A former UWC Atlantic student tells us the secrets of Leonor’s new school

Is named Marina Conde and their military-style jackets have conquered Spanish ‘influencers’ and hundreds of women, men and even children, for their originality. The founder of La Condesa He owes part of his triumph to the creative education he received at UWC Atlantic College, a school that this week has been on everyone’s lips after the Kings have chosen it for Leonor to attend an international baccalaureate there.

Marina, a student at this center located in Wales between 1995 and 1997, studied there thanks to a scholarship and, as she relates to Vanitatis, lived some of the “best experiences of my life”. We have talked with her so that she can tell us more details about the day to day that the heir to the Spanish throne will face after the summer and some curiosities of this boarding school.

QUESTION. What is the selection process like to enter the UWC Atlantic College?

ANSWER. You can only go to that school if you pass the selection process, and once you pass it you can be awarded a scholarship or pay the amount, as in the case of Leonor. The selection process is carried out by different foundations in each country. It is a very tough and demanding process. The first filter is the notes. You have to send your academic record and they take it into account. Once you pass that filter, there is a standard application in which they ask you several questions that you have to develop as essays, in the Anglo-Saxon style.

Q. What do you look for in students?

R. They are looking for special people, who have concerns, who culturally not only settle for going to high school. People who do extracurricular activities, who are involved in social causes. All that you have to dump in the application. They ask you things like: “How do you see the world?” What social problems do you worry about the most? What do you do to solve them? Are you involved in making the world a better place? ” Of the common, they look for different profiles on a social level. It is useless for you to be the typical student with excellent grades if then you only limit yourself to going to high school and you have nothing else, because it is not a place you go to be a bridge to American universities They want it to be truly a place of understanding, of coexistence of cultures.

Q. What happens after the request?

R. There is a third phase, the hardest of all. The fifty best applications are selected for tests and interviews in Madrid. I do not know this year with the covid how it will have been done. In my time you spent a weekend doing tremendous tests, personal interviews with highly trained adults, with literature specialists, with people who, with your request in front of them, start asking you about you, they put you a bit to the test because they want to be sure that you are going to be fine there, that you are going to take advantage of it, that suddenly it is not going to give you homelessness and you are going to back down.

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An act of the UWC. (Courtesy Marina Conde)

Q. And do parents have a role in this process?

R. None. Parents do not interfere and are asked not to. In interviews your parents accompany you, but it is very frowned upon that someone has helped you write your application. And that’s what they are looking for in interviews, to see if you have really done it or if someone has done it for you.

Q. How do you remember the first day?

R. Everyone arrives in two days. They pick you up with a bus at Heathrow or Gatwick airports and take you there. I remember getting off the bus and freaking out in colors because the second year are going to receive you. Suddenly you arrive at a beautiful place, a medieval castle, with a lot of people from different countries speaking English to you. The new ones are a bit disoriented, but right away they take you home.

Q. How is the organization by houses?

R. There are different houses and each one has a name, which is given by the surname of the teacher who is in charge and who lives there with his partner and family. The students do not live alone, because they are minors, and each house has a little house attached to it in which the teacher lives. They are your tutors, the ones who take care of you on a personal level, they care that you are well, that you feel comfortable, that you do not have a homeless attack. They are a bit your adoptive parents.

The curiosities of the castle where Leonor will study (and they are not a princess story)

Maite Torrente

Q. And the rooms?

R. All rooms are for four people and are not mixed. There are boys and girls in the same house, but at bedtime they are in different wings. And they do not have a lock on the doors, so anyone can enter at any time; They usually call, but you can’t lock yourself in your room.

Q. Is the student the one in charge of cleaning?

A. Yes, there is no cleaning service in the rooms. Obviously yes in the common areas. But in your room you have to clean yourself and nobody makes your bed. If you do not do several days, your tutor comes and gives you a touch. Independence is promoted 100% there. You don’t have anyone to do things for you.

