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Fresh Start

January 1, 2019

Hey loves

 

Today is the first day of a new year and I went through my photo library this morning to reflect on 2018. Since I am almost never further than a few metres away from one of my cameras, my photo library is like my diary. If I ever want to find out where I was on particular day, there is a good chance I recorded something of that day in my photos. I love looking back at my pictures because they remind me of how some people's smile looked, the jokes that caused their smiles, and all the moments we shared together. The last year has been eventful to say the least, so here is my little rewind: 

 

I started the year as a high school senior and I ended it as a college student. At the beginning of the year, I was still a student at Li Po Chun United World College, had three roommates, and led two extracurriculars in my school. I loved getting involved with Model United Nations and the Yearbook at my school and I really enjoyed designing the programs for the students participating in these activities. I was also a volunteer coordinator at Crossroads, an NGO that connects resources with those who are in need of said resources. My time at LPC was packed with events and some of my best memories of 2018 have been made on LPC's campus. I am so grateful to have had the roommates I had and to have shared so many laughters with them. I remember that we spent a lot of time on designing our room's yearbook picture and I think it is the perfect representation of us: 

I also got to experience more Cultural Evenings at LPC. Cultural evenings are evenings where one cultural group prepares food and a show for the entire student and teaching body. These evenings have always shown me that there is so much more to different cultures than what we hear in the news and I have enjoyed every single one of them. 2018 gave me the Latin-American Cultural Evening which was incredible and gave us an insight into the meaning of drug wars for civilians, the joyous Caribbean dances, and what it means to grow up with a colonial past. When I think of this cultural evening, I think of the dance one of our students from Trinidad and Tobago performed. He composed the dance by himself and it was a representation of the oppression suffered by his country. I do not think that words can do his dance justice, but I can say that everybody watching was touched by the raw emotions displayed in his dance: 

 The other cultural evening of the year was the Chinese Cultural Evening. What I loved most about it is that it somehow felt a little like seeing a culture which was now also a part of me. After living in Hong Kong for two years, I ate with chopsticks, knew basic Cantonese, and knew my way around the city. This final cultural evening made me realise that I had truly found a second culture and home in Hong Kong. The Chinese Cultural Evening is the hardest one to organise because the Chinese Cultural Group has the most students. Organising all these students takes a lot of effort but they have done a terrific job. To me, this was exemplified in the boys dragon dance team's performance. Despite the fact that finals were coming up for many of them, they practiced everyday to make their performance perfect and they created something extraordinary through their hard work. Their team work showed through every move they made and I was so proud to see them perform like that.

Another thing that I am incredibly grateful for is the vast amount of opportunities I was given at LPC. I was able to organise my school's own Model United Nations conference and to invite several guest speakers to our school. One event I am particularly proud of is inviting a guest speaker to our school to speak on the Rwandan genocide. She was not just a guest speaker, but the mother of one of our students. The stories she told created goosebumps on the skin of those listening, but her talk was an important reminder of the cruelty that had occurred in Rwanda and our responsibility to prevent further crimes like this. I am so incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to invite her and for her honesty and courage. 

 

But this year was not just filled with good moments, it was also loaded with anxiety and stress due to the uncertainty that comes with applying to university. Would I get in? Would they like my essays? Was my SAT good enough? What would my teachers write in my letters of recommendations? Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed applying to universities more. I loved writing the essays because they made me reflect on who I am as a person and I simply wish I had not been as anxious after hitting the 'submit' button on my applications. But it was not all scary - there were also wonderful times: I was invited to Abu Dhabi and Singapore thanks to my applications and I loved these trips. I made so many friends on my trips and I am incredibly grateful for these times. I was also lucky enough to receive offers of admission from some amazing schools, including Cambridge, Princeton, and NYU Abu Dhabi. If someone had told me a year ago that I would get to choose between these three schools, I would have laughed in their face. Having had this choice was a privilege and I still cannot believe that I was able to get a spot in all of them. But when I think of all my university applications, my fondest memory is my trip to Abu Dhabi and how we all sat in the desert together after climbing a sand hill. It was one of the best moments of my 2018 - simply sitting there, looking at the stars, and talking about our lives. There was something simply magical about watching the sun set in the desert. 

