By Silke Kegel
At the end of July we were thrilled to welcome Norbert Jaeger (YR 3/1978, Germany) back home to Pearson College UWC, as the 9th Alumnus-in-Residence program participant.
The program encourages alumni to engage in life and learning on our experiential education campus and to enrich campus life for current students, faculty and staff. Alumni are invited to bring their expertise and passions and work collaboratively with the community to offer new activities or learning opportunities based on their work and world experience, or passions.
Since his time on campus more than 40 years ago, Norbert has pursued a successful career in emergency medicine and plans to retire in 2020.
“When I found out about the Alumni-in-Residence program in a newsletter from the College, I was immediately attracted to the offer of joining life on campus and envisioned, “how I could bring my passion for the waterfront, medicine and solar energy into this role,” Norbert explains with his typical gentle smile.
Life before Pearson
“In my early years, I used to read lots of books about adventures abroad and travelling far away. Even before my two years at Pearson, I had always been very keen on doing seafront related activities and spending time on the water.”
It is no surprise then, that he seized the opportunity to apply to UWC, when he heard about the movement at his school. “I felt an instant connection with the UWC values and I was curious to visit other countries, to meet new people and so I applied. Of the three United World Colleges in 1976 (UWC Atlantic College, Pearson College UWC and UWC South East Asia), my first choice was Pearson, because I realized I wanted to travel further than Europe.”
UWC values and experiences – a lifelong thread
During his time on campus in the late 70s, Norbert was part of the sea rescue service and joined waterfront activities such as sailing and canoeing. These experiences sparked a love for the sea and he decided he wanted to live close to the ocean to continue with waterfront pursuits. After graduating from the College, he applied for a university in Kiel (in Northern Germany) on the Baltic Sea where he subsequently joined the student sailing club.
“My time at Pearson has influenced my entire life and still guides me in everything I do,” he states. “These two years at the College uncovered my passions, which had always been inside me.”
Norbert’s journey after Pearson
For Norbert, home was in Germany where he was able to live out two of his interests in medicine and waterfront activities. Still interested in visiting other countries, Norbert was able to explore other parts of Canada, travelled with a fellow UWC alumnus from UWC Atlantic College to India, and worked for a German Development Service in Lesotho in the early 90s along with his wife Antje.
“All in all, my time at Pearson helped me to realize and pursue the things “which truly mean something to me.”
Strong connection among friends and peers at Pearson
Living and learning on campus can be intense and many students quickly form friendships that last a lifetime. Norbert is very much looking forward to coming back in 2020 for his 40-Year reunion.
“At reunions I can feel the strong bonds we maintained throughout the years, even though we all live in different places. We continue to help each other through difficult phases in life and give each other advice.”
Changes and developments on campus- then and now
The changes Norbert observed are probably not changes of the College in itself, but rather changes in society in general. “Social media has drastically changed the way we communicate with each other. It allows you to be linked to your family and friends at home whenever you choose. Back then, our problems were solved from within, relying on the community, strongly connected to teachers and house parents, – and it worked!”, he remembers. “Now I see a possibility to distance yourself from the place you are in.”
“I’m a bit concerned about social media and if it will weaken the village community.”
Norbert recalls having only three, very expensive, phone calls with his parents. Then he came up with the idea of recording his voice on cassette tapes and sending back and forth. Compared to the seconds to relay messages it takes nowadays, , it took about six weeks back then.
“We are living in a changing world, and of course, this has changed interactions on campus as well.”
His stay on campus – Shore master, medical and solar energy expert
“I very much enjoyed working together with all the campus community. Everyone was so welcoming, friendly and helpful.
“We lived in this beautiful little apartment. The smells of the forest and the wooden buildings made my memories come back alive”, he raves. “This place is still very much the same and I felt at home right away.” Being a part of the community again for a longer period of time gave Norbert a new perspective on the College and its inner workings. “I believe, that taking part in the Alumni-in-Residence program is a clear win-win situation. As a student, I was taught to sail, for example,” he recounts. “Now, I can pass on techniques I learned to current students.”
“There were so many different ways for me to give back and to show my gratitude to the College”, he expresses. “Donating my time was very meaningful to me.”
Following his fields of interest, Norbert worked with the waterfront team, supported maintenance work on Race Rocks, helped the Alumni Engagement team with the summer reunions, offered his expertise in emergency medicine and preparedness and assisted with plans and ideas for adding solar panels to the College roofs to diversify sources of energy on campus.
“These six weeks have passed by so fast,” he muses. “It was great to be back and get a chance to interact with students and the adult and resident community.”
After a heartfelt goodbye gathering with homemade German Cheesecake by Anje, Norbert and his wife went back home to prepare for their next adventure, retirement. We wish Norbert and Antje all the best and are looking forward to seeing them at his 40-year Reunion next year!