At UWC we were encouraged to analyse information, to question everyone, it was very open in terms of how we were expected to think and see the world.
Hugo Contreras (USA 85-87) is the Marketing and Institutional Relations Director at Bal-Ondeo. Working at the most important private water utility in Mexico Hugo is responsible for identifying and developing new projects, and to manage the firm´s relations with key stakeholders including governments, NGOs, clients and academia.
Hugo was born in Mexico City and pursued a BA in Economics at ITAM (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México) following his graduation from UWC. Hugo was awarded a scholarship from the British Council to study a MSc in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics at University College London. On his return from London Hugo started a career in the public service with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in Mexico where he was responsible for the design of public policy in the areas of forestry, climate change, air pollution and natural disasters. Hugo spent six years in the Ministry and reached Chief of Staff for the Under-ministry for Planning before joining a consulting firm specializing in public policy.
“UWC changed my life because it actually made me believe that I could do anything I wanted. Out in the real world it was a little bit different but I learnt to trust my ability and a self confidence developed. I analyse things more and see them from a variety of perspectives. I now take an analytical approach to everything I do. This approach was a big part of my UWC experience and I learnt a lot as a result” says Hugo.
“UWC was a great opportunity that I grabbed as soon as I heard about it. My geography teacher mentioned the possibility of a scholarship to Canada during class and I believe I was the only one who stepped forward to get more information. At that time I wanted to have an international experience and study abroad. When I was younger I had spoken to my parents about my dream of studying and living abroad for a short while.
“UWC suited me. I was given responsibilities that I was never given in terms of finding solutions to my academic problems. In my old school we were expected to learn by memory, there was no motivation to really think and ask questions. It was old fashioned with discipline being almost the most important element. At UWC we were encouraged to analyse information, to question everyone, it was very open in terms of how we were expected to think and see the world.
“One of my fondest memories from my time at UWC happened on my first day. We were at airport, it was raining and I was helping with luggage, trying to load it all into the bus that would take us to school. One guy joined the group and just threw his bag at me in a very arrogant attitude. I was shocked – he could see I was struggling to get luggage in car but he seemed more concerned about getting out of the rain. Later we became very good friends and it is still a joke between us now.
“One of the most important things that come out of living in a very intense situation for two years of your life are friendships. We don’t communicate very often, and see each other even less, but when we do catch up, there is a real intimate bond that never seems to go away. There is a link that is very valuable. It is not just being there for two years; it is the whole way that UWC makes you live. I have not experienced this since, despite living away for two years to do my Masters and none of my friends and colleagues seemed to experience it with their tertiary education either. At College we became true to ourselves. It was the mixture of it being the right time, when we are more impressionable and also how we lived, how UWC is structured. It is so much more then the academic programme, which for me accounts for only 30% of my UWC experience. At UWC you are encouraged to try things that you think you won’t like or don’t want to try and you find you enjoy them. This environment makes you take chances, and take responsibility for your choices”.