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It's time to share another story from our ‘Where are they now?’ series. The series that's bringing our alumni back to ISH through their stories. The newest profile is alumna Abbie Wiggins, author of Anchor, poet, Instagram creator, charity worker and writer of words. Abbie is a graduate from our class of 2015, she's had her poetry shared by Jesse J and has a published book, it's on the shelf of the ISH library. We're in no doubt that your hearts will warm as you read her story and feel her wisdom, her love of creativity, hope, people and community and the enchanting way in which she entwines and shares these through her written words. 


Abbie, in a nutshell where are from, where have you been since graduating from IS Hilversum, any ISH memories and where are you now?


I'm from the UK, currently living in Bedford. After I graduated from the ISH, I moved back to the UK with my mum, dad and two sisters. This was a big and exciting adjustment for us after spending nearly 10 years in The Netherlands. I decided to take a gap year to work, travel and adjust to life in the UK. During this time, I worked in a Nursery looking after babies and young children and then spent 3 months in the US. I then went on to study English Literature at the University of Brighton, which I LOVED! I basically got to read books for 3 years, what a dream! After graduating from Uni, I moved to Bedford to do an intern year at a church and am now working for a charity called Kings Arms Project as a Finance and Operations assistant. I run an Instagram account called @wordsbyabbie where I've been posting my writing for about 3 years. Out of this, I have recently published a book called Anchor that is available on Amazon! This is so exciting for me, one of my biggest dreams come true! Shoutout to Mr. Ong, my ISH English Literature teacher! The thing I enjoyed most about ISH was the friendships I made that have lasted into my adult life. I loved both Geography and English Literature; Mrs. Van Lemmen and Mr. Ong were my favourite teachers! In my spare time, I love going for walks with friends by the river here in Bedford, reading, drinking coffee and writing! 


Abbie! We're sure much of this is relatable to our past and current students. Living in a new country, moving home and readjusting. How has living and studying in The Netherlands influenced who you are now?


Yes, I would say that it has. I feel very thankful to have grown up in such an amazing country and for the education I received at ISH. I know how much of a privilege that is and it gave me such a strong baseline to start my adult life from. Studying at ISH and experiencing living in another country has helped me in many ways but I think especially in terms of my critical thinking and problem-solving skills. I’m very thankful to have been able to experience living in the Netherlands. The Dutch culture and people are incredible. The friendships I built at school and in the community have shaped who I am today. I also really miss the cycling; we can't really do that in the same way in the UK!


Yes! The cycling - such a wonderful freedom. It's been hard in the past few years for students to consider a GAP year with the pandemic. Did you always plan to take a GAP year?


Actually, no! I thought I'd go straight from school to university and that was always my plan. I'd never thought about a gap year. I applied to do Children’s Nursing towards the end of DP1/beginning of DP2 and had interviews, but didn't get accepted anywhere. Obviously, at the time, that was hugely disappointing. My plan had not worked out in the way that I’d hoped, which was difficult for me as I find it hard when things don’t go to plan. My family and I were moving back to the UK in the summer after I graduated so I thought to myself, okay, what can I do now? How can I turn this around? I decided I'd give myself a year to adjust back to life in the UK, breathe and to experience life outside of education. So, I moved back to the UK with my family and I got a job. I worked in a nursery looking after babies. Then went to the US to visit some friends and spent about 2 1/2 months there. When I went to University to study English Literature (I know, a complete turn-around, but that’s another story!) I was refreshed because I had given myself a break and I had experienced life outside of school and I felt ready to study. So no, I had not planned a gap year, but I would actually really recommend it. I would say that if you’re not sure what you want to do, don't rush into University. I always say this to the young people in my life. If you are not sure, just don't go yet. Waiting a year is okay. Not going is okay. University is a big investment of both time and money. I loved university because I studied something I was passionate about. If you’re in a position where you don’t know what you want to do, get a job, or if you’re able to, travel. Give yourself space. Then, when you know what you want to do, you’ll be ready to fully go after it.


Unfortunately Mr. Ong is no longer at ISH but we were able to fill Ms. van Lemmen in on where you are now. Here are a few words from her ...


"I was so proud to hear that one of my ex-students had become a published author! I remember Abbie as being a quiet, kind girl. She cared about the topics we covered in Geography and was always interested. 

