Check out my new blog!

Now that this chapter in my life has come to a close I have started a new blog. This blog will follow my future adventures in New York, South Africa, London, Shanghai and wherever my travels take me, primarily through the lens of a camera. To see where I go next, subscribe to my new blog:

Kempis photography

Thank you.


Dear Zeri,

Yes, class of 2018, this is addressed to you.

In about seven days time ninety teenagers, from almost as many countries, will be boarding planes, trains and buses that will inevitably bring them all to the small piazza of Duino. This year, you’ll be one of them. No one can tell you what you should be feeling right now, just as no one can predict what this experience will hold for you or how packed your suitcase should be at this point. As a third year my story in Duino is over, just like you I’ll be starting my life over in New York in just a few days time, I can walk away knowing that I leave the town in the capable hands on my primi however I can’t quite avoid the temptation to impart a few last pieces of advice before I completely step back and hand my home over to the next generation.

  1. First impressions are everything and the most important ones will be your teachers. Your teachers can make or break the next two years, especially your personal tutor, Mike and Lodewijk. Earn their respect early on and your life will be a thousand times easier, get off on the wrong foot? It’s almost impossible to undo.
  2. Respect the Duino locals, the school counts on the municipal’s support and co-operation to stay open so staying on their good side is imperative. More importantly, this is their home and ultimately you are a guest in this town. A simple “Buon Giorno” or even just a smile as you walk past them in the street makes all the difference.
  3. Try everything. Jump off the cliff at Porto, go on a spontaneous hike in Carso, climb to Fore beach; there will be moments when someone invites you to do beautiful things like these, other times it will be as simple as an invitation for tea in their room, a gelato in Tuttidi or a coffee at Al Castel – accepting these invitations is your surest chance of making friends and making the most out of the Duino experience. Also, it’s important to realise that if someone is making the effort to invite you it’s because they genuinely want to get to know you better.
  4. Be kind to your secondi. Everyone’s experience with their second years is different, it can range from instantaneous love to prolonged intimidation. What I will say is that your secondi have only been there nine months longer than you, now they’re back in their second home but it’s full of strangers. Third term can be a confusing time, go easy on them and know they are ultimately excited to have you there and want to share this experience with you.
  5. That said, Sometimes your secondi are wrong. Use your best judgement on this, secondi may encourage you to do things that aren’t necessarily in your best interests. Remember that your secondi don’t know everything and make your own choices.
  6. Personal Hygiene is paramount. Simply put you will be sharing a bathroom with up to 20 other people and you will be sharing your room with at least one. Be courteous, be clean, take showers.
  7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help academically. At the beginning of the year all first years take a series of placement tests for English and Maths, my advice is to follow the guidance of your teachers. The IB is a challenging program and there’s no need to go in over your head from the very start. Also if you find the classes you’ve chosen don’t work for you, talk to someone; most likely they’ll help you find a better fit. Lastly, if you’re struggling in a class, talk to the teacher, they’ll be happy to suggest ways to catch up and help in anyway you can.
  8. Don’t forget that everyone has different english capabilities. Firstly, native english speakers: SLOW DOWN. Many people will not have come from situations where they frequently speak english, make their lives simpler by enunciating your words and simplifying things, at least at first. Secondly, non-native speakers: Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t understand or ask people to repeat something. Everyone comes to Duino to experience different cultures, don’t be ashamed of where you come from or how you speak.
  9. Take time for yourself. Sometimes it can feel as if you have an obligation to constantly be socialising and active, remember that you have the right to your own time and space. So if things get busy or overwhelming, take a nap in your room, go for a walk alone on Rilke, eat a pizza by yourself at Porto. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break from everyone else.
  10. Explore Trieste. Trieste is a beautiful city with many hidden treasures and it is very conveniently accessed from Duino. Grab a second year or local and hop on the 51 bus any afternoon, you’ll never know when you’ll need a good internet cafe or just a decent cheap meal outside of Duino.
  11. Actually sleep. Getting sleep in a place like Duino can be tricky, either because it seems like something is always happening you don’t want to miss out on or simply because someone is making too much noise in the corridor. Your peers may give the impression that they never sleep and this means they’re having more fun or getting ahead academically, most likely it’s not true. Getting at least seven hours makes getting up for class much easier and allows you to actually enjoy your day, so don’t be scared of asking the person in the corridor to quiet down a bit. That said, the occasional 2am dayroom conversation is definitely a part of the experience I’ll miss the most.
  12. Speak as much Italian as you can. Speaking Italian can be a daunting task at first but by choosing to at least try and order your coffee from Mickey’s or greet the Mensa ladies in Italian you’ll not only improve your own skills much faster, but also build a much better relationship with some of the people you’ll encounter everyday.

