My name is Marco Valsania, and I’m a Grieg Foundation Scholar. I was raised in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, although my family was always scattered over different places like Chile, Italy, Germany, and Austria. As a young kid, I always dreamed about visiting all of them and exploring new horizons. Still, the high costs of traveling abroad were always a barrier, and opportunities for Bolivian students to go overseas were barely any. One day I heard about UWC by chance, but I did not pay much attention to it, as I assumed it was just another costly exchange program. But the more I got to know about it, the more I realized it was something more, something special, a place where financial barriers were no longer an impediment to receiving a good education.
At the moment, I could not understand it. Why would anyone believe in Bolivian students just like that? Why would anyone invest so much in us? How is it possible that more people did not know about this? I was skeptical initially, but my desire to believe in it was bigger, and I decided to start my application.
A couple of restless nights after I was invited for an interview. At that time, I was enrolled in the Bolivian mandatory military service, and getting permission to attend the interviews was rather complicated. I met extremely talented, driven, and resilient youth from all over Bolivia during the selection process. It was motivating to know that there were more people actively trying to create a change out there. Still, it was also saddening to realize the limited spots available for Bolivian students to amplify their views abroad.
One day “the call” finally arrived. I was selected to go to UWC Costa Rica with a full scholarship thanks to the Grieg Foundation. From that particular moment, my life had been changed forever. For the following years in UWC Costa Rica, I became convinced of the transformational power of education. I explored the world of Economics, Global Politics, Physics, Social Entrepreneurship, Community Service, and the untameable International Baccalaureate.
I have no words to describe how grateful I am with the Grieg Foundation and those who allow UWC to exist. As they not only opened many doors for me but also motivated me to cross them. They inspired me to start the social start-up, “Barbijos para la Nación,” mentor young students looking for scholarships at “Tu Beca Bolivia,” work as an IB tutor at “Lanterna Education,” participate from the “Global Citizen Academy,” do a summer course at “Yale”, and continue my studies with a full-ride scholarship at “Claremont McKenna College” in California. Although UWC was not the easy path to take, I can look back now and be sure that it was undoubtedly the right one.
Those two same years also shaped my understanding of the world and cultures around me and made me aware of the immediate need for action and change. As a result, I now understand that It was never an investment in the education of just a couple of Bolivian students but also an investment in the sustainable development of our communities, countries, and ultimately, the world. And for this, I will be forever grateful and work hard to make sure that other Bolivian students can have the same educational opportunities as I had.
- Marco Valsania B.