In 2017 Sarah Caroll, ON, won the Heather Coles Prize at the school's annual Prizegiving evening. The Heather Coles Award is awarded in honour of Heather Coles (ON 94-94), to a U6 female leaver who has interesting plans for a gap year, particularly if there is a connection with economics and overseas development. Below, Sarah Caroll, reflects on her year abroad in a letter to Mr and Mrs Coles, Heather Coles parents and sponsors of the Prize.
"Dear Mr and Mrs Coles,
Thank you so much for supporting me this past year in your kind awarding of the Heather Coles Prize in memory of your daughter. I really appreciated the unexpected financial gift and put it to good use. I believe a condition of receiving the award was to write a letter about my experiences in hindsight and so here it is.
Having returned from my year abroad two months ago I have had a lot of time to reflect about how much I have learnt. Despite being challenged frequently I definitely have matured and grown into a better me — how cliché. But however stereotypical it's true and I wish I could do it all again.
I started off my adventures this time last year by boarding (rather reluctantly and in a fit of tears) two long flights to Australia. I remember thinking how crazy and brave I was embarking on the trip alone. I soon settled into my nannying job for the lovely Williams' family who had six children between the ages of four and sixteen. It was such a fun-loving atmosphere that I never wanted to leave. Working long hours and living in their house (at work!) had its down sides but doing life away from home and working abroad was an incredible experience. I learnt invaluable skills such as first aid training, looking after young children, professionalism, organisation and self reliance. The job also made me look forward to have my own family in the future. Some highlights include walking the kids to school in the sun every morning, being able to drive myself to nearby waterfall walks, a family weekend trip down the coast to a holiday town, waterskiing after school, fishing 6 kilometres off shore, volunteering at the church youth group and working part time in a pizzeria. Before I left I got to organise a fundraising event "Cupcakes and Carols for Sarah Carroll" in aid of my missions trip — more anon. Lots of my friends came and supported me which made it a really special evening.
On the eve of Christmas Eve I travelled home (after many more tears having become rather attached to my Aussie family) for a quick pit stop and lots of Christmas celebrations before I was off again just over a fortnight later.
I left in early January for Soul Edge, a small, established Christian leadership training scheme; I also left England for the harsh realities of a Canadian winter — it was negative forty celsius when the Soul Edge team and I got off the plane! I was proud to have been able to raise the finances for the course fees and kit myself.
I had an incredible time away learning to live with fifteen other like-minded people for all of five months, growing in my faith and love for the Bible whilst being challenged by the physically strenuous demands of hiking, daily runs, snow camping, snowboarding and canoeing sometimes on our "days off". Our time was split into three months of in-depth theological training and adventure followed by two months living in a First Nation Cree community ten hours north of our base. Partnering with Soul Edge's sustainable, annual outreach looked like running youth clubs, Bible studies and Alpha courses; we went into schools and taught the kids and young people about self-worth, anti-bullying, friendships and practical skills for life; we also built and rekindled relationships with the people from the reserve through interactions on the street, ice-fishing, singing, school work and church. It was a beautiful time of investing in a community who are so often neglected by society, impoverished and isolated.
I came home in June and have loved meeting up with family and friends over summer. The 2018 Soul Edge team have also been reunited several times at different Christian festivals and they came round for my nineteenth birthday party too. It has been really special seeing them again as we formed such close relationships while away. Doing feedback presentations at church, writing grateful reports like this one and encouraging other young people to apply for similar schemes next year has been a privilege and joy.
In September I'll be heading to Sheffield where I'll begin studying music for the next 3 years. I am hugely grateful to people like you for helping me get to where I am now — your support has been invaluable. Norwich School prepared me really well for what was an intense, challenging, action-packed year away. It has been transformational in many ways and was such a good grounding for the rest of my adult life. Thank you again for supporting my experiences this last year."
Sarah Carroll, ON