Monday, 17 October 2011

The IB Experience

This summer, I have not been very good at keeping up my blogging - I shall try to improve now that I am starting to feel pretty settled here in St. Andrews. While I was waiting for my IB grades to be released in July I felt a bit sentimental, and I ended up sending one of the pictures from our graduation ceremony to the IB alumni blog -- they ended up asking me to do a guest blog post about my "IB experience". I think it was a good way for me to get back into blogging, and I figured I should post it here as well. I got really positive response from the manager of the blog, and she sent it on to someone else - so it seems this is also going to be featured in the IBDP staff newsletter, which I must admit I think is pretty cool. 
So here it is, my "IB Experience":
- --- -

At the graduation ceremony 2011 of the IBs at Nørre Gymnasium (Copenhagen, Denmark).
The white caps are a Danish custom - they normally have a red ribbon, but as IBs ours is made up of the flags of the world.

The 17th May 2011 I had my very last IB exam – 3 months later I sat with my printed, water-marked, hologrammed International Baccalaureate Diploma. It marked the end of my three years at Nørre Gymnasium in greater Copenhagen, Denmark, the latter two of which I was enrolled in the IBDP.
I am a native Dane, and I love my home country; but I wish, and wished, to also be a native world citizen. Even with the internet and global social networking, the diversity of cultures and mindsets which exists on our planet, or merely within my IB class, is mind-boggling – and worth exploring. My first experience of being in an international environment was when I, 11 years old, went with 3 other kids and young leader to Thailand to spend a month at an international summer camp, arranged by the organisation CISV. It was an amazing experience; tough at times, but living in a ‘village’ with children from 12 different countries ranging from Canada over the Philippines to Mongolia gave me a perspective on the world which I wouldn’t have missed for anything.
Coming home, I finished my basic education at a Danish school; it became time to choose my high school [= gymnasium], and when I unwittingly wandered into an IBDP presentation while visiting Nørre G, the basic idea of it rang a bell. An academically challenging programme where I could learn alongside people of all nationalities, improve my English and have a good starting point for going to university anywhere in the world seemed like just the right thing for me to do.
In my experience, there is a strong sense of community to IBDP students – we are united in our suffering. After graduating, it can go one of two ways; you either loathe the organisation for all eternity, or you gradually manage to forget the late nights doing homework and the stress of exams, instead remembering the good friends you made and appreciating how that prize at the end of the marathon, the Diploma, was an important step on the ladder to reaching your goals. I believe I fall in the latter category – already, it seems a bit ridiculous to me how much we whined about our workload (denial, I’m sure.)
Choosing my IB subjects, I was very happy that I was not required to choose a very specific ‘direction’; my interests span a broad spectrum, and I wanted my subjects to do the same. I took Economics, Mathematics and English A1 as my higher level subjects, and Chemistry, Danish A1 and History at standard level.
I wrote my Extended Essay in Economics, choosing a topic I knew I could engage in: Why does Vogue UK cost £12 in Denmark, when the cover price says £4.10? I looked at the monopoly status of the Scandinavian importer, the impact of taxes and the varying countries’ Purchasing Power Parities – and ended up having a lot of fun with it. “Fun”, you’re thinking, and yes, that might not be most people’s definition of fun. But then, that’s why I think I might be able to do economics at university as well.
I ended up doing a lot of extracurricular activities which counted for CAS – surpassing the 150 hours by quite a bit. I tutored middle-school children at my local library, was a member of the ATU (an ‘academy’ for academically gifted students) for whom I helped arrange our study trip to London, founded and chaired our school’s Model United Nations club and spent the whole winter in my final year being assistant director and head of costumes for our school play, Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
Especially putting on the play meant I had many other things than school on my mind for quite a long time – possibly not the best idea three months before exams – but it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m pretty sure it contributed greatly to my staying sane in the last half year of IB. It seems impossible to fit those 150 hours into your schedule, but when you’ve found something you’re engaged in staying busy can actually be a really good feeling.
So now I’m sitting in my kitchen in Scotland, a newly matriculated Economics & Management student at the University of St. Andrews. I’m already a member of several societies, have been attending career events to explore the internship possibilities for first years, and am the producer of Euripides’ ‘Medea’, bound to go up in the drama society’s own theatre come December. The Nørre G preIB and IBDP made up the best three years in my academic career so far, and I will always remember them fondly.

