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An Opportunity to Reflect and Say Thank You

Since starting A2, time has been rather limited, hence the lack of blog posts recently. With Christmas and New Year fast approaching, I thought I would take a moment to reflect on 2017 and summarise some of the best moments of the year.

My time at home is quickly coming to an end; in September, all being well, I'll be off to university. I didn't realise until quite recently how much I take for granted while I am living at home. This year has been a year of change and a year to grow up, turning 18 has made me realise just how soon independence is going to come.

Perhaps it is this growing independence that has caused 2017 to be the busiest and most eventful year to date. It's been a year of exams and planning and looking around universities and opportunities. Yet it's also been a year in which I feel as though I've appreciated the incredible friends around me.

Without further ado, here are just a few highlights of 2017.

This trip seems like a lifetime ago yet in reality it was last February. Looking back, travelling to Skegness doesn't seem like a huge deal, however, it was the first time my friends and I had planned, booked and travelled to a hotel for our own mini holiday without the help of our parents. I wrote a blog post about the trip not so long ago so if you'd like to read it, I wrote a few trips for travelling with friends. From late night conversations with Amy to chilly evening walks on the beach, the trip gave an opportunity to prepare for a busy year.
Again, I have written a blog post on this but it was a truly life changing experience. My grandad's auntie, Suzie, was Jewish and born in Germany. Fortunately, she was able to escape as the horrors of the holocaust became apparent. Suzie died when I was quite young and I only discovered her past a few years ago, when I contacted her daughter to ask about her mother's experience. I began to explore the holocaust more, reading the work of Kitty Hart and gaining an understanding of the importance of history. I was able to tell my auntie's story in my column in Dronfield Eye and this encouraged me to further help to educate people on the awful outcomes of discrimination and prejudice. My trip to Poland in March was unbelievable and something that I will still never fully comprehend. Walking in to the camp, I could not grasp the amount of suffering that had occurred there. As we lit candles in the dark that evening, I prayed that nothing like the holocaust would happen again, yet stopped myself - horrors occur in today's world daily. The experience has certainly driven me to work to promote equality and educate others, through both teaching lessons on the holocaust to year 7 students to writing additional articles and blog posts. 

Yorkshire Dales 
For as long as I can remember, my family have travelled to the Yorkshire Dales for a week of hiking and relaxation. When I was little, I rolled my eyes at the thought of going and couldn't stand the thought of spending several hours walking through fields and up hills. Now, however, I look forward to going every year. This year we visited at Easter, a few weeks before my AS exams started, meaning that much of the time was dedicated to revision. Nonetheless, the week in Swaledale was one of my favourite trips of the year. The isolation of the countryside; watching my dog bound through the heather on the moors and sitting next to crackling log burners provided moments of peace that I am ever thankful for. 

Exams are over!
Until the end of May, my life was on hold. I had exams left, right and centre and it was a really difficult time for me. There were so many moments where I thought I couldn't do it, so many days where I was convinced that I'd failed and my anxiety was the worst it has been for a while. However, I got through it, and, come summer, it all paid off as I achieved all As. During this period, my friends truly were my rock. I've made some amazing friends this year, friends who can make me cry with laughter, friends who I can trust with anything, friends who I can talk to in the middle of the night when I don't know what to do anymore. I won't go on too much, but you all know who you are and I hope you know how much you mean to me. 

Before returning to school in June, I began to hunt for universities, having decided to study Law and started to travel all over the country attending open days. I can't wait for university, I know it will be tough (academically, mentally and practically) but I think I'm at a point now where I'm ready to leave the school that has been such a huge part of my life since the age of 11. 

UNIQ Summer School 
Just before the summer holidays, I spent a week at the University of Oxford after having gained a place on their UNIQ Law summer school. It was a challenging week. I travelled down on the train and had no idea what to expect and was certain that I wouldn't make friends. The reality was completely different. I met an amazing group of people with whom I stay in contact with despite geography keeping us apart. I took part in lectures, negotiations and moots (mock trials) and was completely pushed out of my comfort zone. It made me realise how fascinating Law was and how desperate I was to study it. Plus, the weather in Oxford was absolutely beautiful all week. 