P. And the subject of food?

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A. In the main castle is the general dining room and there eats everyone, students and teachers. There is breakfast, lunch and dinner. And then each house has a tiny kitchen, like an ‘office’, in case later at night you want to make a glass of milk with cookies.

The dinner room. (Courtesy Marina Conde)

Q. What time did the activity start and end?

A. It started very early. I think the first class was at 8 in the morning, so breakfast was from 06:45 to 7:30. They are very strict with the schedules. At 10:15 p.m. you had to be at home and at that time there was a meeting every day with the tutors in the classroom, they would pass roll call to see that we were all there and a summary of the day was made. From that time on, you couldn’t leave the house with some exceptions, as if you had left a book in the library and then the tutor gave you permission, but you had to run back. You cannot camp on your own terms.

Q. Are extracurricular activities very important?

A. Yes. You chose the subjects, which were three main and three secondary, which you chose based on what you wanted to study later, and then the extracurricular ones that were compulsory, in addition to a service to the community.

Q. What is community service?

A. You had different options to choose how to contribute your help. There were pool and beach lifeguards, they trained you and gave you the title, and when summer came you would patrol, checking that everything was going well; You could also be a coast guard, you got the title and with the main boat you went sailing in case there were incidents or a boat had problems. Another service was the care of the elderly and children in the area. You did activities with the nursing home and schools for children with needs.

Q. What about the weekends?

A. The weekends are at school. Normally you don’t go out, to go out you need the permission of the school tutor. If you went out it was like something exceptional, because your family came …

Photo: Princess Leonor, in Asturias.  (Limited Pictures)
The Welsh Boarding School Welcome Message to Princess Eleanor


Q. Is it customary for parents to go?

A. No. In fact, no one can stay at school, no one can sleep there. My parents only came once in the two courses because in the end the academic pace is very demanding and you don’t have much time between the three main subjects, the secondary ones, the extracurricular ones and the community service. If your parents or someone came to see you, you had to break your routine and you could stay behind. Being with the family is quite limited to holidays like Christmas, and there are hardly ever visitors inside the school.

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P. Do you remember the exams very hard?

A. Yes, horrible. For me it was a radical change because the way of studying is very different. Here we are more used to being given an agenda, you learn it by heart, go to the exam, drop it and that’s it. Not there, what they value is how you think, how you debate, how you turn it around, how you do not allow yourself to be convinced by the first thing they tell you. In the Spanish literature course, for example, you had to read the great classics and write essays. I remember having to read ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ and write an essay about the book, and that you can’t memorize or copy. And the same in mathematics. They didn’t give you a problem done in class. They are very demanding and want you to think.

P. How do you handle the issue of having students known or with wealthy parents?

R. There are no contemplations for who you are. They do not care. All are equal. There it is very frowned upon for you to show off who you are. It’s called ‘ostentatious display of well’. And it is very frowned upon that you brag about money or anything. The ‘low profile’ is what it takes.

P. And the companions?

R. It is the great wonder of that school. In the end, having all gone through the same selection process, we look a bit alike. We are different but we have the same character. I made the people who changed my life and the best friends at that school. The type of people I met there has been hard for me to find in my day to day life, because they are special people, not because of wealth or anything, but because of how they think. All creativity, all reading. Very restless people.

P. So, do you think the Kings have chosen well?

R. I think so, and she speaks highly of them because they could have taken her to any super-elite and exclusive boarding school in Switzerland, with millionaires, and had all the comforts there. But not. There it will not be between cottons. Above all, it shows that the Kings have the intention of sowing in the head of Leonor all the concerns that you can imagine that there are in the world, because you are living with people from all countries. Suddenly an activity is a debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict, you have Palestinian students and Israeli students there and they tell you in the first person what it is like. And so you have a knowledge of the world so close that it is impressive.

The main street that connects the student houses with the castle. (Courtesy Marina Conde)

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