I believe that a UWC education is the best thing that can happen to young people and that UWC is still at the forefront of international education.
Christian Hodeige (PC 75-77) former UWC International Board Chair, is currently Chief Executive Officer and owner of the family run Rombach Publishing Group and CEO of several other printing companies. Since 1988, he has been Publisher and Editor of Badische Zeitung, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 200,000.
Outside UWC, Christian’s great passion is music: he is a member and former President of the Freiburger JazzHaus e.V. and a regular columnist on jazz, rhythm & blues and soul music. Christian first joined the German National Committee in 1986, chairing this very active committee since 1992. A member of the International Board from 1996, Christian was the first graduate to be appointed to the role of Chair in 1999, a position he filled until 2005. Christian founded the German Trust Fund UWC and is still an active member of the German National Committee. Since stepping down as Chairman of UWC International Board Christian has turned his attention to his local community and is a member of the Board of Trustees as the Max Planck Gesellschaft, Freiburg and Head Curator of the Augustinermuseum Freiburg, a position appointed by the Mayor of Freiburg.
“My parents heard about UWC through friends who had a son at Atlantic College. UWC had had a very positive effect on their son, he was doing incredibly well and they were very enthusiastic about it. My parents were also very inspired by the teaching of Kurt Hahn in German schools and what he had done in Britain. Kurt Hahn’s holistic approach to education – that it is not just about purely academics and the notion of giving something back was powerful. Kurt Hahn had and still to this day has a huge reputation, and together with the fact that he was born in my province Baden-Wurttemburg all helped in support of me going to UWC.
“Although I was active in my school with politics – I won an election by promising more holidays – music, drama, and art and had a good group of friends, I wanted to experience other things. I felt that there was so much more that I wanted to explore and do and learn and see. So I applied to Atlantic College, but during the application process I heard about a brand new college that wasn’t even open yet in Canada.
"Compared with my education to date, my UWC experience was as if I had been flown to the moon. It was a totally different world. At home you had the odd five or six people that you really wanted to meet, to talk to, and spend your time with. Well arriving at UWC in that first week, you found that virtually everyone was one of these really exciting people and there were only 24 hours to do everything, so we slept very little. Everyone was talking, sharing each others’ stories, it was mind-boggling. The really curious thing is that the concept of nationality does not play any role in your life until you are outside of your own country. Obviously no-one in Germany is very concerned with what it is to be German. Then you arrive at the college and no one can remember anyone’s names, but people can remember that you are German and so for the first time in your life you have to start reflecting on what it is that makes you German and in one way you are so similar to these other kids but yet you have these distinctive things that everyone identifies with. So being German is much more a reflection of others’ views which is that you are very punctual, you are very efficient, speak a very strange language and everybody marches around. It is very odd the ideas that people have about your home country, some of which are true, but a lot is not.
"I had always thought that I would go into medicine, a lot of my family are medics but at Pearson College, my economics teacher really impressed me and I ended up studying at the London School of Economics. It just shows you the impact good teachers have.
"Certainly the idea of people being able to live together from totally different backgrounds and upbringings, religious, ethnic and political histories really blew my mind. One of the biggest gifts from UWC, is the knowledge that multi-cultural living works and I am able to counter people who say that if we must live in conflict that we must segregate each other. I think this knowledge, no matter how hard it was or how strenuous it was at the time, stays with you.
"My favourite times at College were the village meetings and the theory of knowledge courses. At the village meetings, all teachers, all students, all staff could have their view. There was a lot of healthy debate, which created a very free and incredibly encouraging environment. Obviously these are both aside from the one thing that has had the most intense impact – the very personal talks and relationships you have. I remember sitting at college with a girl from Israel and she turns to me and said, ‘well I like you very much but I am not sure that I should fall in love with you because you are German. What your country has done, possibly your parents and your grandparents’. And you sit there and you hug and discuss politics in a very concrete and almost absurd way – why should that hinder a relationship and yet it does. If that girl had written that she was seeing a German in a letter back home, her parents would probably have pulled her out and brought her home immediately. So this is what you learn at college and how absurd all these conflicts really are when it comes down to personal relationships.
"I believe that a UWC education is the best thing that can happen to young people and that UWC is still at the forefront of international education. One of our biggest assets is our 124 national committees who select the students. There is no other organisation in the world which has this kind of volunteer input in such an organised fashion and this truly sets UWC apart from the other schools".