- --- -

By the way, being a world citizen does not mean I do not suffer from the usual nationalistic expat-syndrome; being in the UK, hanging this on my wall was a must:
(c) Humon;

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Arriving at the end of the tunnel

The last couple of weeks have been kind of a mixed experience. A little under three weeks ago I broke my foot while out dancing, which means I've been wearing a caste and walking around on crutches for a while.. We finally had our graduation ceremony, and I got my studenterhue (grad cap)  which is a Danish tradition - you normally get it right after your last exam, but we waited more than a month, which meant we didn't quite feel like graduates yet. A few days after that, we went on the obligatory truck ride around greater Copenhagen, visiting the homes of many of our class mates, consuming a remarkable amount of alcohol in the process. But more than that, the point is that you spend a whole day (12 hours in our case) celebrating, standing in the truck screaming, and people wave at you, yell congrats, the cars honk when they pass, and everybody smiles at you. As a friend of mine said: "It makes you feel like a rock star!!". And it did, and I loved going around celebrating. But it was also tough for me, quite an ordeal really, because I had to move around on one leg and crutches - I was proud I made it, but my leg ended up cramping pretty badly towards the end, and it did take some of the enjoyment out of the whole experience, especially since I simply couldn't make it to the centre of Kongens Nytorv for the final dance around the Rytterstatue. 
          On top of that, we this weekend had massive rain in Copenhagen, which resulted in a flooding of our basement - 25 cm water everywhere. Now, it so happens that my room is in the basement - and although none of my vintage clothes were harmed, my prom dress, several pairs of shoes, my CISV stuff from when I was 11 and all my pre- and middle school books were soaked through; I've been spending days trying to save them. Also, I'll have to get a new wardrobe, new bookcases, a new table and a new bed. 
         Finally, I've been worried sick about my exam grades; I needed 38 points on my IB Diploma to get into University of St Andrews, and I felt very unsure as to whether I had managed that. Laying out the worst case scenario, I could go as low as 34 points - still a fine grade, I know, but very far from what I expect of myself. Also, it would mean that I most likely wouldn't be going abroad at all, and that the university I would end up at in Denmark would be far from my first choice, because the translation between IB and Danish grades is so ridiculous. So yeah, I've been in kind of a bad mood lately.

But, as the title of this post indicates, I am not only seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but have pretty much arrived at it. In just over a week, I will be able to walk properly again; I was allowed to start my job later and didn't, as I'd feared, lose it over my foot; I managed to publish my class' blue book today (which I've also been stressing about), and was actually happy with the result. And finally, and most importantly, the IB exam grades were published today, and I managed to in all my subjects achieve my best-case scenario grade, even surpassing it in one case - totalling 42 points which is even more than I was predicted. And *poof* - gone was my stress and anxiety, and I can now simply be proud of myself and excited to be going to St Andrews! Even if one of the two friends I was hoping to bring with me didn't make it, she'll still be rather close by - so it is not the end of the world. 

So: University of St. Andrews, here I come!!!

Sunday, 3 July 2011

CNN's Quest to Cph

Throughout June, the CNN has been promoting Copenhagen through the 'Future Cities' part of Richard Quest's show Quest Means Business on mondays. I'd like to point out that the norm is one city, one show, but our capital has been on Future Cities for a total of 4 weeks ^^
          I really like Richard Quest's programmes in general  - although I usually watch BBC News, I like to watch Quest Means Business (airs mon-fri 20:00 CET); perhaps it's because he's actually British. I am a bit of an anglophile, I know.

When the CNN team was in Copenhagen to shoot the programmes, I read an interview with him on the topic. First of all, he said that we Danes should stop going berserk whenever someone remotely famous comes visiting; Copenhagen is a cool city, everybody knows that. Well obviously ;)
Oh, and he promised not to 'pull an Oprah' by walking around screaming 'OH MY GOD BLONDE PEOPLE' and 'OH MY GOD NO HOMELESS PEOPLE DYING IN THE STREETS', which also appealed to me.

For those of you who didn't catch the shows as they aired, you can watch them below:

'Copenhagenization' in the Danish Capital 
7th June 2011

A Carbon Neutral Copenhagen by 2025?
13th June 2011

Hedonistic Sustainability in Copenhagen
20th June 2011

Renovating a Palace in Copenhagen
27th June 2011


Saturday, 2 July 2011

Much Ado About Nothing in London

Now, I haven't made a blog post in around a month - which also means I never got around to reviewing the performance of 'Much Ado About Nothing' at Wyndham's Theatre in London, which was the main purpose of my day-trip to London. I think I fell into some kind of post-IB pit, where I really needed to just do absolutely nothing for a while; and even though I love writing this blog, it also felt like a bit of an obligation, because I felt I needed to post regularly. Now, I'm getting back into gear - first of all, doing nothing gets boring after a while, secondly I start working in a couple of weeks, and thirdly I have tons of stuff I need to figure out before I (hopefully) leave for St Andrews mid-September. Oh, and our grades are published next Wednesday, so I guess I'm also just a bit too restless to not be doing anything. It freaks me out!!