When she could, she would be reading a book. When I think of Abbie, it is always with a book in her hand. I am so glad that she was able to follow her passion."

~ Ms. van Lemmen.


It seems when we talk about Abbie Wiggins we also talk about and think books! How many books would you read in a year? Do you have a favourite genre?


This is a great question. I actually haven't been reading as much recently. I've been focusing more on writing, but my favourite genres to read are historical fiction and contemporary literature. What I love about reading is that your eyes are opened to perspectives that are different from your own. There is something so special about being given a window into another life, it builds compassion and empathy. What I love about historical fiction is learning about different moments in history. Seeing events through the eyes of a character brings historical events to life for me. When you hear about historical events, I think you can understand them from a practical point of view. When you read about them through the eyes of a character, you see the situation through their eyes and it helps you connect with the humanity and emotions of the time. It takes an incredible commitment to write a book.


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And talking books ...


We're all in awe of your book, Anchor. It's in our school library and when I tried to borrow it recently it had been borrowed out! We've purchased a second copy so no one misses out. How long was it a dream of yours to write a book? Did you always imagine your first book to be in the form of poetry. 


That is very kind! Thank you so much. That's really amazing to hear. It’s funny to think that my book is in the school library, I wish I could tell my ISH self that! So, it's been a dream of mine for a long time. I just loved the thought of having my name on a book that I’d written. I didn’t really think it would happen at this stage in my life, but it is very exciting. I also never thought it would be a poetry book! It’s quite ironic because I used to think I hated poetry. It was my least favourite thing to study at school and in my degree. Sorry to my poetry lecturers if you’re reading this. I think what got me into poetry was reading more work by contemporary poets and realizing that you can use poetry to capture concepts and say something in a way that's different from prose.


I wonder about your creative process. How do you prioritise it with working as well? Do you journal? Do you write daily? Do you block time to write?


I feel like I keep saying this is a great question, but this is another great question! It did take a lot of commitment and a lot of time. There were a few things that made it slightly easier for me. When I was writing the book, I only had a part time job because of Covid and it was a job where I could actually work on my book at the same time. I was a receptionist at my church building. Also, my book was a compilation of content that I pretty much had already written, so it was mostly a process of editing and arranging my work. I think for me, because I self-published, the biggest thing was the time it took to get the book ready for publishing. I did the formatting myself and it was intense, but I learned so much from that experience which will make my second book a much easier process! Anyway,this question is actually about my creative process! My creative process is an interesting one to try and explain. It’s not always the same. Sometimes the words will flow easily. Sometimes I stare at a blank piece of paper and wonder if I can even write! I mostly write encouraging, hope-filled poetry that I post on Instagram. Some of the places I get inspiration from are conversations with friends, conversations I accidentally overhear in public, my sisters, or what would I tell my younger self. I’m a youth leader at the church I go to and sometimes I think about what I want them to know and then I write that. I try and keep my mind open to inspiration, so it comes from a lot of different places. I've actually recently started getting into journaling, literally this past week. I've found it so interesting to just sit and write down what I'm thinking and process my thoughts. Reading back over it is really interesting because sometimes I'm not really sure what I'm thinking, but then I read back what I wrote and I'm like oh my gosh, there is actually quite a lot there haha!


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I wanted to talk a bit about your Instagram account @wordsbyabbie. It is such a beautiful space and we love seeing your sweet words pop up in our school account. It is brave to share your creativitiy in this way, was it difficult to begin with?


First of all, thank you. Second of all, this is another incredible question because I have definitely been through a process with this over the years. I started posting my work on Instagram four or five years ago. Not many people in my life knew that I liked writing and I think that was the scariest thing for me, thinking about the fact that people I knew in real life would be able to read what I posted. It still feels weird sometimes! It’s a very vulnerable thing because you’re putting something that you created out for anyone to see and say whatever they want about it. I did think about doing it anonymously to give myself a bit more freedom to express myself without the fear of what people would say. The reason I didn’t end up doing that is because I knew that that decision would have been made from a place of fear and that didn’t feel right for me. There was quite a lot of freedom and empowerment for me in the process. Thankfully, the reaction has been all positive from people I know in person. It’s really cool for me when I meet people in person that follow my work because I usually only get to see names on a screen and it’s really special to meet people face to face.


