David Leye

I often find myself still asking that fundamental question: How can I make a difference?

David is Senegalese and attended UWC Atlantic College. He studied English Literature and Civilization at Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal and studied further at Leeds University, England, obtaining a postgraduate diploma in Conference Interpreting in 2007. He currently lives in Dakar, Senegal, and is a Conference Interpreter and the manager of a translation agency.

How did you hear about UWC?
I first heard about UWC during my time at secondary school, Lycée Charles de Gaulle in Saint Louis. A student a year older than me was selected for Pearson College so I investigated UWC and decided to apply.

How did your UWC experience differ from your earlier schooling?
In every way; I was previously schooled in French, so having all my lectures in English was challenging. Being able to choose my own subjects and having such small class sizes was also new to me. The social work, outdoor pursuits and aesthetic activities were new components for me that made it unlike the typical lycée, which is more rigid in terms of subjects and learning methods.

What impact do you believe UWC has had on your life?
Living and studying with students from such a wide variety of backgrounds prepared me for overcoming ethnic, racial and language barriers, as well as social barriers, because oddly enough, you don’t see those barriers. Also, it has made me feel that there’s more to life than earning plenty of money and being successful. I feel concerned about other human beings and people around me. I guess these were traits of my personality before I got to Atlantic College, but they got strengthened and more channelled while being there. Today, while pursuing my career and looking after my family, I often find myself still asking that fundamental question: How can I make a difference?

How has UWC affected your career choices?
Being fluent in English after the IB certainly made it easier to graduate in English, and later in Translation and Interpreting. Oddly enough, English fluency was quite a big factor in deciding to apply to UWC. I have taught French to university students in the UK and am now an interpreter. In these two professions, you have to show strong communication and innovation skills, as well as being open-minded, as you are constantly learning (from your students or from your assignments).

What is your involvement in the UWC movement/other voluntary organisations?
I didn’t get involved in the UWC movement for a long time after I graduated, as I spent ten years abroad. But while I was in the UK in the 90's, I went back to Atlantic College (six years after graduating) to give a talk to students about the interrelation between literature and politics in Africa, a topic I was researching at Exeter University. The students showed passion and optimism, a positive and committed outlook on life, something I hadn’t seen for a long time anywhere else.

After I returned to Senegal in 1999, I accidentally bumped into the National Committee Secretary/Treasurer (Farba Seck) who informed me of a gathering with Senegalese alumni and recently selected students. I attended and was thrilled to see that the selection process in Senegal was alive and well, and that students did so well both in the IB and at university. I immediately decided to get further involved. I attended the 2004 Africa Region Meeting and have taken part in the selection process ever since.

I have made several donations to the National Committee, in my own name and through my company.

I’m also a member of Babels, a network of voluntary conference interpreters who cover social events, such as the World Social Forum.

Published 21 March 2011

David Leye
UWC Atlantic College