This is a very condensed list butI’ll leave the rest for you to discover on your own. To send you on your way here’s a list of songs that you’ll probably hear a thousand times over in the next two years.

Bella Ciao:

La Canzone del Sole:

Me S’ombriacato:

Bocca di Rosa:

La Bamba:

Cuba Libre:

Roma Bangkok:

Fouri c’è il sole:

House by the Sea:

Rivers and Roads:

Finalmente, i miei zeri, buon coraggio, buona fortuna e buon viaggio:



This Blog

This blog was intended to be updated throughout my time at UWC Adriatic, thus becoming a chronicle of the two years. Unfortunately, due to neglect I failed to do this. Now, I’ve put up some final reflections and information as well as photos and links to videos that I hope will inspire prospective applicants or answer the questions of some zero year, that said if you anyone does have questions or requests feel free to comment on any post and I will get back to you as soon as possible.


Photos from my second year at UWCAD


Photos from my first year at UWCAD


I’ve already written one post by spilling my heart all over the keyboard but I realized that probably didn’t tell the average person what to expect from UWC Adriatic. So this is just bits and pieces of the skeleton of the experience.

The IB

This is the academic program you will be partaking on, you will need to take six subjects including:

  • At least two languages, including one first language and as we are funded by the Italian government you will be required to take Italian as a second language.
  • One humanities subject: History, Philosophy, Economics or World Arts and Cultures
  • One science: chemistry, physics, biology or Environmental Systems
  • Mathematics

The IB is a course which will demand a lot of any student so be prepared to work.


This is another requirement of the IB but also ties into the UWC lifestyle, you will have each of your CAS activities once a week throughout the year

Service – our service differs but mostly involve either visiting the elderly or disabled, some people work in after school study centers as well or other more unique services such as sorting donations and delivering them to refugee centers or giving guided tours of art museums.

Action – We have a large variety of sports you can choose from ranging from out door climbing to sailing and kayaking or Karate to Ultimate Frisbee, you’re guaranteed to find something you’ll enjoy.

Creativity – Again quite a lot to choose from here, for example yearbook, photography, current affairs, MUN, Patchwork, Film Club, a large variety of musical options and many more

Peace One Day

 At Adriatic we not only celebrate Peace One Day itself but also “UWC Day”, typically this is celebrated by a performance in Trieste or Udine, there will also most likely be some kind of workshops or excursions, for instance debates and hikes to see the trenches in the surrounding hills

Project Week

 A week long service project organized by students during which the entire college goes on different projects around Europe, in my two years I went to Svalbard, Norway to study the impact of global warming and Rome to work with the homeless and refugees.


We have 7 residences in Duino dispersed throughout the town, it’s important to note that we have not set or closed campus but rather the campus is made up of dispersed buildings and residences throughout the village.

