Leaving my family and friends in Norway at the age of 17 for a school in Swaziland is probably the best decision I have made so far in my life
Bjørn Klouman Bekken (WK 97-98) looks back at his time at Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa with great affection and gratitude. “Not only did I make great friends from all over the world – but I also believe the school had a lasting effect on shaping my values and world view”.
Bjørn was especially attracted to UWC because it brings students together from all over the world in an academically challenging environment, regardless of financial background. “Without a full scholarship, I never would have had the opportunity to go to Swaziland”.
While at Waterford, Bjørn was especially active in theatre arts and community service. “Swaziland has the highest HIV/AIDS -rates in the world, at approximately 28.8 percent of the adult population. I worked with street children for two years, many of whom were AIDS orphans”.
After leaving Waterford, Bjørn worked in theatre and received a degree in Political Science from the University of Oslo. He later received a full scholarship to pursue a Master’s degree at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he also worked as a Teaching Fellow for courses in International Political Economy and Global Governance.
Bjørn is currently a Norwegian diplomat. In the last couple of years, he has worked on the international dimensions of the financial crisis, as the US desk officer, as well as at the Norwegian Embassy in Kabul and at the Norwegian Mission to the United Nations in New York. He is now Deputy Director in the Secretariat of the Foreign Minister, responsible for speechwriting.
“ I really do believe that leaving Norway when I was 17 years old for a school in a country that few of my friends had ever heard of is probably the best decision I have made so far in my life. My time in Swaziland left me with so much – a deep affection for the continent of Africa, friends from all over the world, and a determination to find a way to make a difference here in this world”.