France has been involved in UWC since the movement’s early days. One of the founders of the UWC movement, the late Tony Besse, was French - and a French student was part of the first-ever cohort of UWC students at UWC Atlantic College in 1962.
More recently, over the past 5 years the UWC France National Committee has been sending between 10 and 15 French students to UWC schools and colleges each year, 75% of whom have benefited from a scholarship.
Béatrice Trébaol is the parent of a UWC Costa Rica alum, and has held the position of Chair of UWC France for two years. She and her husband, who serves as the national committee’s Treasurer, “inherited a very well-organised association” when they came on board to lead the non-profit, with approximately 200 UWC alumni and 200 parents on record: “a solid background to build on.” Eight people serve on the board of UWC France, and these core members are supported by several alumni and parents during the annual student selection process: 15 participate in the selection jury, and many more take part in the selection and induction weekends.
“Yet, a large progress margin still lies ahead of us!” says Béatrice. The committee faces challenges, especially in financing and outreach across the country. Their first issue, explains Béatrice, is the committee’s low number of applicants. “Since the French education system is free and well-functioning, few students look for alternatives. When they do, they often face difficulties convincing their parents since a UWC education can be very costly and it is considered risky to leave the French system. This is why we do not get high numbers of applicants, although it is starting to rise.” UWC France received 70 applications in 2018, up 50% from the previous year - and the committee is working toward a target of 100 applicants next year.
Béatrice says that like many non-profit organisations, UWC France struggles with funding. “This year,” she says, “despite having great candidates, we had to refuse four spots because of our lack of funds to finance them. We still have a lot to do to solve this, especially since charity is not as widespread in France as it may be in other Anglo-Saxon cultures - and we have hope that we will find our Shelby Davis!”
Despite how time-consuming being Chair of a UWC national committee can be, Béatrice says that it is a highly rewarding experience, which requires her to “fully embrace and represent UWC’s mission and values.” Her involvement with UWC has broadened the way she sees the world, and profoundly impacted the way she thinks. It also allows her to meet people from very diverse backgrounds, which, herself not being a UWC alum, is especially meaningful to her.
Béatrice recounts speaking with a French first year student at UWC-USA, who told her that despite it being challenging at the beginning, considering she comes from a small village and is a little introverted, UWC had become the pillar of her identity. “This is something one does not hear every day,” says Béatrice - “and makes my work for UWC immensely rewarding!”
Learn more about UWC France here.