Casa Carsica – a converted house for only 7 students of the same sex, rooms of 2 or 3

Old Offices – home to roughly 15 people of either mixed sex or same sex, rooms of 2 or 3

Foresteria – home to around 45 students, boys and girls, rooms of 2, 3 or 4

Lucchese – home to around 30 students, generally mixed, rooms of 2, 3 or 4

Scholz – home to around 25 students of the same sex, rooms of 3 or 4

Pala – houses around 50 students, boys and girls, rooms of 2 or 3

Ples – house roughly 25 students, generally girls, rooms of 2 or 3

*no you will not live in a castle*


Cernizza – A small secluded beach

Porto – The main “port” of Duino where you can swim and sunbathe

Carso – The hills surrounding Duino

Tuttidi – A small local store, gelateria and pizzeria

Bowling – A bowling alley, game arcade, bar and pizzeria

Rilke Path – A path along the karst cliffs made famous by the poet Rilke

Osmizza – You’ll hear and read about this but it’s something that can be     experienced much better than explained

Mickey’s and Al Castel – Two popular local bars

Mensa – The cafeteria or canteen

Other places: Auditorium, Music School, Admin Building and Library, School Buidling, Mirror room – these are fairly self explanatory


 Some of the cool things you’ll get to experience:

  • EE friends, Winter Friends, IB Friends
  • EE show and IB show
  • Cultural Weeks: Italian, Afribbean, Middle Eastern – Asian, Occidental, Eastern European, Latino
  • Leaver’s Dinner and Prom
  • Osmizza
  • Holi


When I wrote the first post on this blog almost two years ago I envisioned creating a page where prospective students could come and find answers to practical as well as more personal worries or simply be inspired to apply by photos I would post. I never imagined that I would encounter foes such as Sonicwall, IAs, the SATs or simply spritz and overly tempting company that would lead me to forget that this page ever even existed.

As I sit here now attempting to write a conclusion to a blog with no content, I cannot begin to fathom where I should start. How to capture the whirlwind of redefining myself and my values, while simultaneously learning to love so deeply and unconditionally, that was my first year as memories of those months are eclipsed by lessons I learnt in my second year of the value of solitude and prioritizing others over yourself.

I got on a plane in Hong Kong in the August of 2014 expecting to live out a Disney Channel Original movie, one filled with cheesy moments, laughter, music and love. While I can hardly say I wrote a fairy tale, I can say that I did experience every single one of those things as well as so much more and it would be naïve to look back on these two years and deny the extreme privilege I and all the 270 other students with whom I shared that small Italian village experienced.

Reflecting upon my time at the college the two years seem to stand at such a contrast to each other however some sensations seemed to continuously flood over me throughout. My memories are punctuated by the sunsets shared, the taste of gelato on my tongue, the laughing faces of my friends illuminated by the fire, the slow exhale of smoke with the chill wind of the Adriatic stealing it from my lips, and so many other beautiful impressions that will never cease to flash before my eyes or words that will never stop conjuring endless memories; Osmizza, Cernizza, Porto, Rilke, Mickey’s, Aperol, Mensa, Carso, Al Pescatore, Me S’ombricato, Bella Ciao, San Marco, Capo in B….

Yet inescapably there are also the memories of wiping the tears from my cheeks, moments the cavity in my chest swallowed every ounce of light left inside me and too many days when I felt nothing at all. This was my own personal fight and one most would not experience but for me these were the moments when I figured out that the true privilege of UWC Adriatic was not the beautiful view I woke up to every morning, the songs we sang with our entire bodies after a few too many glasses of vino or even the trips to refugee camps in Slovenia, it was the unconditional compassion shared among a group of strangers. Time and time again my friends picked me up and not only showed me how to take the next step, but gave me a reason to. I will be eternally grateful that UWC brought together the outstanding people that became my family and gave me the opportunity to create insane memories with them while we taught each other not only to love but to forgive, be brave, be wild and most importantly to dance it off.

When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all: Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker, so much madder. And so much better. My time in Italy is over and while I was ready to walk away from all the mistakes and ghosts that hide in that town and open the next chapter there’s a large chunk of me that’s not sure I know how to exist outside the haze of dreams that blanketed our community, I used the happiness of my friends to shield myself from a lot of darkness to the extent that the past year has it’s almost seemed as if I’ve been existing in two realities, one of adventures and passion, love and lust, kindness and happiness, where I hid from the other, much darker, lonelier, reality. But it doesn’t matter if I’m ready to face that reality – the time is now and I have to open the door.

