Raniya HosainIn November 2014, Raniya Hosain, Senior Winner of the 2014 Commonwealth Essay Competition was invited by the Royal Commonwealth Society to attend the winners’ week in London along with the other winners of the competition.  She recalls her once in a lifetime experience:

“It isn’t very often that writers find themselves rendered speechless, but this is one of those rare occasions. This past week has been an experience so enriching and fascinating and busy and full of interesting moments that I don’t know where to start.

On Monday morning we met all the other winners and the people who made winners’ week possible, the people from the RCS. The warmth we received from the staff there was amazing. We then took part in a writers’ workshop, which was a good learning experience. We spoke of serious matters, such as the mindset needed to write and write well and less serious matters such as the zombie apocalypse and Taylor Swift.

We then headed over to Australian Broadcasting Corporation to record our essay entries in a studio, and they asked some interesting questions about Pakistan and the reasoning behind my essay which I answered to the best of my capability. We went to a secondary school afterwards, and the one thing that stuck out there for me was the Hunger Games themed library game the children had. Whoever took part in that, I do hope the odds were in your favour…

Next was the visit to London’s tallest building, the Shard and the view was surreal and there’s not much more I can say other than if you have the chance to visit, do.

On Tuesday, we started the day with a visit to the Houses of Parliament where the tour guide informed us that the French ministers were always told to speak in a room with two giant pictures of battles the French had lost. This was followed by lunch at a pizzeria, where I, in an attempt to be unique, did not have pizza. I am not only a writer, but also a rebel.

Next was a tour of the Evening Standard where we were told about the importance of the internet and its double-edged sword of a role in newspaper land. One parent in particular questioned how good the writing was in internet blogs, only to have the internet valiantly defended by two of the teenagers present.

On to Wednesday where we got to meet a member of the Royal Family, all in all it was very standard and routine… In other words, it might have been the coolest day of my life. They took us on a tour of the palace and showed us a secret door the likes of which I did not think existed outside of Narnia. Then we met the Duchess of Cornwall who told me I was a great writer, which moved me beyond words.

Then there was a tour of BBC studios, in which they told us how a student once confused Winston Churchill for Adolf Hitler which enlightened us about the state of the education system in Britain!

On to Thursday, when we went to Cambridge. Meeting with people from FitzWilliam College and then punting on the river Cam was amazing. The university library of which we took a guided tour was the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. As writers, I think all of us could have spent years going through all the books.

I can safely say that the whirlwind week I spent with these people was an unforgettable experience. Thank you to Selina, Max, Leah, all the parents who came with them, Mrs Eram Abid, Louise and the rest of the RCS team for making this week one of the best in my life.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Royal Commonwealth Society.