Way too soon, it became time to write my finals and say goodbye to my friends in Hong Kong. I did my final shift as a volunteer coordinator at Crossroads, wrote my final history essay, and then I started to pack up my room. My final days in Hong Kong felt surreal, I was honestly not ready to leave my second home behind. I think that Hong Kong will always have a little part of me and that whenever I return, it will still feel like home. When I graduated, I received a Harvard Book Award, an honour I had not expected and that my teachers had awarded me for my engagement in and outside the classroom. I could not believe that I was chosen for this award and I am still amazed by it. 

After returning to Germany, I took some time off and relaxed. I had not realised how much all the studying for my finals and the actual writing of them had drained my energy until I fell onto my bed at home and slept for ten hours. It felt good to not think about the next deadline or the next exam. I then got to intern in the German Bundestag in Dr. Kaufmann's office and this experience allowed me to work in both Stuttgart and Berlin. Seeing how my country's national politics work from an insider perspective was amazing and I loved being there. My best friend and I then met up in Berlin and explored the city together.

And my travelling did not stop with Berlin: My aunts took me to Paris. We have been to Paris together quite a few times, but somehow we always manage to discover new places and see the city from a different perspective. We are a great travel group because we are interested in similar things and we always have a lot of fun together. My favourite memory of the trip is looking at the Eiffel Tower at night. Although we have visited Paris quite a few times, we had never before seen the Eiffel Tower and its light show at night. It was such a great experience and reminded me of how I had seen this scene in so many movies. Thank you guys so much for the great trip!

Summer 2018 is the time of the year when more and more videos start to appear in my photo library. I used to be focused on photography and I normally did not make videos. But when the summer started, I decided to try making a YouTube channel and posting more frequently. To be quite honest, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had never edited videos before and I did not know how to prepare a video, plan it, or anything like that. But I had fun doing it and this is why I continued. I reached over 2,000 subscribers in 2018 and I cannot believe that there are so many people out there who are interested in my videos. But my favourite video is the one I started out with and that is the reason why I chose it to represent my YouTube journey in this article (although it was posted in late 2017):

Throughout 2018, I also managed to stick to my goal to read one book a week for fun. I had realised that reading had become something I mainly did for school and not for myself anymore and I found this development rather unfortunate. Some of the books I loved the most were the ones that were toughest to read: the ones that had important lessons to teach. You can read my opinion on some of them here. 

After a very long summer break, it was time to go off to university. Arriving at Cambridge felt surreal since walking around the campus felt like walking around Hogwarts. I also decided to pick up my camera and vlog my experience as a law student here. I love how many people I was able to reach through my vlogs and how it allows me to look back at my time here. 

My first term at Cambridge was very intense and quite difficult, but also very rewarding and exciting. I have met so many inspiring people and I am happy that I chose this university. I started working on a research paper with a professor (despite being a freshman!), was voted on the committees of two student societies, and was trained in digital verification for Amnesty International. I also held a rifle for the first time in my life and learned how to shoot it as a member of the University's rifle association. So many exciting things happened and I can honestly not believe that the first term was only eight weeks long. 

After my first term ended, I returned home and celebrated Christmas with my family. Going back to celebrate Christmas in Germany is a tradition I am quite committed to because it always reminds me of all the support my family is giving me and how grateful I am to have them in my life. 

I ended the year in London with my cousin who came to visit me in Cambridge over New Year. Thank you so much for letting me end the year with you, we had an exciting evening and the fireworks were absolutely stunning! 

2018, thank you so much! You were packed with events, emotions, and people I love! 2019, here we go!

 

To a new year!

 

Lots of Love,

 

Elena 

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