The Highlights of my Final Year so far

Written by Minori Iwahashi

With Christmas and New Year long gone, January is in full swing! The start of the new decade marks many beginnings but for us students, it is nothing but a busy and stressful time. Many have returned to Leeds for January exams while others have worked hard over the Winter holidays on their assignments before the start of the second term. I myself lucked out on not having any exams this year but have been swamped with coursework and freelance projects on the side. Having had little to no time to reflect on 2019 in the past month, I thought I would look back on my year and share some of my highlights of the year in this update.

From completing my placement year at JD Sports to returning to University for my final year, 2019 has been extremely rewarding and eventful. Becoming a student again has been refreshing as I regained a lot of freedom after escaping the 9 to 5 life for another year but equally, my idea of freedom is not very conventional and for some, can be referred to as “work”. My downtime is not lounging around and watching Netflix but rather using my spare time in-between lectures, seminars, and deadlines doing creative shoots and projects such as my recent work for the Leeds Rag Fashion Show, where I worked as a videographer to reveal this year’s theme ‘Elysian’.

Though I have regularly been involved with various societies throughout my time in Leeds, what is truly special about being at University is everything else that falls into place outside of campus. One of the highlights of my year was in fact entirely unrelated to University or the Union as I won a 5-day trip to New York with my friend Sarah, who had the idea to do a photoshoot together as a way of catching up. The following images qualified for an Instagram competition hosted by the clothing brand Bershka, which happened to go live the day after our spontaneous shoot in her apartment.

The photos somehow led to an unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experience; spending Halloween in the Big Apple, staying in the heart of Manhattan, and cramming all the sights from Brooklyn Bridge to Grand Central by waking up early and going to bed late, the trip proved to me that hard work pays off, even at times when you least expect it. More importantly, I began to realise how much I had grown during my four years in Leeds as my practical camera skills have nurtured to a point where it had relevance in the real world. Although the shoot had nothing to do with my course, being recognised for my photography by absolute strangers gave me a fresh perspective on how I should view myself and my craft, especially in an industry where it is so easy to be critical. No longer deliberately comparing myself to others or diminishing my own efforts in light of other people’s work, I acknowledge that the key to growth is to understand that everything is a process; my photography in first year is nowhere near what it is now – a conclusion I reached long ago but only fully grasped after New York.

Despite the real world being competitive and discouraging at times, University is a hub of young, artistic minds who are more than willing to collaborate. There is definitely no better time for creatives to work on their portfolio, which is why it is important for students to make the most out of their degree as well as their time in Leeds.

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Minori Iwahashi
Hi, My name is Minori. I was born in Japan but raised in Germany for 16 years. After completing my International Baccalaureate, I decided to move to Leeds and study BA...
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