Antonia Romeo

Permanent Secretary - Department of International Trade

So many memories: rare summer classes outside by the pond; waiting terrified outside the headmistress's office after some misdemeanour (naturally the waiting was much worse than the subsequent mild reprimand); devising increasingly inventive ways to avoid swimming lessons in the freezing outdoor pool; the excitement when the McClaughlan Theatre (now library) was built. My dreaded violin lessons on Tuesdays; the Pilgrim Hymn (singing it still brings a lump to the throat); the excitement of the daffodil procession on Founders Day...

At NLCS endeavour and competition are built into the DNA. It didn't occur to us we couldn't do anything we wanted in life: we were as good as boys (well, better), we would be professors, judges, surgeons, cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, famous actors. We'd win Oscars, Bookers, Nobel prizes, Olympic golds: the only limit on what we could do was our imaginations. And even in 1980 NLCS was an exemplar of cultural and national diversity - we were taught that the only thing that mattered was merit.

Maths with Mrs Salter was my favourite class - she, along with Mrs Greenstock in Physics, were the people who made me realise I might actually be quite good at maths/science/logic - I subsequently went on to become an economist working for the British Government.

The sense of community, meritocracy, duty, and ambition that NLCS instils has taken me via Oxford University and LSE into the civil service in the Ministry of Justice and then the Cabinet Office; and later to New York as a diplomat. Now I am the Permanent Secretary of the Department for International Trade, which runs the UK's free trade policy, and promotes global trade and investment around the world.