Category Archives: International People’s College

The first biggest challenge for me in IPC

Since I was about 5 years old, I was sent to primary school as every parent did to every child. Every student in Myanmar has to study the same six subjects: Myanmar, English, Mathematics, Geography, History and Science, before starting High School. High school students choose one of 2 tracks upon entering high school: science or arts. All high school students take Myanmar, English, and Mathematics. However, Science-specialized students also take 3 additional subjects: Chemistry, Physics and Biology as part of their coursework, while arts-specialized students take Geography, History and Economics.

In 2009 to 2011, right after the Nargis Cyclone in 2008, there was only one high school, which was actually not a government recognized school at that time; in the village named Chaung Wa which is about one hour walk far away from my village. As it wasn’t a government recognized school, the village committee had to recruit the freelance teachers from nearby cities to teach the students in that high school. Therefore, there were only two choices of choosing subjects for students; whether to choose Biology or Economics along with Myanmar, English, Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics. There were only five teachers recruited by village committee in that high school, but none of them could teach Biology. So everyone had to pick Economy except one student who picked Biology because his sister could teach him Biology at home.

As the education system is to learn everything by heart and is focused on passing the exam, neither subjects nor teachers could help me realize and understand what I wanted to study next in university. Luckily I was one of only six students who passed the high school exam although there were about 70 students in total. Choosing the major subject in University is relatively based on the marks that students got in the high school exam. I couldn’t even memorize what major subjects I put in priority list when I applied for the university. But it was certain that I didn’t have plenty of choice. That, in my opinion, is one of the biggest problems for the young people in Myanmar; not knowing what to do or study. Most of everyone has to follow the system which makes everyone’s hearts disable.

I was totally unfamiliar with picking up the classes before I came to IPC. Students in IPC have to develop their own schedule by picking up classes they would like to take throughout the whole first eight weeks of the Term. They can then alter their schedules halfway through and pick new classes for the rest 10 weeks of the Term. Every student must reach a minimum of 28 lessons a week. Students can pick and choose between a wide range of classes like arts, sports, self-development, political science, gender studies, etc. Students might be interested in academic learning and therefore they can pick the classes like Development Management, Political Philosophy, Conflict Resolution, Global Challenges, Environmental Studies, Gender and Sexuality, “International Relations, Politics and Organizations” and etc. If they are interested in music, there are classes for them like Band Playing, Choir and 100 Years Music Revolution. There are still more interesting classes to me such as Movie Making, Photography, Mind the Heart, World Storytelling etc. There are several classes left to mention and you can go explore here https://ipc.dk/frontpage/global-studies/classes/ .

At the beginning of the Autumn Term 2018, on the 20th August 2018, there was a class fair conducted by the teachers in the big hall. There were total eight stalls in the big hall and two teachers at each stall with their own prepared documents about their classes. There was another one stall in the class room 3 for Choir and Danish classes. Students in their own contact groups had to go around the stalls and listen to the teachers explaining what they are going to teach in the class. Some students questioned to teachers about their concerns to classes. I was really stressed out after listening to the teachers. All the classes seemed intriguing to me as teachers elucidated them passionately. (After a few weeks, I realized that teachers at IPC are really passionate about their subjects, who have inspired me to think of my life career).

It was the biggest challenge for students which ones to eliminate because they cannot pick every class they want. The classes they want to pick could be in the same time. For instance, if they want to pick Global Challenges and Photography, they have to eliminate one of them because they are run in the same time. The school provides a web link to students in order to choose classes and develop a schedule themselves. Students can put three priority classes which are important to them, and add other additional classes that they want to be in. Teachers then have to make adjustment between limited minimum and maximum number of students in each class. If there are students less than the minimum numbers that should be in a class, then this class cannot run for this term. It is unfortunate but is necessary to ensure efficient teaching.

I have already made a lot of stressful decisions to come to IPC. Furthermore, I still had to make challenging decisions at IPC. I didn’t have a clue about most of classes before the class fair. It was really challenging, but on the other hand, it helped me a lot in decision making skill. It helped me to find my interests and to figure out what might be important to me. It taught me to take responsibility for the decisions I make.

There are no exams, no fixed curriculum and no mandatory classes in International People’s College, except morning fellowships. This is the system in which I was totally unfamiliar with before, is carried out in IPC. It shocked me indeed, but on top of that, it helped me be decisive and find myself. I would say that IPC is a place where you can pursue your passions and aspirations.

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Dining with a Dane and Networking Dinner at IPC

Of the many programs initiated by IPC, Dining with a Dane, which occurred on the 20th September 2018, was an initiative that the school had never done before. The school launched this event on Facebook and perhaps among other networks as well. Thirty two local families from in and out of the town signed up to host IPC students for dinner. Around 10 students also signed up to help organize this amazing event. They managed to divide the students into groups based on countries, cultures, levels of English and the request of foods such as vegetarian and meat lover.

