Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Most Life Changing Experience #WYD2016


I don't know if you watched the news on Sunday 31st July, but if you did you might have heard about an event in Krakow, Poland where 2 million young Catholics gathered in a field and had Mass with Pope Francis. Well I was part of that amazing event - World Youth Day! What they probably didn't mention in the news is that the World Youth Day events had taken place all week from the Monday, culminating with Mass with Pope Francis on Sunday morning. I can honestly say that it was the best week of my life so I'd love to share some of the highlights of the pilgrimage!

1) The People

Our fabulous group - Lancaster Diocese

The group I went out there with was absolutely fantastic and I love them all. It's amazing how a 30+ hour coach journey can bond a group so quickly! The amount of jokes and banter in the group was unreal and we spent nearly all our time laughing (obviously not in the serious moments though). Every time I have been on a pilgrimage with Lancaster Diocese I am amazed by how close-knit the group becomes and the deep friendships that develop through our shared faith.

Along with the fabulous people from Lancaster Diocese, we also met many people from across the world: From Italy to Argentina, Lebanon to Spain, America to Australia and everywhere in between! It was amazing to meet people from across the world who share the same faith as we do and I absolutely loved meeting you all! I took loads of bracelets out with me and I loved swapping them with some of the people I met. Although my favourite swap has to be a little cuddly toy koala which I was given by an Australian girl at our first catechesis session - it's just so cute!! The number one most popular topic of conversation when meeting people from other countries was Brexit! Everyone was very eager to discuss with us our opinions and their opinions too! It's crazy how things happening in Downing Street are having such a big worldwide reach!

With the most lovely Italians who spoke English better than we do!!
Some lovely Lebanese

When you have nothing left to swap... Selfie!!

2) The Atmosphere
It's quite easy to describe people and the friendships that were made. But describing the atmosphere is impossible. Unless you were there, it is so hard to imagine how unbelievably happy and full of life everyone was. You would walk down the main road to get into the centre of Krakow and everyone would walk past in a line giving high fives. There were hundreds of people wearing "Free Hugs" signs and thousands more accepted the free hugs! The constant singing and chanting. The dancing, the laughs, the love. I can't even begin to explain how happy I was. When people describe an atmosphere as electric, this doesn't even start to cover it. Everyone was so excited to be there and so filled with joy. Some people argue that religion is divisive, but I have never known an atmosphere so incredible.

At the Opening Mass of World Youth Day

On the final night of WYD, before Mass in the morning with Pope Francis, everyone camped out in the field together for a beautiful prayer vigil with him. It was truly one of the most amazing events I have witnessed, with two million people praying together and then singing to God. The sheer emotion was unbelievable!

At the Stations of the Cross - the most moving and prayerful experience at WYD (Photo credits to Stephen)
There's something so powerful (and also very emotional) about praying in a field with people from across the world who all share the same religious beliefs as you. Whether it was just the 50 of us in the Lancaster group or the 2 million at the final Mass, to all the numbers in between, I found it a really amazing spiritual experience.

3) The Emotions
Again, this is something which is really hard to explain to people who weren't there. There is something about an intense religious experience which is incredibly emotional. From the huge highs where we were crying with laughter to the moments where the intense prayerful atmosphere brought more tears, it truly was an emotional rollercoaster!!

From our joy at the Pope's Arrival

To a prayerful and peaceful quiet time with Pope Francis

From dancing in the rain

To smiles when the storm passed

However, there was something which was emotional on a completely different level. On our penultimate day in Krakow, our group took the opportunity to visit Auschwitz. This is something I have always wanted to do, partly due to my interest in Modern History, but also because I think it is somewhere everyone should visit due to the horrendous and unthinkable crimes which happened there.
Due to the sheer number of visitors to both Auschwitz and Auschwitz II-Birkenau (which I hadn't previously realised were two separate camps) because of World Youth Day, a route had been assigned so that visitors were able to visit the most significant parts of the site but also so that the camp could be protected for future generations to visit and pay their respects.

Auschwitz I

With studying this period of history several times, as well as having an interest in WWII History anyway, it felt so strange to be walking on the ground they walked, to stand where they stood. It was a very surreal experience and one that I will never forget. It was a very emotional day and I felt like I'd held my emotions in until I came across what could be best described as a small pond during our time at Auschwitz II-Birkenau. There were several gravestones there with inscriptions in various languages. The English translation read words along the lines of "In memory of all the people whose ashes were scattered in this lake". These words made me very emotional as the prisoners ashes were not put into the lake. They were not scattered. The ashes of these people who had suffered unimaginable hardship at the hands of the Nazis had been carelessly dumped. None of their bodies were treated with dignity or respect as we would. I find this absolutely heartbreaking.