But back to my visit to London. It was one of the best trips I've ever been on!!, even if it was not very long - I had a marvellous travel companion, and when she hopefully joins me at St Andrews in the autumn we'll have to make theatre-day trips to London a regular thing. We went to the same pub for the two nights we were there (I really love Strongbow cider - not like the sweet stuff you can get in DK), we   bought loads of books (including a V&A hat anthology and a 1959 self-help book called 'The Art of being a Well Dressed Wife'), and I got a gorgeous three-strand pearl necklace with a silver clasp at Alfies Antique Market. The McQueen dresses we saw at Harvey Nichols were amazing, and the afternoon tea at Harrods just how I imagined (well, better, really); the champagne was delicious, a waiter came to pour us more tea and ask if we wanted more of anything every 5 minutes (we didn't really - there was so much food we couldn't eat it all in the first place), and the Terrace Bar in itself is a quite beautiful place. 

We stayed at Harrods for so long we ended up having to rush home to get changed, and run to the theatre - we made it in 2 minutes before the play commenced. Our seats were great, we sat near the middle of 5th row stalls (and with a rather insubstantial price difference between the two seating-categories, I don't see how it would make sense to go for the cheaper option). Evidently, we were not the only ones there who were David Tennant fans - several girls sitting along the wall were wearing identical Superman T-shirts, which turned out to be of the kind worn by Tennant in the play, when he as Benedick listens in on his friends talking about how in love with him Beatrice is.

Overall, the play was fantastic. I hadn't read it before we went, but the change of setting from medieval Padua to 1980's Gibraltar didn't really bother me - rather, it meant all the guys were wearing crisp white navy outfits, which can only be a plus.
          The story is basically two interwoven love stories; Hero and Claudio are young lovers, who are to be married - Benedick and Beatrice mutually loathe each other, and both swear that they shall never marry. But when their friends devise a plot wherein each overhears a discussion on the other's being madly in love with them, they of course discover that they requite it. The story's villain interferes with the young engaged couple, making Claudio believe that Hero was unfaithful to him the night before their wedding; he 'exposes' her at the wedding ceremony, and Beatrice asks Benedick (who has sworn to do anything for her) to kill his friend Claudio. A Romeo & Juliette-esque scam ensues, where they pretend Hero has died of sorrow, and as her innocence is discovered Claudio falls into despair; but as the play is a comedy, we of course get our happy ending.

One of the play's themes explores gender roles; the old idea of a female falling into one of two categories, Madonna or Whore, is shown in Hero and Claudio's relationship (the Madonna-Whore complex is attributed to Freud, but it seems Shakespeare beat him to it). Claudio idolises Hero, but all too readily believes she would deceive him; he doesn't even seek an explanation, but takes revenge by exposing her publicly. Beatrice and Benedick have a more healthy relationship in that sense - they are more than aware of each other's faults, but love in spite (and because?) of them. I'd like to think that the latter were the more modern couple, but we still have some issues suggesting otherwise.. it is generally less socially accepted for a woman than a man to be casual about sex - luckily, that seems to be changing.

Not surprisingly, I think Tennant was genious in this production. He is absolutely endearing as he, utterly tonedeaf and with no apparent aptitude for rhyming, waiting for Beatrice tries to compose a love song with the help of a toy keyboard. Also, the scene where he listens in on his friends is one of the most hilarious ones I've seen in a long time - the walls are being 'painted' at the time, and in his distraction Benedick places his hand in a paint bucket; Tennant's impressive timing, his ability to look so utterly astonished and his gradually being covered in white paint (as he of course keeps barging into the paint buckets) makes for stomach cramp-causing laughter.
           I'm afraid, though, that the corresponding scene with Beatrice is not nearly as funny. It's still rather funny, but in general Catherine Tate doesn't really live up to Tennant's comical talent -- she doesn't manage to make her character quite as believable, and sometimes it seems Beatrice is nothing but a bunch of grimaces. That's a bit harsh I guess, and it's not that I don't find Tate a good actress; but the problem is, working with Tennant, she is a bit overshined.

One actor worthty of mention, though, is the production's Claudio, played by Tom Bateman. He was apparently fresh out of drama school when he landed this part, but he seems to easily match his more seasoned fellow actors. Josie Rourke (the director) has put in a 'new' scene in the play, where Claudio, after hearing of Hero's innocence and death, spends the night at the church - drinking his brains out, and ultimately almost shooting his brains out (saved by a 'vision' of Hero). This scene, as well as the animal-like anger and desparation he shows when he 'sees' Hero (really her maid) with another man after her hen party, was very impressive and deeply moving to me. I must confess, I cried a bit. So kudos to Tom Bateman - I'll look forward to seeing more of him.

