Abbey Christ-Rowling has no idea who she will be when she returns from Swaziland.
The 17-year-old Royal Bay Secondary School student is about to embark on what many would characterize as the adventure of a lifetime, but for Christ-Rowling, it’s a natural thing to do and completely in line with her own world view.
It’s also only the begining of her life adventure. “I really don’t know how this will change me. All I know is that I have so many different interests – places I want to see and things I want to do. I want my eyes opened to the opportunities out there,” Christ-Rowling said.
“This is an amazing educational experience and sort of marks the beginning of the life I’ve always imagined.”
Christ-Rowling’s adventure began last year when, after spending a month at the United World College at Pearson College, she emerged determined to seek admission to a United World College somewhere in the world.
Her first choices would have been Norway or Italy but, after an eight-month selection process and being selected for an interview by the national committee in Canada, she participated in an interview with the organization.
It was soon determined that her character and sense of adventure made her qualified to attend school at a far more exotic location than the choices she’d first listed.
“I’ll be going to Waterford Kamhlaba in Swaziland, a school under the umbrella of United World Colleges, South Africa. It’s rated as one of the best schools in all of Africa, so I’m very excited to have been given the opportunity,” Christ-Rowling said.
Her two years at the school will be a part of the international baccalaureate (IB) program, a program designed to develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills needed in an increasingly globalized world. She’ll emerge with her high school certificate as well as credits toward any post-secondary schools she may attend in the future.
Christ-Rowling is aware that the cultural shift involved in living in a country that is one of the last monarchies and where primary elections occur at the chiefdom level will be substantial. It is also a country with the highest rate of HIV infection in the world (64 per cent of all deaths in the country are caused by AIDS), and one that has had a history of protests and the call for political reforms.
“I’m aware that there are some security issues, but the school has a really good reputation where security is involved and, honestly, there are risks everywhere. It’s all part of the education; I’m sure my eyes are going to be opened to a lot of things,” she said.
Christ-Rowling comes by her sense of adventure honestly.
Her mother Danya, received some of her own education as an exchange student in Denmark, some 30 years ago, and her brother Lucas, just returned to attend the University of Victoria after a year at a school in Colombia.
“I’ll confess that a part of me is a bit concerned. It’s a very different culture there and it’s so very far away, but I also know that there is no holding this girl back,” Danya said.
“The national committee saw that and felt confident sending her to Swaziland. I won’t stand in her way.”
There was one issue that might have made Christ-Rowling’s dreams difficult to achieve was the tuition and expenses of the learning experience, for which she was personally responsible.
That issue, however, was unexpectedly resolved.
“I was working and saving, trying to earn enough to pay for the first semester when I was told that I had a sponsor,” Christ-Rowling explained.
“An anonymous sponsor came forward and donated enough money for my entire first year – $25,000. No one knows who it was, and I am so grateful for the help. Hopefully, one day in the future, I can do the same for another student.”
That future is still unwritten, but Christ-Rowling said she has an interest in social development issues and human rights, as well as law.
“I’m not certain what I’ll end up doing, but I know this experience will help show me options that I’ve never even considered in the past.”