A Year in Review – 2015

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St. Stephans Cathedral, Vienna on the 31st December.

Another year has flown past, and with it, other year full of new people, experiences and stories to tell. 2015 has been quite the exciting year for me personally and for the world. Politically, things are going down the toilet; socially, countries are becoming more and more polarised; and generally, the world has become a much more unsafe place. However, as has now become customary for me in my New Years post, a quick reflection on the good things of 2015 is in order, as are well-wishes for the new year. There have been ups and downs, bouts of lucid joy and unpleasant depression. However, there have been no deaths in the family – which is more than can be said for many other unfortunate individuals around the world – and we have our health (vaguely anyway), so there is not much to complain about.

2015 was the year I graduated secondary (high) school. A big event in ones life that shouldn’t go unnoticed at all. The speaker at the leavers ceremony imparted his words of wisdom, “you cannot be happier than happy”, wishing that we all pause every now and then to take stock of what is important and what we have. Cheesy, yes, but still worth remembering. My physics teacher took half an hour out of our final lesson to instruct us to remember that life is quite short – exemplified through his close university friend losing her life in a road accident – and to enjoy the moment, while still seeking and grabbing opportunities as they arise, making the most out of and learning from them. “Whether you are going to Cambridge, Boston or Zurich, you will be fine”, he addressed the class, referring to my situation.

This year also introduced me to a whole spectrum of emotions I always had thought were reserved for the Hollywood rom-com films. I reconnected with a friend through fortunate coincidences, which made me especially happy, given the turbulent previous few months. Old friends introduced me to new friends who dragged me to a central london night club after the school leavers ball, followed by an all-nighter zipping around London before going into school the following day dressed in our tuxedos for the last day of the school term. I was even brave enough to speak to a girl at the Royal Society summer exhibition [I still remember when it was nearly impossible for past Nic to speak to girls] who has now become a very good friend of mine. A year of firsts as well as a year of lasts apparently.

This summer was also undoubtedly one of the best I have experienced. Walking around London during A-Level exam season on my revision breaks, I truly got to know the city well, expanding my geographic knowledge from just the London tube map to actually understanding that Piccadilly Circus is a three minute walk away from Leicester Square. One of my closest friends from the EPGY program at Stanford visited me in London as well, but only for a day, so we managed to pack in a week’s worth of sightseeing into a 14 hour trip around London!

I also went on an interrailing trip around Europe with two very close friends of mine, stopping over in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Hungary, Austria and Italy. From missed connections in Denmark to hiking in a Norwegian national park to enjoying Europe’s best hot chocolate at Café Florian in Venice, that was truly the trip of a lifetime!

However, it did not end there. After a three-day turnover in London I was off to the USA to plane and train my way across the continent-sized country for two weeks. I stopped off in New York where I had the pleasure of getting together with friends I met on the Harvard visiting weekend, as well as wondering around the city that never sleeps at 4am, gawking at the lights of Times Square and the commotion on 5th Avenue.

Off to Chicago next, where I again met my close friend from Stanford and with whom I stayed for a few nights. She was kind enough – and devious in orchestrating this – to introduce me to her “equally pretentious” friend, who took me around Chicago for a day. Off to California next on the Amtrak California Zephyr for a two-day trip by rail. Despite my American friends’ starkest objections to this train journey, I thoroughly enjoyed it! I spoke to an Amish gentleman, who wanted me to give him an introduction to electromagnetic induction to explain how electricity is generated at what it actually is. The best I could come up with to explain how a magnet moving through a coil generates electricity was: “Basically, it’s magic”. In California, I met more friends from Stanford, spent a night in Yosemite National Park, explored San Francisco and visited the UC Berkeley campus. All in all it was, again, the trip of a lifetime!

Perhaps the most important events of 2015 were getting an offer from Cambridge and ETH Zurich and being admitted to Harvard. I visited all three universities this year and ended up deferring Harvard for a year in order to try to meet the offer for Cambridge. Alas, I did not meet the STEP 1 component of the offer, and so I find myself on a gap year. I have just completed three months of work at a local shop and am now preparing to head off to South America for a few months to learn some Spanish and volunteer in Chile. We will see how that goes!

In the coming days, I will know whether I will be attending Cambridge or Harvard, and with my university saga drama finally concluded after three years, the next chapter of my academic career can begin. I welcomed 2015 last year with “into 2015, we look forward, and it will be a big one. 2015, give me your worst.” This year has indeed presented many challenges personally and to the world, but without the tough times there is no way to enjoy the great and memorable ones!

2015 was an astronomical year, and as the clock ticks on and seconds fly past us, we find ourselves in 2016 whether you like it or not. Make the most of it. It will be quite the ride!

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