The families had to host 2-3 students at their homes. With Ann-Katrin from Germany, we visited Marianne and Jorgen. It was only about a 10 minute walk from IPC to get to them. Ann-Katrin and I have been making a wild guess about the ages of our host family: “They might be around 40 years old,” guessed Ann-Katrin, while I thought,  “They might also be around 60 years old.” We then kept on guessing about our host family, on the route to their home.

As it turned out, they were around 70 years old, and welcomed us with sweet smiles. They prepared chicken, potatoes and salad for us. I wore my traditional outfit to reveal them that Myanmar exists on the earth. Luckily, they already knew that Myanmar exists. However, some students have actually asked me whether or not Myanmar is really a country. Most people I have met know Myanmar because of the conflict in Rakhine State.

It was always hard to answer when someone asked me about the conflict in Rakhine State. I shared my opinions with Jorgen on that conflict, and he also shared his experience about drinking alcohol from Myanmar while he was in Bangladesh. At this time, Ann- Katrin helped Marianne to get the dinner ready.

At some point in the conversation, Marianne noticed that I was missing rice and she immediately cooked rice for me. When Ann-Katrin mentioned during the conversation, that she likes apples, they packed a lot of apples for her to take back to IPC. We were really grateful for their hospitality and kindness. We shared each of our life stories during the dinner. We were also served dessert and beers. We spent about 4 hours with them. It was a great chance for us to experience a real Dane’s dinner. The students I have talked with were also happy about their Dining with a Dane evening. We also invited the host families to IPC to participate in a Networking Dinner organised by the school.

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Katrin, Marianne, Jorgen and Me

Two weeks later on the 3rd October 2018, IPC hosted a Networking dinner with about 180 participants; students, teachers, host families from Dining with a Dane event, and other guests. Students in their own contact groups undertook different responsibilities to prepare for the Networking Dinner. For instance, one contact group was going to serve the first course, another the main course, another dessert, and another the washing and cleaning up.

Guests arrived to IPC at around 5:30 pm and the common room was crowded with students busy with their duties and guests chatting with one another. Returning the favour of being hosts to our Danish families back at IPC was plenty of exhilaration. Soren, the Principle of IPC, gave a welcome speech in the common room whilst everyone was enjoying the apple juice or wine which I couldn’t make clear of.

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Soren, giving welcome speech in the common room (Photo Crd; Themis)

After that, we moved to the big hall where we had dinner. Students sat in their contact groups together with some guests. Soren played the piano and everyone sang a song called “Imagine” before we had our first course of dinner. Imagine that how it could be nice when 180 people sang a song together and it made everyone more comfortable and worn smiles. It was also nice to talk with other students’ host families. Japanese students performed with their traditional dance called “Sorambushi” in Japanese and “Fisherman Dance” if it is translated into English, right after we finished the first course of dinner.

After the performance of Japanese students, Soren explained briefly about the dance and then invited the IPC Choir to perform. As I am in Choir class, it was my first experience singing in Choir on the stage. It was different experience of singing in the normal class room and in the big hall with audiences. I couldn’t hear my voice and I felt that I was out of tune sometimes. My throat was getting dry and I needed to swallow spit often. We performed Circle of Life, Africa, and Shosholoza. Students who were responsible for serving the main course then started setting the food on the tables. The main course included fish, potatoes and salad. I had a guest on my table who didn’t know about Myanmar, and I didn’t know about fishing in Denmark. So we shared knowledge about these things in return.

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After the main course of dinner, Soren shared with guests the history of IPC, how IPC is going on and the life of students at IPC. IPC Choir then performed another two songs again on the stage; “She is leaving home” and “The day after tomorrow”. I originally do love to sing and had to perform on the stage. It was one of my best nights in IPC.

At last, we had time to chat with our host families. Marianne and Jorgen also came to the Networking Dinner so that Ann-Katrin and I could have a nice chat with them. We could make the Dining with a Dane event successful, and also the Networking Dinner as well. So everyone was happy, but some students were overly happy. Anyway, I would say that all the happiness in IPC that night, may make it become one of the best memories of my life.

English Summer Course 2018, International People’s College (IPC)

“Bye Bye”

“See you, have a safe trip back home”

“Thank you, give me a hug”

“Bye Bye…”

“Huu….” I sighed and smiled staring at the backs of people who were leaving IPC one by one; who have somehow become my friends  within three weeks as well.

“People do not meet by chance, but for some reasons. At last, however, they will leave each other.”

“But we’ve built friendship not only between each others, also families and countries. “Friends don’t kill each other” is what has inspired me in one of morning fellowships, even though I can’t remember who specifically said that. It might be something that IPC is intended for.”

I was already opening my room door when consciousness woke me up from thoughts. I laid down in the bed, put my hands on the chest and evoked the past.

