Edward McGarva-Brown: Inter-Community School (2022) Business and Management Student at Leeds Beckett University

Posted: 10 May 2023

Edward McGarva-Brown graduated from the Inter-Community School, Zurich in 2022; he is now studying Business and Management at Leeds Beckett University in the UK. Edward was an active and engaged member of the student body who was not only involved in Round Square initiatives, but also a committed mentor to the younger students. He remembers that his involvement in Round Square Action Groups began when he arrived at ICS in Grade 4 and lasted throughout his schooling until he graduated from the IB Programme in Grade 12.

During his time at school Edward’s commitment to service and leadership was constant; it was formally recognised through several service awards, and, during the ICS Class of 2022 Graduation, Edward received an Honourable Mention for Excellence in Service with School, Local and International Community. His dedication to community building, student agency, voice, and leadership has continued beyond school. Soon after his arrival at Leeds Beckett University, Edward was invited to be part of a university research project aimed at building identity and belonging on campus.

Relationships, connections, and servant leadership are important to Edward. Throughout his time at ICS, he was involved in numerous service and leadership projects. He represented his school at Round Square International Conferences and applied himself to grass-roots initiatives. Edward was a reliable team member; he remembers that as he grew in confidence and moved up the school, he began leading and mentoring younger students during his lunchtimes. He transitioned from team member to servant leader and mentor, although he says that he was not aware of the impact these projects had on his personal development until after he had left school. It was only after he had finished his external exams that he had the time to reflect on how each of the service projects (Run to Malawi, Sparkle Colour Run, RS Quiz Night, Ethical Leadership Workshops and many more) had helped him gain confidence and develop skills and competencies that went beyond the classroom.

Edward holds both British and Swiss nationalities, but he had never lived in the UK before moving to the north of England to begin university in 2022. It was a culture shock, but he says that it was not as much of a shock as he had experienced as a delegate at the RSIC 2019 conference to Indore, India. The RSIC 2019 conference was hosted by Emerald Heights School and Edward remembers the cultural difference he felt when he first arrived. He reflects that he was quite naïve and, at only 15, was quite young which is why he believes it had such a transformative impact. Although ICS is an international school, he says that he had never experienced so many diverse cultures from around the world in one place. RSIC 2019 welcomed over 1,000 teenagers from all over the world to Emerald Heights School. Edward reflects on how much of a positive experience it was for him and how it made him step outside of his comfort zone and experience different cultures. He feels that it prepared him for moving away to university.

“It was an experience I’ll cherish for a really long time. There were inspiring guest speakers, but the actual experience of being in India and meeting so many people, not just international school students, is what I took away. It really opened my eyes to other cultures. It was the experience of being around so many young people, living with other young people, that prepared me.”

Edward acknowledges that his cultural identity is not as clear-cut as he had originally thought. In Switzerland he was identified as British, however, in the UK he is not recognised as being British. His deepening appreciation of cultural difference has given him the insight and the confidence to identify parts of British culture that he connects easily with, and those he chooses to observe from afar. In each situation, Edward tries to be respectful and openminded about what is valuable to other communities; this was the case when he first experienced student life in the UK.

“It’s about respecting the culture. It [the university drinking culture] is how things are done here and you have to accept that, but at the same time remember that things are different at home. I realised for some people the way to socialise is by having a drink, whilst at home you could socialise by doing something different. I think I am just getting used to that.” 

When asked about how he felt his experience in a values-led school had supported his application and transition to university, Edward talked about his university application and how he is using and developing the skills and competences he first developed at school. In his university application, he says that he gave examples of the service and leadership projects and the mentoring/coaching relationships in his Personal Statement.

“There was the Radio Show, the Run to Malawi, Student Bridge, the Ethical Leadership Series, so many projects… I think that the Admission’s Team at the university looked at my statement and liked the sound of the person. They replied really quickly, so I think that they must have liked it!”

Human-centred leadership is important to Edward, having experienced social control and isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, he is clear about how important human interactions are for him. He enjoys the engagements he has in his studies, avoids online learning, and believes it is important to create a space where everyone feels welcome and supported. Edward explains that what he did take away from his work with many different age-groups at ICS was how important it is to take the time to build respectful working relationships. “You form good relationships with your teachers and mentors at school, and those relationships continue. You never know when you might benefit from them again. It comes back.”

At university, Edward is working with his professors and fellow students to build relationships and connections amongst the student population. The research project that he is involved with aims to establish structures and connections that build belonging and identity amongst the incoming students to the business school. He reflects on how he has brought his Round Square experience of working with multi-age, diverse groups to the project.  “I brought the experience of working in teams, and the skills I developed in leadership, resilience, communication and teamwork, to the project at university.”

When asked what his advice would be to his younger self, Edward talks about resilience and leadership. He found that he had to be patient as he managed projects at school. Edward learned to navigate processes and work with a variety of stakeholders; this took time and perseverance. His advice to his younger self would be to push forward and take those opportunities because “all those experiences will benefit you. Even now, only 6 months into university, I feel the impact of what I did.”

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