I think that people are very much the product of their experiences and the environments they develop in. I also think it is important to feel that you are welcome and belong to a community or a particular environment, regardless of disability.
For many people, particularly those who have recently left university like me, their university environment is one of those places that helped mould them into who they are today and who they will be tomorrow.
The reason, for those of you who never studied Latin, the title of my post is "Vel Primus Vel cum Primis", is that it's my old college's motto at my university - Durham. I never thought when I applied to Hatfield College in 2007, that the motto would be so relevant to me now. It's direct translation is: "Either the first or with the first", although it was colloquialised in college to: "Be the best you can be".
I find it amusing looking back at my time in Hatfield that the motto would resonate so strongly in my objective in 2014, to become the first British female to complete the Race Across America, Solo.
But it was also relevant, when asked very recently to be part of a celebration for Purple Day, the international Epilepsy awareness day. I was asked to climb Big Ben with a group of people representing the major UK Epilepsy charities alongside Laura Sandys MP and Paul Maynard MP. It was only very recently that after far to long a period, Laura, managed to get the ban on people with Epilepsy being allowed to climb the landmark, scrapped.
I will be exceptionally proud and humbled, to be "with the first" on that occasion.
What Hatfield College did for me, is provide a fantastic supportive environment for me to do things, such as become the youngest British female across all categories, to complete the Race Across America in 2008. To achieve as much as I could academically and support me when I had seizures, or when I had a rough time with my medication changes.
I'll never forget my first few weeks at Hatfield.
Along with my then room-mate Anna, I started freshers week on crutches after a cycling accident. The staff were hugely supportive, but Anna and I found help and advice from another amazing student. Arabella, is a wheelchair user and so when Anna and I came to Hatfield, she explained little tips about roads to avoid because of the cobbles, hills, tips about getting our food in Hatfield Hall, everything! She was fantastic and Bella, is still to this day, one of the warmest, generous and most enthusiastic individuals I have ever met. Of course, she was a Hatfielder!
Even the colloquial translation of the motto, "Be the best you can be" is extremely relevant to me.
Given I know I am exceptionally lucky to have my Epilepsy well controlled now, people who I know that don't have the same luck I have, motivate me to be the best I can be.
I think it is no coincidence that, as I recently found out, one of the current students in Hatfield, Camilla, had also been told she has a conditional offer to carry the Olympic Torch. Hatfield was always a great college to be at if you wanted to be part of a team or society. For me it was a rather good place to be if you liked playing hockey, as we were really quite good at that! (Along of course, with Camilla's sport of rowing).
I'm sure, given Hatfield's alumni, it's environment and it's ethos, that there will be many more Hatfielders, old and new to carry the flame.
When you know you were eating, sleeping and living in the same place as the likes of Will Greenwood MBE and Andrew Strauss OBE, to name just a couple...
It's an inevitability.
I recently found out that the Deputy CEO of the British Epilepsy Association, or Epilepsy Action to you and me, studied at Durham too.
He went to Hatfield College - Go figure!