The day I returned from Oxford, I went straight to the theatre to perform in the first night of the dance show of my dance academy. I don't recall if it's something that I've mentioned before but I teach Musical Theatre once a week and take lessons in Contemporary. I think this will be the one of the hardest things to say goodbye to when I leave to go to university - the kids I help to teach are some of the funniest, brightest and most talented people I have ever had the pleasure to meet and knowing this will be my last dance show (they only occur every other year) was something that was surprisingly sad for a person who doesn't revel in the attention of others. 
As I was in Oxford for the dress rehearsal, I don't have any photos of me in my costume which is a shame but I'll remember the experience for a long time to come. 

Head Student 
Whilst I was away, I also received an email from my school telling me that I'd been appointed Head Student for my final year at the school. (Head Student = Head Girl but gender neutral) It may seem like a small thing, but for someone who has been on the student council since primary school and  took pride in their school, the appointment was such an honour. This year so far, we've been working to raise money for the mental health charity Young Minds and I'm excited to see what's in store for the New Year! 

This year, my family travelled to Nerja for a fortnight after I had collected my exam results. We stayed in the mountains and did very little, which was absolutely perfect. I spent hours swinging in a hammock reading endless novels and swimming lengths in the cool, clear pool or snorkelling in the Mediterranean. Visiting the Picasso museum and the castles of Spain was also incredible, the country has so much history that I knew very little about! Returning to school a few days after landing back in the UK, I felt ready to begin the new academic year. 

Fitness stuff
Over the summer, I began to go out for runs more and use Fitness Blender to exercise daily. I've always exercised a reasonable amount, and, since becoming vegetarian several years ago, I've been aware of what I've eaten. However, since the summer, I've really grown to enjoy exercise, it really sets me up for my day. Every morning, I get up at around 6am and either go for a run or do some pilates or HIIT before getting ready at around 7am. It's been a fantastic anxiety reliever for me and it has also ensured that I've been going to bed early enough! 

In September I passed my driving test and I am now zipping around (carefully sticking to the speed limit due to my black box) in my little blue Polo. The independence has been a lot of fun, nipping over the Peak District to visit family and take the dog out, driving friends home from parties and finally being able to drive myself to and from dancing class has been a highlight of the year. 

Turning 18 and MUNOG 
The first term of 2017/18 went incredibly quickly. I was thrown straight in to A Levels, writing coursework for all 3 of my subjects. At the same time, I was preparing to travel to Germany for a week to take part in a Model United Nations conference. I flew to Germany on my 18th birthday, leaving little time for celebration, although the pilot did wish me a happy birthday. Upon arriving at my host family's home, I was greeted with a beautiful homemade birthday cake - I have no idea how they even knew it was my birthday! The family I stayed with were some of the nicest people I have ever met and they made me feel so incredibly welcome and comfortable, I could never thank them enough. The conference itself was a brilliant experience. I won't lie, I was terrified. I have always feared public speaking and  doubted myself all the way through. However, as the week went on, I began to enjoy myself more and more and am so happy that I decided to go. Alongside the occasional trip to a nightclub or pub, the conference was a great opportunity to meet people from all over the world and I wish I'd had the chance to attend sooner. 

I visited TGI Friday's with my friends when I arrived home and was embarrassed tremendously by the staff singing to me, however, despite unconventional, I couldn't have wished for a better 18th. Adulthood has come as a shock. In reality, very little has changed, however, in the eyes of the law, I'm an adult and I've decided that sorting out car insurance and bank accounts and dentist appointments really isn't very fun. Although, I did get a pay rise at work so that made up for it. 

And finally...
I think that's probably about it. Halloween, Bonfire Night, the build up to Christmas etc. have also been lovely, yesterday I spent the day with my friends exchanging gifts and baking gingerbread. Nonetheless, I cannot write anymore as I am far too tired! 
This year has been a challenge. However, it has been a turning point in my life and I know I've made memories this year that will last a lifetime. Thank you to everyone that has made this year so special - have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. 

Elle xxx


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