This is a beautifully written and interesting reflection of your process Abbie. Stepping out of our comfort zones to trust creativity over fear is challenging for many of us. Do you have a nice story about a connection you have made via your instagram page?


I do! I've made lots of really good friends through Instagram from all over the world. Connecting with one of my favourite writers, Morgan Harper Nichols, was incredibly cool moment for me. One of the craziest things that has happened was when Jessie J shared one of my poems on her story. That was insane. I would be lying if I said I didn’t fall off my bed when that happened. I also got to collaborate with one of my favourite photographers (@estherscanon) recently, which was amazing.


WHAT! Amazing. Yes, falling off your bed seems like a completely reasonable response to having your poem shared by Jesse J! Other than the falling of your bed moments, can tell us what inspires your writing?


The main thing that inspires my writing is my faith. I’m a Christian and most of what I write comes from that place. Other things that inspire my writing are my friends, experiences, conversations, my sisters. A big thing that inspires me is reading. I love seeing how different words fit and sound together. Words are incredible. Music also inspires me, I think lyrics are poetry. I especially love Taylor Swift’s writing.


Do you have any advice for our students who love words?


I love this. I mean, feel free to reach out to me on Instagram (@wordsbyabbie) and I'd love to right chat to you if you're interested in writing! I'm happy to answer any questions. Some advice that I'd give you is to read as much as you can. Find books you enjoy. Find styles that you love. Find authors that you love and really pay attention to how they write and how they make you feel different emotions through their use of language. I'd recommend listening to audio books as well because hearing the way words sound is really interesting and helpful. Read as much as you can and listen to words. Pay attention to how they make you feel. Maybe think about studying English Literature/Language at university. I loved it so I would definitely recommend. If you're interested in writing, just start writing. I used to have this idea of the perfect time where I'd start writing, but there's no perfect time. You can start writing now. I'm not saying you have to share it with anyone. Write for yourself. Get a journal. If you have an idea and you love doing something, put in the time and the work. Make it happen. You’ve got this. Let me know if you want any advice, I'm happy to chat to you on Instagram, just send me a message.


You say great questions and I keep thinking WOW, great answers. Your way with words is enchanting, they are layered with wisdom and feeling. Here's a question we always ask our alumni ... is there any advice you would give your high school self?


Definitely. There are a few main things I would say. Firstly, please stop comparing yourself to the people around you. Learn how to spend time with yourself. Take yourself for a coffee, take yourself for a walk. Learn to be content with your own company. Treasure your friendships. Don’t worry about how many friends you have, focus on the friends you do have because they will be what helps you get through. Shoutout to Ben! If you have just a few close friends, that is enough. Trust me. Something else I'd say is to not be afraid to say that you don't know how to do something. There can be a lot of pressure to know it all, to be good at everything (but that’s actually not possible). It’s okay to ask your teachers for help. It’s normal not to understand everything straight away.


It has been so wonderful to be able to share this time with you, I wonder do you have anything else you would like to share or you think would be inspirational for our students and budding creatives.


Find what you're passionate about and go after that thing. Don’t look at what everyone else around you is doing. Don’t think about what everyone around you wants you to do. Instead, think about what you’re passionate about. What do you love doing? If you don’t know what that is yet, let yourself try new things. Find out what it is that brings you life. Build a strong community of friendship around you. Good friends are crucial. That is probably it.


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If you have any more questions, feel free to contact me through instagram (@wordsbyabbie) or email (wordsbyabbiecontact@gmail.com) I would love to hear from you. x


It was an absolute pleasure getting you know you a little better Abbie and to have the opportunity to share snippits of your story and your thoughts with our community. It's been absolutely brilliant to have you back at ISH and you will no doubt inspire much thinking. 


For more!

You can buy Abbie's book here:


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Or follow her with 30k others here on Instagram:



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To read more on the esteemed company Abbie is in, please check out previously featured ISH alumni, in our 'Where are they now?' series ... 

Where are they now? Defne Gencler (Entrepreneur, Comedian, TikTok sensation).

Where are they now? Marieke Bigg (Writer).

Where are they now? Lena Grobusch - (Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters Degree Candidate).


Are you an alumni who would like to be featured? Do you know an alumni with a story we should get in contact with? Email: fcleven@atscholen.nl