enior year is not shaping up exactly the way Evelyn Hudson had planned. She’ll be attending classes somewhere besides Marshall County High School.
But this is not your usual changing-schools scenario. She will be transferring to United World College of the Adriatic in the village of Duino, not far from the city of Trieste in northeastern Italy.
Hudson, daughter of Rocky and Mary Beth Hudson of the Fairdealing community, is one of three American students selected this year to attend one of 13 UWC schools on five continents around the globe. She will attend UWC Adriatic for two years, and will finish with an International Baccalaureate diploma.
“The rest of the world does high school differently from the United States. It’s mainly on an age basis,” Hudson said, explaining why it will take two years for her to finish UWC instead of the one year she would attend at MCHS before graduating.
Hudson says she is the youngest one in her class at Marshall County. “I’ll actually be the same age as a lot of people there,” she said.
During her junior year, Hudson received a letter inviting her to apply to the school. UWC was unfamiliar to her and to the teachers she went to for advice. But they told her to apply, and see what she could find out about the program, she said.
UWC, she learned, was established in 1962 in South Wales, Great Britain. The Times of London hailed the school as “the most exciting experiment in education since the Second World War.”
Founded in the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis, UWC was established “with the vision of bringing together young people whose experience was of the political conflict of the Cold War era, offering an educational experience based on shared learning, collaboration and understanding so that the students would act as champions of peace,” according to a school statement.
That mission has been expanded “to embrace the tensions and conflicts that exist within as well as between societies.”
Each UWC school has a specific focus, and at Adriatic, the emphasis is on environmental and humanitarian concerns.
That appeals to Hudson.
“It’s one thing to say, ‘OK, you’re sitting over there and I respect you and I’m not going to infringe upon you,’” she said. “It’s another thing to say, ‘Hey, you’re sitting over there, and I for some reason am drawn to you. I have an undying passion for you because you are human and I want to know about you, so I can help you and you can help me and we can be friends.’
“I’m OK with that. It’s part of my Christian mission and it’s part of my human mission, to love everybody, so this school is gonna be really cool for me.”
Hudson’s parents, like their daughter, learned about UWC as Evelyn pursued the application. She completed an online application, and later was invited to interview. The family traveled to Gainesville, Fla., for that session.
The process consisted of one-on-one meetings plus group sessions involving all 12 candidates.
“There were some UWC alumni there and they were just playing games – icebreaker games, is what teachers call them sometimes. I didn’t know it, but they were part of the interview as well, so they had to write down the things that they observed.”
While that was going on, she said, the parents were being briefed.
“My dad went into it not really knowing if I should go, and he came out of it saying, ‘If you get this, I’m way OK with it.’”
Hudson, a professor at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah and chairman of the Marshall County Board of Education, confirmed that.
“We spent an hour with prior UWC students, international students who were attending the University of Florida on scholarship,” he said. “When they explained about the students’ experiences and the scholarship opportunities, it really sold me on it.”
UWC Adriatic is located at a meeting point of the Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures. Students live in one of six residences located throughout the village. Teachers live in the village as well and act as personal and residence tutors.
All students will study Italian, to facilitate their co-curricular activities in the community in which they will be living and studying.
But classes will be conducted in English.
That’s a bit of a relief to Hudson, who did not take a foreign language in high school because of her heavy load of Advanced Placement classes.
She did study Spanish in earlier grades, and is boning up on Italian through a Rosetta Stone course.
She admits to being overwhelmed by her selection.
“It’s a huge deal in my mind,” Hudson said. “I still don’t know how exactly how I got it. Because it’s full scholarship for everybody, they don’t have to base anything economically... It’s entirely merit based. In my interviews, there were some wonderful, wonderful contenders that were better than me in so many ways. It’s been such a blessing that I have gotten in.”
She will be leaving a year ahead of the normal routine for many American families who send their children off to college after high school graduation. Mary Beth Hudson is acutely aware of that.
“My first reaction – Oh, gosh – my daughter’s going halfway around the world!” she said. “When I saw the email, I broke out in tears. This is a year early.”
In exchange for the unique experience, Evelyn will forfeit some things. She had been chosen Student Council president and would have been a captain of the MCHS swim team. She will miss the traditional prom, homecoming and graduation that her classmates will have.
“She would have had a very successful senior year,” her mother said, somewhat wistfully.
However, she has embraced her daughter’s opportunity.
“It would be wrong for us to constrain her,” she said. “I was reminded of how Moses’ mother gave him up. It’s your job as a mother to prepare your children to leave and go to do what they are called to do.”
Evelyn admits to some anxiety, once she had gotten through the whirlwind of getting her visa processed and approved, getting necessary vaccinations, getting final transcripts together and other duties. But she is looking forward to going to Italy next month.
Her mother will accompany her on a flight from Atlanta to Munich, then by train to Trieste, and by car to Dueno.
Evelyn, sounding very much like a typical American teen-ager, explained, “My mom’s taking me over and we’re gonna have a hum-dinger of a time.”
She’ll celebrate her 17th birthday on the 21st and mother and daughter will leave on the 25th.
The separation from her family will be eased somewhat by various factors. Rocky Hudson noted that they will be able to stay in touch through video calling as well as email and social media and other technological venues.
Evelyn’s mother, who is site manager for the Wacker Chemical facility in Calvert City, travels frequently to Germany, where the company is headquartered, so she will be able to visit from time to time in conjunction with her business travel.
Also, another special person in Evelyn’s life, her grandmother, plans to stay in contact.
“I’ve got my passport and I’m going over there to see her at some point,” June Hudson said.
Where this change in her life plan will take her, Evelyn does not know. Possibilities on her radar screen include law, teaching, politics, but above all, family.
“That’s my biggest goal – to become a grandma,” she said. “So long as I can change someone’s life, touch someone, as long as I’m a grandma someday.
“I want to have a family. Family is good, and it’s kind of important to continuing the human race, and I think that’s kind of important.
“Being a woman, to me, it’s important to still have that sense. I want a family, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I want to have a job, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I want to have a husband, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Next stop on the journey: Duino, Italy.