The world we exist in holds so many insanities, untruths, unanswerable questions and injustices. We stumble through the haze where dreamers’ minds battle pessimists and ask ourselves how does our role play out? The truth is there are no roles and there are no answers, all we can do is stumble along and hope we discover small pockets of calm where the tide of life no longer whips us along and we finally feel content. For me these two years have been an eye of the storm, a pause, where everything fell in place.

That small village perched on the cliffs of the Adriatic is a microcosm that holds everything true in the real world to a greater intensity. When we laugh there we laugh harder, when we cry here we cry deeper, when we dance we dance faster and when we sing we sing louder. Emotions here are inescapable –both the more beautiful ones and the less.

The truth is everyone experiences Duino differently, the memories at the forefront of our minds and changes within us that become so stark upon our arrivals home are unique to each and every person who has had the privilege of spending two years in that quiet Italian town. So if you’re a prospective applicant or a nervous “zero” weeks away from leaving everything you know behind I can’t tell you what you’re going to learn or who you’re going to become but I can tell you that if it wasn’t for this town and the people who made it home for two years I wouldn’t be who I am today as I stand on the precipice of the next adventure, challenge, chapter – and I certainly wouldn’t be able to look forward with as much certainty as I do.

Every September a new set of dreamers steps off the 51 bus for the first time onto piazza and with that moment the village transcends and transforms once again. They don’t know it yet but they hold the power to shape a new reality, one that will undoubtedly be beautiful, insane and amazing. They’ll all probably lose at least a bit of themselves along the way, but they’ll discover so much more and if that’s not the point of it all, I don’t know what is.

What is UWC? A Dream Come True

About the school:

“UWC schools, colleges and programmes deliver a challenging and transformative educational experience to a diverse cross section of students, inspiring them to create a more peaceful and sustainable future.”

United World College is an education movement with fourteen schools scattered around the globe, students live at the colleges for two years and study the world renowned (and feared) International Baccalaureate program. The IB aims to create a well rounded, open minded student by integrating public service, action and creativity into the curriculum and including Theory of Knowledge in the course.

Check out this video for a clear explanation:

UWC’s mission and values :

“UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”

  • International and intercultural understanding
  • Celebration of difference
  • Personal responsibility and integrity
  • Mutual responsibility and respect
  • Compassion and service
  • Respect for the environment
  • A sense of idealism
  • Personal challenge
  • Action and personal example

Why am I going to UWC? 

As you can probably tell attending UWC is a very unique and challenging experience. This is exactly what attracted me in the first place, I was looking for a peer group that would inspire me to strive to reach the best of my abilities and an atmosphere that would encourage me to grow as a person, ultimately I was looking for a life changing experience and everyone said that’s exactly what UWC was.

My initial interest in UWC actually developed when my sister was considering applying, we had met several people from UWC in the past and all of them had been some of the most inspiring people I had ever encountered. However I didn’t truly realise just how life changing UWC was until my sister was accepted and I started meeting, and becoming close to people attending the school. Every time I was exposed to the UWC students as a group I was shocked; I had never seen a peer group interact so honestly and passionately, a conversation could go from opposing views on politics and current events to the latest gossip from a ‘canteen party’. Whatever your views or contributions to the discussion you were accepted and respected.

I spent many nights over the next two years deeply engrossed by the conversation full of heated debates and hearty laughter and quickly fell in love with these people all of whom told me I HAD to apply to UWC, but trust me, by then I needed little convincing. I chose to go to UWC Adriatic instead of UWC- LPC because I felt that I would be too comfortable attending the school in my home city that I knew so well, and after all I wanted to go to UWC to challenge myself.

So, simply put I applied to UWC because all the awesome and motivating people that I met from the colleges over the years, each and everyone of them told me that if I was looking to change my life forever that UWC was where I needed to go, and here I am  six years after first hearing about UWC just weeks away from starting at the college myself, and I couldn’t be more excited.