specific examples of what you learned at UWC ISAK leading to what you are doing now or planning to do in the future?

This would be the aspect of Leadership and Design Innovation that we learned at UWC ISAK Japan. I end up using a lot of it without even having to think about the process. I have been working on a proposal for the Davis Peace Project and if it gets accepted, I will receive $10,000 to spend on any groups of people for the implementation of peace. I am doing this with another UWC student and we are planning to use it for gender conflicts and mostly immigrants and their needs. This sense that I can go about striving to implement my project comes from all the leadership experiences I had at ISAK. I became very capable at networking, especially with the efforts of Ms. Lin, in bringing so many inspirational people to meet us, as well as my own efforts to reach out to organizations because of CAS. Taking the opportunity to get used to that at UWC ISAK is really beneficial once in college, and I don’t know if people are grateful enough for it.  

Tell us about your musical journey at Luther College and how is it different from when you were doing music at ISAK?

Luther College has rigorous music programs of terrific quality which allows me to continue my passionate endeavors in music while focusing on my majors of International Studies and Women & Gender Studies. I am in the choir, and am wearing my choir attire as of this very moment which says Luther College-Aurora. This is the name of the choir at Luther for the first-year students, and I am singing Soprano 1. I also got to perform with the Jazz ensemble where I sang a solo of Ella Fitzgerald’s “I’m Beginning to See the Light” which you might have seen on Facebook. I am so thankful to receive this opportunity as a first-year as everything is decided through auditions. At ISAK, I initiated my interest in opera where I sang “Time to Say Goodbye” with Yuichiro (Class of 2017, Japan) to congratulate the graduating Class of 2017. When I was applying to the Luther College Weston Noble Music Scholarship, I sang Dido’s “Lament”, the only other classical repertoire I knew, and received the scholarship. However, I am more of a musical and jazzy person and have a very limited background in opera compared to the singers at Luther here. Thus I am getting acquainted with classical music and have been provided voice lessons by Luther to overcome and conquer the challenges.

How has the residential life at UWC ISAK helped with your college life now?

I am so used to the residential life so I find it quite similar to UWC ISAK. I was naturally prepared to share spaces and create bonds with my fellow dorm mates. Sebastian (Class of 2018, India) is also studying at Luther and we are both living in the same dorm, although I am on the west side and he is on the east side. Whenever I need to depend on a friend who is like family, he can come over or I could go to him and we try to support each other. He was one of my best friends since ISAK so having him here feels like I have a piece of the community, reminding me of my life there.

Is there any change in parental perception of you before and after ISAK?

One change my mom has noticed in me has been my perception towards asking for help and making use of opportunities wherever I can. In my country, there is this word anare which means if you ask for too much help, you get worried that you might be taking advantage of others. This could result in being too courteous to the point that you miss out on opportunities or ways for improvement. When I was younger, I was always careful to not ask for too much help, scared of crossing the line created by this belief. At UWC ISAK, you are left to fend for yourself and deal with hardships, so I learned the importance of reaching out and asking for help when needed. With my experiences,  I was able to eliminate the anare culture and efficiently solve conflicts as well as open more doors for myself. I am now even more of a go-getter, a dreamer and a doer, as I help others when I can and ask for help when needed. My mom has been massively supportive of my attitude and thinks it will help me well in all of my future endeavors..

As a member of the first UWC graduating batch at UWC ISAK, what are your thoughts on your experience in building the place?

I was part of the UWC ISAK Japan Opening Ceremony and I got to do a presentation about my country with Iryna (Class of 2019, Ukraine) who was admitted by her country’s National Committee. Although ISAK was very diverse already, it rose to new heights with the involvement of National Committee students the moment it became one of the UWC institutions. I was accepted to ISAK before it was a UWC and actually only got to know it because I was part of the Summer School. Never did I know that I would become part of this massive movement for education and peace. I am so grateful for the tremendous efforts of Ms. Lin in finding us donors and supporters to implement all this. Before being part of the UWC ISAK family, I didn’t even know what IB or UWC was but I actively watched as it slowly came into form and learned step by step from people around me, especially the National Committee students who seem to know  all the benefits of what a UWC should be. When I got to experience the benefits for myself, I felt very proud and privileged that I was part of the larger UWC family. Now as an alumni, I do everything in my power to reach out to other UWC graduates in my college and keep pushing myself to find ways to be an effective global citizen.

How would you describe UWC ISAK, and why?

If people really knew me, they would know that butterflies mean so much to me because of what they symbolize. With this in mind, I would love to bring to light that UWC ISAK was like a cocoon for me to grow in so that I can soar like a butterfly as a result of the hardships of the process. UWC ISAK was a place I could call home, and yet it still presented challenges which shaped my values, outlook on life and hopes and dreams. All of those things, whether they are successes or failures, helped me grow and polished me so that I am who I am now. The faculty and staff truly seemed like they wanted the best for me as much as I wanted it for myself. I am proud to say that now I am spreading my wings and chasing after who I want to be as I look back fondly on my memories at ISAK.

What is something you want the larger UWC ISAK community to know?

Make the most of what is given to you! It will be hard to appreciate and be grateful for the things you have around you while you are all caught up in it. Even then, don’t forget that you have the most amazing resources and opportunities. Remember, you are the one who holds the choice to reach out. I also want to say, although it’s not easy, remain positive because if you work well to find out who you are and who you want to be at UWC ISAK, you will find yourself enjoying life even after it with so many more doors to open and adventures awaiting you.

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