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2016 in Review

Before I start I wanted to thank all my readers for their support this year - I hope you had a lovely Christmas yesterday if you celebrate the occasion and if not I hope you're just having a great week.

I was drying my hair the other day and began to reflect on 2016  (my hair is very thick - I have a long time to think) eventually coming to the conclusion it has been one of the biggest years of my life so far.

I might make another post about exams because although they did dominate a lot of my year, I don't want to make this all about that period... I probably should try and forget it.
I learnt a lot in the academic year 2015/16. I remember in 2013 in Spanish writing my examination year (2016) at the top of my coursework and thinking the time would never come, and, to an extent even in Year 11, I didn't really take it in that GCSEs were happening, it was all a bit surreal. Perhaps a good comparison would be Christmas when you were little. You build it up all year and then when it comes it doesn't feel quite as you'd expect. Looking back now, I'm proud of myself. I remember sitting in my last SATs test in Year 6 and thinking that the next big exams I had were going to be terrifying and awful. To an extent they were, I won't sugar-coat it. The night before my final exam, my second physics paper, I completely lost it. I couldn't remember anything on my revision cards and physics had been the exam in my mocks the year before that I had done the worst in and that feeling was awful.
Skip forward to August and I found I'd achieved an A* in Physics, something I need to learn from in 2017 - as awful as something seems, you do come out of the other side and even if I hadn't managed to get that result, my life would be no different now. I certainly wasn't going to take the subject at A Level!
Which brings me on to a rather defining moment of the year - results day.
The night before, I didn't sleep. After laying awake for about 4 hours, I started to watch films before finally falling asleep around 5am and waking at 7am.I went in to school, grabbed my envelope and left, a plan I had put in place before - good or bad, I didn't want to be surrounded by my peers when I found out. I opened my envelope in the car and burst in to tears, 3 years of work had paid off and I was filled with so much relief (thank you to my Instagram followers for your kind words).
If you've still got GCSEs to go, you can get through it. Nobody can ask for more than your best and if you work hard, you'll succeed. The ridiculous thing is, all that was on that piece of paper was some black ink in squiggles that formed letters, except it was everything that the five years at that school had built up to.

I have already spoken about NCS here but I am so glad that I signed up to do it. In my other post I explained what it was and spoke mainly about my team's project but now I've graduated (there is a ceremony in September) I feel as though I can look back and give a rounded view of the experience. The day of NCS I was terrified. I was dropped off and went to sign in and immediately wanted to leave - I knew nobody there yet everybody there seemed to know someone else. After a little while though, a girl came up to me (thanks Eve if you're reading) and started talking and it all went from there.
NCS wasn't without its trials. In the first week, we were given the task of climbing a wooden pole in pairs to stand on a see saw at the top and later to climb the trapeze. In year 5 on a school trip, the only task I had turned down was the trapeze and I was so happy when I managed to tackle my fear of heights and complete the two - it wasn't without tears. In the second week, the group had a disagreement that we did manage to shake off and in the third week, our group was sternly spoken to by one of the team leaders basically because they didn't understand our project. I won't go in to it, they apologised the next day.
It was hard work at times but it genuinely did change me as a person. You go from not knowing 6 people to sleeping in the same room as them and sitting on one another's beds playing 'truth or truth' (we were too cold for the dare part) on the adventure week in Week One. Week Two saw us head to Abbotsholme boarding school where we worked in classrooms for the week - this week wasn't the best, many of us began to feel increasingly stressed, something we put down to being in a school environment again.
The final two weeks I felt as though I began to hold my own. I became team leader of our project and did everything from radio interviews to pitches to writing. Here was where the hard work and discipline came in. Whereas before you could get by just doing as you were told by leaders, eating, sleeping and working when told, it was now down to us to put together our plan and make it a reality. Most people worked incredibly hard, others went and did their own thing, which was fine too.
NCS made me realise that I couldn't just be a quiet figure in the corner, I had to push myself to do things and take a leap of faith (quite literally in the first week). At graduation I was awarded the Social Action Hero award for my team and I'll treasure the certificate forever - it was blooming hard work!
P.S. When they say you just need to give a brief presentation at your graduation, make sure you have a proper PowerPoint slide and everyone knows what to say in advance. We got by but perhaps sorting that in the last few days of NCS would've been beneficial.

Starting A Levels
September saw the start of a newish chapter - A Levels. I have remained at the same school so not much changed there but for me, A Levels are great. I love the small class sizes, the separation from the rest of the school, the depth you can explore your subjects in, the designated time to study in. I started the year with English Language, English Literature, Biology and History (plus an EPQ) except dropped the Biology in November. I loved Biology but the other three are the subjects I'll either use to get in to university/ study at university and I had no time to do extra studying, something I particularly wanted to do for History. I'm incredibly happy with the decision, it was a calm, thought through decision that I fully stand by now, I'm a better student for it. A Levels are tough and it's a lot of work so feeling in control I think is important. I made a video about choosing GCSEs a while ago and I think the most important thing for choosing A Levels is what you enjoy. You have to be able to do these subjects for two years, everyday at school and at home. Not liking something and just leaving it until exams come is no longer an option as it was at GCSE. I don't think A Levels are for everybody but if you do have a passion for your subjects and want to continue to study in that sense, definitely look in to it. On the flip side, certainly don't do them because you feel you have to or someone else thinks you should.

I'm aware that this post ignores the first six months of the year but really they weren't all that special. I turned 17 in October and as many British seventeen year olds do, I started to take driving lessons.  Knowing nothing about cars, I did go for some lessons on a track nearby a few weeks before my birthday, which, if you don't know anything about driving, is a really good idea to gain a little confidence. At first, I was all over the place, and, to an extent, I still am but I'm getting there and I do enjoy it. I'm looking forward to the freedom driving gives; trains are great but they aren't ideal for a quick trip to the shops. I've now had 6 lessons on the road and it is starting to click (for the American readers, we don't tend to drive automatic cars over here so it is a little different) apparently I do have the ability to drive, I just need to confidence. While that could be a nice way of saying I'm a little bit rubbish, I have definitely improved in the past couple of weeks.

I know this summary probably doesn't sound thrilling and I have missed out a fair amount of stuff. I didn't climb Everest (although I did climb Kinder Scout and lost my hiking boot sole to a bog) or save the world but each little thing has built me in to a more independent person going in to 2017. Scarily, this time next year I'll be a fully certified adult at the age of 18. I wonder what the New Year has in store.....

Enjoy the festivities


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