Auschwitz II-Birkenau
Found it incredibly strange and almost oxymoronic to be walking round in the glorious sunshine and scorching heat

Although it was a very upsetting and emotionally charged visit, I cannot recommend visiting both camps enough. I feel like it brought a great amount of perspective into my life. You realise how much you take freedom and even life itself for granted. Pope Francis visited both camps earlier in the week and spent his time there in prayerful silence. I read this article earlier and found it particularly striking, especially the part at the end where it describes what Pope Francis wrote in the visitors' book.

So I can safely say that going to World Youth Day changed my life. It was the most incredible and indescribable experience and I'm hoping and praying I'll be able to go to the next one in 2019 in Panama!

Massive thank you to everyone who made it such an amazing experience - to the other pilgrims from across the world but especially the wonderful Lancaster group who are the most lovely bunch of people I've ever met. I love you all! #playhardprayhardwyd #chiveoclock

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoy this slightly different from usual post!

If you'd like to vote for me as UCAS Blogger of the Month, you can do that here. Your votes are much appreciated as always :)

Anna x

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Advice for new Year 13s

Hello! It's me, I was wondering if....

No, don't worry, I'm not going to turn all Adele on you!

Today I thought I'd share some of my advice for those of you readers who have just finished Year 12 and are about to enter Year 13. I found Year 13 a huge step up from Year 12 so I hope this is able to help even one person!

1) Choosing which subject to drop
This is potentially the biggest decision you'll have to make so far in your college career. This was quite easy for me, because I did a lot worse in one of my subjects than the other three - and I also did not enjoy philosophy so that was an easy decision for me! But for you lucky people who have done well in all your subjects, this could be a much trickier decision. When deciding which subject to drop, I would recommend thinking of it this way:

A) The subject you did worse in - especially with your year group having much less coursework, I would be aware that it's much harder to increase your grade through an exam. (Or consider a resit as well?).
B) The subject you find hardest - If you find one of your subjects much harder than the others, consider dropping this one. Remember that everything gets much harder at A Level than AS so if you're finding a subject really hard now, this might make you enjoy it less at A Level.
C) The subject you like least - This is a pretty obvious one really I think. If you hated a subject before, you might enjoy it even less this year. However, I would consider what is you dislike about the subject before you decide to drop it. Is it the course itself? Or the contents? Or the teacher? Remember that both the second two can be very different at A Level than AS.

However, despite all that, my number one piece of advice is that it MUST be your decision. Ask as many people for advice as you like, however don't let them make the decision for you! If someone else heavily influences your decision, it may affect how much you enjoy Year 13. Also, remember that it's not going to massively change your life, so don't worry too much!

2) Personal Statement
I know that you're probably going to want to be enjoying your last few weeks of freedom before you go back to college/sixth form in September, I can't tell you enough how much I recommend getting a first draft done for when you go back to college. I didn't do this (despite college advising us to) and I wish I had. It just makes the whole UCAS/applying for jobs or apprenticeships process so much simpler and quicker for when you go back to college. Also, the sooner you have your application finished, the sooner you'll get the offers back from the universities or the requests for interviews. So even if it seems like hard work starting it now, it's going to save you a lot of stress in the long run! Also, it can take a lot of drafts to get your personal statement perfect and when your tutors have a lot of people's to check, it's good to get ahead of the game so that they can get changes back to you!
I wrote this post a while ago giving my advice for writing your personal statement, feel free to check it out again!

3) Concentrate on Coursework
Sorry, couldn't resist the alliteration!!! When I got my A Level results, I hadn't done at all how I expected in my exams - especially in my resits (I'd done worse in all but one resit) and so I was amazed at how I had managed to achieve such good grades overall. When I looked closer at the breakdown of my grades for each subject, I realised that it was my coursework that saved me. All my subjects were 40% coursework and so all the hard work I'd put into my coursework had been worthwhile! The high grades I had achieved in that had saved my grades overall!
If you'd like to hear more of my advice for coursework, I wrote this post a while ago.

4) Get the balance right
I doubt that I need to remind you that Year 13 is the year you turn 18! I'm guessing that for a lot of you (like I was) who are looking forward to finally being a legal adult and able to go out clubbing etc. There are many advantages of this, in that it can take your mind off all the stress you're probably going to be facing at college, however there are also some disadvantages of this as 'recovery' time (if you know what I mean ;) ) can take away time from your studies. The main thing is to have fun, but make sure that you're sensible. Having a good social life is really important, especially in Year 13, as it can be a welcome distraction from everything else!
Similarly, having a part time job is great for many reasons, especially in that you can save up money for uni or whatever you're doing the following year. Just make sure that your college work is always the priority because that's what will help you most in the future! My bosses at work were very understanding, especially in the build up to exams and I'm sure that yours would be too!

