Nikki, Schools Assistant, UK

Dear Lattitude,

I’m sorry this email has been such a long time coming – I’m over half way through my placement and its so hard to believe!
First of all I wanted to thank you both again for gifting me with this amazing opportunity, not only has it been a childhood dream come true for me, but it has also created the most amazing changed in my family, which I think is all a result of this scholarship. For myself and my school, I don’t think any of us could have dreamed that something so amazing and big could come to a person in a community so small. There were a few significant negative ‘event’s that took place at my school in the preceding 18 months, so to have something so uplifting and good to happen was something that could be shared with not only myself and my immediate whanau, but also my teachers, peers and community, and give us some hope back that good things can happen again. The biggest and most immediate change I was able to see was in my family though, especially in both my parents. I value both my parents immensely for not only all they have given up to raise me, but also the astounding role models they have been – always spurring me to do my best and be my best. Although I’m still in disbelief that all this has actually happened to me, to my parents I think (and hope) they see that all I am and all I’ve achieved is a direct result of themselves, and I’m not sure I’ve seen parents any prouder. And as a direct result, my parents separately but at the same time (confusing, I know!) also made huge change in their own lives, and left their respective lives in New Zealand to pursue bigger and better things abroad, where hopefully things will be a little bit easier on them, especially without 4 children towing them down! I guess this wouldn’t mean too much in normal circumstances, but for my parents, this uprooting is about that most radical thing I could ever think of any of them doing. Just about as radical as a small-town girl from Te Puke getting the amazing opportunity to volunteer and live in England. The flow on has also meant all 3 of my brothers have made big changes in their lives; whether pursuing higher positions in their careers or looking to see things outside of New Zealand as well. Extreme and radical change – but in a good way!
So far, my placement here has been full of all the ups and downs I was told about and tried to prepare for but really couldn’t – travel sickness, physical sickness (from the weather!) and of course home sickness. But after that magical 3 month marker, everything just came right, and now it’s hard to get through a day without marvelling at something purely because it’s different from home, and thinking how lucky I am. At the start, I wasn’t sure what to expect from St Andrew’s – especially as I’ve never even been to a boarding school before. Pretty soon I realised how well-matched I was for this place though – around half my ‘day’ duties are spent coaching kids here (daunting at first) but I soon found that I had enough knowledge to help out, and in some cases actually take over and teach new things. From what I’ve heard, the responsibilities and things I’ve been asked to help with are really uncommon for a gappie to do, but I’m glad that I’ve been asked and I can get stuck in with whatever they need – its been the most rewarding part of it all! A by-product of course, is that I’ve been incredibly busy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way because I feel like I really am trying to make the most of everything that comes my way this year – all because of the two of you!
I’ve been to national championships for athletics and hockey helping coach the kids, to amusement parks and ice-skating rinks with my boarding kids, I’ve caught up with a long-lost relative I’ve never met before! I’ve travelled to the most amazing places in England like London, the Lake District, Cambridge and Scotland, and I’ve caught up with an old exchange student friend of mine in Holland.. and then turned from tourist to tour guide when she came to England! With so much seen and so much still to come (like my 2 week Contiki tour starting in just one week!!) and seeing one of my brothers for the first time in over 19 months, I really feel like I’m lost in a fairytale – or the Dr Seuss poem “Oh! The Places You’ll Go”.  I guess what I’m trying to say is, that I am so incredibly grateful for this amazing opportunity you have gifted me with, and with so much gone and so much still to come, the memories and experiences you have given me have changed the course of my life irreversibly, in a way that neither I or nor any of my family could ever have dreamed of.
I hope this year has gone smoothly for you, and I think you should rest assured in the amazing job you both do, and in the hope and opportunity you give people like me.
I hope Lattitude can continue for many more years to come!
Thank you so much yet again,