I must confess, I'm still a bigger fan of Tennant in Hamlet than Much Ado About Nothing - Hamlet remains my favourite play, and the general cast of that production was more impressive. But I by no means regret going to London to watch this comedy - it was a great, great trip, I liked the play very much, and in general it is just nice to be able to watch a play in English. And as I said - we plan to make a habit of it.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

There's No Place Like London

In just five days, I will be walking the streets of London! I'm going with a good friend from next Thursday evening to Saturday morning, which gives us a full Friday to enjoy the city. We'll be staying nice and central, right by Piccadilly Circus, which means most of the stuff we'll be doing is within walking distance - and means we'll have time to get home and change before we're off to the theatre. 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Sterling Classics)The plan so far is to start the day off with book shopping in the huge Waterstone's right where we live; I went there last time I was in London as well, and bought a copy of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as well as Dita von Teese's Burlesque and the Art of the Teese. I love Dita von Teese's style, and that she's been able to revive a more aesthetic, less vulgar form of strip tease - where it's really more art than anything else. I have yet to actually see a burlesque show, but I will one of these days -- I must admit I imagine it sort of like being on the set of Cabaret. I hope I'll find more great fashion books this time around, I've soon filled a shelf with them, but I'm missing some on shoes. And possibly one on McQueen. And whatever else I haven't thought of yet.

This and the picture to the left are
photos I took of some of Polly
Morgan's pieces exhibited in the
summer 2010
Following the book shopping, we'll go to the gallery The Haunch of Venison, which I briefly mentioned in a past post. I am hoping the experience will be as great as last time I went - back then I was slightly put off by looking at their homepage, but decided to go anyway and did not regret doing so. One of the artists they were showing a couple of works by was Polly Morgan; I even bought a book about her work, named Psychopomps

After that, we've planned to go vintage shopping at Alfie's Antique Market - an indoor market in Marylebone. I found it when searching the web for vintage shops in London last time I went, where I came up with a place called The Girl Can't Help It; I hadn't the time to go during my previous visits, but this time around I will. 
We also plan to visit the small Beyond Retro in Soho; there I bought a beautiful opera coat in black moire with red silk lining, from the 1950s I'd guess, last time I was in London. We sort of happened upon it, because it is situated right next to a really nice Korean restaurant named RAN, where I went with some people (including the friend I'm going to London with this time around) during our studytrip to London last spring. We might go there to have dinner again, but that is not quite decided. 

Now, we're arriving to the two main reasons for the trip. I e-mailed Harvey Nichols at Knightsbridge to ask how long they would exhibit the McQueen garments in their windows; it said until the end of May on their homepage, and I would be so sad if I didn't catch it. Whether it was my email or they'd decided upon it already I do not now, but after some days I got the reply that 'they could confirm' the exhibition would stay in place until the middle of June! So of course we will be going to Harvey Nichols. 

When our noses begin to feel sore from being pressed against the glass too long, we'll move on to Harrods to have afternoon tea at the Terrace Bar, with scones, cucumber sandwiches and a flute of champagne. I haven't ever tried proper afternoon tea (although I have had scones with clotted cream once), so I can't wait.

And then, finally, we'll go home to the hotel to change into heels and drop off a day's worth of shopping bags, and set off towards Wyndham's Theatre. We'll collect our tickets and go watch Much Ado About Nothing with David Tennant and Catherine Tate. I can't wait to watch a Shakespeare play in proper English (not that easy in Denmark - except of course for our amazing A Midsummer Night's Dream), with great actors, with a friend who's just as crazy about both Shakespeare and David Tennant as I am :)

We'll probably go eat dinner after the play, and then find some pub where we can hang out until the small hours, and then go to the hotel and pack; our train from London to the airport leaves at ten past five in the morning, so it'll really be no use going to bed. I'm so excited!!!

203/206 Piccadilly
London W1J 9HD
Open: mon-sat 9-22; sun 11.30-18

6 Burlington Gardens
London W1S 3ET
Open: mon-fri 10-18; sat-sun closed (free admission)

13-25 Church Street
London NW8 8DT
Open: tue-sat 10-18; sun-mon closed

58-59 Great Marlborough Street (in the cellar)
London W1F 7JY
Open: mon-wed 10.30-19.30; thu-fri 10.30-20.30; sat 10.30-19.30; sun 12-18

Ran Restaurant (horrible website, nice restaurant)
58-59 Great Marlborough Street
London W1F 7JF
Open: mon-sat 12-15 & 18-23; sun 18-23

109-125 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7RJ
Open: mon-sat 10-20; sun 11.30-18

87-135 Brompton Road 
London SW1X 7XL
Open: mon-sat 10-20; sun 11.30-18

32-36 Charing Cross Road
Leicester Square
London WC2H 0DA