5) Enjoy!!
Although ridiculously hectic and often stressful, the last academic year was my best so far. I made new friends and solidified friendships I'd made in first year of college and generally enjoyed life. So make the most of this stage of life because if you're anything like me, you'll look back at the end of the year and be glad that you worked hard but also had fun. So make the most of it!

So that's my main bits of advice for new Year 13s! If you'd like advice for anything specifically, feel free to get in touch!
Thanks for reading, and for all your support, it means a lot!

If you'd like to vote for me as UCAS Blogger of the Month, you can do that here. Thank you!

Until next time,
Anna x

Sunday, 21 August 2016

So Many Levels of Joy


If you haven't guessed by the title of this post... I GOT INTO HOPE!!!!!!!

I can't even begin to describe how happy I am! Not only did I get into university, I surpassed my own expectations and achieved AAB - grades that I only dreamed of!


I woke up at 5:53am, with my A Level results being posted on my online college account at 6am. I knew I couldn't bear to wait those seven minutes so turned over and went back to sleep. During the time I was asleep I dreamt that I'd failed English Lit and woke up in a panic! I imagined it was around 7:30am. It was actually just gone 6am!!! I anxiously logged on to the system and then spent a good couple of minutes being too nervous to click on the "exam results" sidebar! When I did it, I was at first a little confused as there were a lot of exams on there (from both last year and this) and I hadn't done particularly well in a lot of the exams. I then realised that my overall grades were at the top of the page. And I was absolutely elated!!

The night before results day, my Mum and I were talking about what grades I actually wanted - not what I needed to get into Hope. I had told her that the grades I wanted so badly were AAB. And that is what I achieved!! To say I was overjoyed is the understatement of the year!!
That morning, I went and woke up my parents and told them my results. Although both were still half asleep, they were also extremely happy and also very proud. I tried to go back to sleep after this but was unsuccessful so I put some music on and messaged my friends to see if they'd also had good news!

Later in the morning I had to go into college to officially collect my results but it was also a good excuse to see my friends and begin the celebrations early!!

Six extremely happy people
The fact that my closest friends all got into the universities they wanted made my happiness even greater. With us all being happy, it made the celebrations even better - both at college and then later that night!
Liverpool, Manchester, Ormskirk, Preston and Stirling - watch out, we're coming for you!!!

I'm not going to go into detail, but the celebrations continued long into the night and early morning! It was lovely going into town and celebrating with loads of people from college who I hadn't seen since the end of exams!


The celebrations for me continued on Friday, with my parents taking my sisters and I out for tea to celebrate both my A Level Results and my younger sister's AS results (which were also fantastic, so proud of you Rachel!!) I had a lovely meal and it was really great to relax and celebrate with my family.

Can't celebrate exam success without a family selfie!!! ;)

So overall, I'm ridiculously happy! The celebrations were amazing and I'm so proud of my results, I feel like they reflect the hard work that I put in over the past two years. Thank you to everyone who has supported me through this time, whether to encourage me or to be a shoulder to cry on when it got tough. I'm so blessed to have such amazing and supportive people in my life, so thank you all!

If you'd like to make this month for me, please vote for me as UCAS Blogger of the Month, which you can do here. Thank you!

I'm so excited that in a month and three days, I'll be moving into my halls at Liverpool Hope University! I can't wait for this next new chapter in my life to start!

Anna x

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Mixed Emotions

Hello again!

I know its been a long time since I last blogged but fear not! I have a couple of posts in the pipeline so hopefully it won't be too long before you hear from me again!!

With less than 10 hours until my A Level results are released, I wanted to write a very brief post about how I'm feeling: Mainly so I can look back tomorrow or some day in the future and remember this!

In all honesty, I'm not fully sure how I feel. I'm extremely nervous and apprehensive but at the same time slightly excited for it all to be over and done with so I can get on with prepping to go to uni this time next month!!! (So soon!!!) I want tomorrow morning to be over so badly but at the same time I really don't! My head is like a washing machine and I can't wait for it to get off spin cycle and everything to slow down!

Avril Lavigne might have said "here's to never growing up" and while part of me is wishing that to be true, the other part of me is really excited for this next stage in my life to begin - with tomorrow being the first stepping stone on the road!

So to all my family, friends and lovely readers, I wish you all the very best of luck and I hope that you get the results tomorrow that will not only get you where you want to be uni/apprenticeship/job-wise, but will make you happy and feel proud of yourselves. Whatever happens though, everything happens for a reason and so even if things don't go as perfectly as you hoped, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel.

All my love and best wishes to you all (and I hope we manage to sleep at least a bit tonight!!!)

Anna xx