I was very excited to learn I was senior winner in the 2015 essay competition and the prize – a ‘winner’s week’ in London – proved I was right to be! 

The RCS arranged not only a very interesting week leading up to the ceremony in Buckingham Palace, but also a rewarding collection of experiences that I think will prove important in my future. For this I’m extremely grateful to the Society and to Louise Guillaume for looking after us all.

I was proud the week started at the High Commission of Cyprus where my fellow winners were welcomed by my own country. From there we enjoyed a writing workshop, before a trip to the Shard with a visit to the top for head-spinning views across London. We were lucky with the weather, so saw many of the places we were to visit in the week.

The next day we had a very interesting tour of the Houses of Parliament. You could feel the history of the place from the moment we stepped in and could imagine important people pondering national events in its hallways. The Parliament was particularly interesting for me because my Great Grandfather on my English father’s side was an MP and would have walked in exactly the same places I did! A visit to the very impressive Holland Park School followed, which truly wowed us all with a fabulous welcome and by just how exciting it must be to learn in such an active and up to date place!

Paraschos writingThat afternoon’s tour of the Evening Standard provided great contrast to the sort of offices I had seen before in Cyprus. Until now, I thought my mum’s offices at Cyprus Customs were busy with a few desks and tens of clearing agents – but this was another world with what seemed like a sea of desks with waves of people and activity. With my interest in writing, this great experience showed us what it might be like to have a career in journalism in a busy city; which was the same exciting lesson we learned in visiting the amazing news studios of the BBC after the awards ceremony, later in the week.

Wednesday’s visit to Cambridge was both fun and useful, with thanks to Dr Hero Chalmers and Master of the College, Nicola Padfield for looking after us. We had fun being skilfully pushed along the water in traditional punts and the whole visit was useful because I could see what this leading university was like, it being the one that I most want to aim for after school. The visit to the University Library was also really interesting because amongst the rare and valuable books and records they hold, they had been kind enough to point out works with some significance to my own country.

Of course, this brilliant week built up to the awards ceremony at Buckingham Palace. ‘Magnificent’ is the only word necessary to describe the palace, my feelings of excitement receiving the award in such opulent surroundings and the kind and enthusiastic welcome that everyone and particularly the Duchess of Cornwall gave to the winners and our families. I think my Dad was also a big fan of the tasty food presented as delicious canapés that we were treated to! And with official press filming the event, we got back to the hotel that night to find that I’d already appeared on Cyprus Television news!

The entire week was not only an enjoyable ‘prize’ but an exciting collection of valuable experiences that I will never forget and for which I will always be very grateful to the Society for arranging. Thanks!

Inspired to enter The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition 2016? Find out more information, including topics, hints and how to enter, by clicking here.


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