Adaeze Uyanwah, a 24-year-old substitute teacher and aspiring screenwriter from California, won the trip of a lifetime when she was chosen as London’s Official Guest of Honour following an international search. She won a trip to the city, plus amazing prizes, including meeting a Downton Abbey cast member, a tour of a London museum with Stephen Hawking, and more. Here are some of her most memorable moments.
Application inspiration: “London is my favorite city in the world. I’ve been numerous times, but I have never had an experience like what VisitLondon.com was offering. When I saw all the prizes, I knew I had to enter. Who wouldn’t want to be the Guest of Honour in their favorite city in the world?”
London love: “The old and new mix in London. I was staying at the heart of Seven Dials, which is a historic area in Covent Garden. The buildings are old, but when you walk a little way down the street there’s an H&M! The people of London grow up and live around so much history.”
Brit food fetish: “Oh, my God, the food! Curries. Pasties. Chips. Scones. CLOTTED CREAM! I have never eaten so much in my entire life. The best sight in the world is a three-tier tray filled with goodies at high tea. It is ridiculous that we don’t have clotted cream in every supermarket in the U.S.”
Pinch-me sight: “Outside the Palace of Westminster there is a statue of a woman named Boudica. She was the queen of a British tribe in the first century who nearly defeated the Romans for not acknowledging her as the rightful owner of her land and people. Basically, she is like what Xena the Warrior Princess would be in real life. I’d done some research on her for a school project and had been waiting to see her statue. As we were driving toward the palace for my tour, I looked out the window and she was right there. I literally screamed.”
Carter and Uyanwah (Visit London)
Downton Abbey fan freak-out: “I met Jim Carter [aka Carson the butler from Downton Abbey], and I absolutely loved him. He is a true Yorkshire gentleman. He opened my door when I arrived at the cricket grounds and gave my mother and me a kiss on the cheek when we said our goodbyes. He was so kind and stayed with us longer than the time he was supposed to. He was also really funny and happy to answer my questions about Downton Abbey without revealing anything about the upcoming season. Plus, he signed my cricket bat with ‘xx’ … which means he loves me.”
Career-making moment: “On my last day, I had a lunch with Gurinder Chadha, the writer-director of Bend It Like Beckham. She gave me a bunch of information about the industry and how to make my way through it. She also has me reading a few of her scripts, and I’ll be handling the correspondence on one of her projects that she’s thinking about bringing to the U.S. It was completely out of the blue and very much appreciated. That was just incredible.”
Uyanwah and Hawking (Visit London)
Life lesson: “As part of the prize, Stephen Hawking took me on a tour of the Science Museum, where his mother used to drop him off when he was a kid. I asked him what basic shortcoming he would extinguish in humanity and which quality he would magnify. He said he would extinguish aggression, because it has the potential to destroy us all. And he would magnify empathy, because it brings us together. Now I have been trying to live like that. There have been moments when I’ve been getting aggressive for no reason, and I’m like, ‘Stephen Hawking told me this would destroy me, so I’m not going to do this.’”
Dream come true: “I went to the home of Sir Ronald Harwood, the screenwriter of The Pianist. He was incredible, very sweet. I talked to him for the longest time. And he said, ‘If there’s anyone you need me to introduce you to, here’s my email.’ That is just a screenwriter’s dream.”
Tearjerker: “One night I went to an Oscars party, and they told me I would have a meet and greet about the Nicholl Fellowship. That’s a huge writing fellowship in the States. That was a dream come true — I literally broke down and started crying because I’ve been after the Nicholl Fellowship for years.”
Game changer: “There’s definitely a shift since the trip. My goal was always to make television — and it is my number one goal — but it’s just been so exciting that I’m considering doing presenting.”
“Aha!” moment: “I’m actually thinking about moving to London. I fell in love when I was there, so let’s see if I can make my way back. I’m 24, I’ve got some time, so I’ll see what I can do.”
Want to win your own trip to London? Check out the latest Be Our Guest giveaway at VisitLondon.com to enter.
Watch the highlights of Adaeze Uyanwah’s V.I.P. trip to London! (Video)
Watch highlights from Adaeze’s trip of a lifetime, from flying first class from her hometown in California to raising Tower Bridge, attending a Royal Premiere, seeing London from a helicopter, and watching her name appear in the Piccadilly Circus lights!
Watch Yahoo Travel’s new original series “A Broad Abroad.”