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Arriving to International People’s College ( https://ipc.dk )

It was about 7 am when the plane landed to Copenhagen Airport. “Well ultimately, now here I am”, I said to myself mutely and nervously. The sun was geared up for its shiniest part of the day. This summer would be the hottest in this century for Danes.

I took train from airport to central station and altered to another train. Trains are on time and systematic. It reminded me of the ones in Myanmar. I got off the train and looked for the bus heading to Helsingor. I saw an Asian girl who seemed looking for something with large luggage. I then found a bus heading to Helsingor, which she also approached and tried to place her bag into the luggage compartment.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes…yes” and I helped her with that luggage.

“Where are you going”

“Helsingor”

“IPC?”

“Yes”

“Wow…I am also going to IPC. Nice to meet you.  I’m Nyi Nyi Zaw from Myanmar.”

“Yeah…I am Nguyen from Vietnam, nice to meet you”

I was so cheerful to meet my very first student fellow. Then we took bus together and arrived to IPC around 10 am. There was a little welcome banner at the gate of the school. We were the first students arriving to the school, and welcomed by Nicolaj who is an amazing man.

I took a nap in the room, which was allocated by the school, for some hours. In the afternoon, I have got a room mate named Wan, who is a nice man from South Korea. Dinner is always set at 6 pm and there were a lot of students from all over the world, but largely from Japan. Students have been brought into contact with the school and its core values, Helsingor and the English classes, after the dinner.

English Classes with Hamlet ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamlet )

Frankly, I was still confused with Japanese names and Korean names up to the course was completed. In next day, as students were divided into six groups based on their results on English placement test, we started our English classes with respective teachers. I was placed in Ewelina’s class with another 10 classmates. Ewelina is one of the greatest teachers I have ever met.

“Ewelina’s talking about present, perfect, body, idioms, past, simple, and do your home works” was what we had made as lyrics in a song and performed at the farewell night. It obviously reflected of what we had to learn in the class. But there was still one more thing. It was Hamlet. We played Hamlet game. We learned Hamlet story even in the class. We watched Hamlet movie. We watched Hamlet play in Chinese version at Kronborg Castle.

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Playing Hamlet game (Photo Credit: Song Lee)

Speaking of Hamlet, we firstly had to watch Hamlet movie in Lecturer Hall with English speaking and subtitle, but to be frank, I didn’t perceive at all. A few days later on, we had to watch Hamlet play at Kronborg Castle, but in Chinese version. It was a great opportunity to watch this, but except I didn’t understand anything. It was more complicated for me to understand Hamlet than memorizing Japanese and Korean names. But after all that, we started using the word “Let’s take revenge” when we played Ping Pong, Football, and Floor-ball etc.

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Ewelina’s English Class

English summer course was full of excitements. I also had a chance to meet with former IPC students. They were having summer project at IPC at that time. They inspired me with their strong commitment upon IPC.

Tours, Excursion, and Tours

We had a tight schedule with many tours which were arranged by the school. Two days after our arrival to IPC, we were led by teachers to have a walk around Helsingor. There was a guided tour to Copenhagen in next day. We visited museums, churches, castles, and also had a canal tour in Copenhagen which was a great experience. We also had excursion to North Zealand : Tegner’s Museum, Frederiksborg Castle, and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, and a visit to Kingo houses and Helsinborg, Sweden.

With our own lunch packs prepared by the school, tours were made in different days to different places by bus, by boat, and sometimes by walk. A visit to Helsinborg, Sewden, was not only the last trip we as one had in the summer course, also time to say goodbye to some friends.

Morning Fellowship

Everyday in summer course was begun with the Morning Fellowship. We usually sang songs, presented news and made announcements. In the beginning of summer course, presenting news was led by Nikolaj, but later on, students were divided into groups and assigned to present the news in the morning fellowship. It was a privilege for me to have presented about Myanmar’s 8888 Uprising, as it was commemorated as the 30th anniversary on August 8, 2018 in Myanmar; when it turned to the group of mine to present the news.

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Students presenting news (Photo Credit: Song Lee)

Conversation Cafe

One of the activities in summer course that I relished most was the conversation cafe. We talked many different topics within separated groups, and that led us to a deep conversation  and made us closer to one another. There were sometimes Dane guests calling on IPC to have conversation with us. I would say that it was a superb idea to get to know more about Danish cultures. Besides, plenty of compulsive life stories popped up from the students throughout the conversation cafes. It was also interesting to share why we have chosen IPC.

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Conversation Cafe (Photo Credit: Rod )

Singing Club and Meeting with a Danish Artist/Performer

My favorite part in IPC is singing. I didn’t know that I have to sing everyday in IPC before. But, I realized that singing is a part of Danish Folk High Schools’ cultures. I was always curious about what songs we were going to sing in the morning fellowship.

Of many activities I went through in summer course, as being a music lover, meeting with a danish artist/performer was an inspirational. Soren, principle of IPC, himself is an artist/performer. He is known as Danish Aladdin. It was a surprise schedule for the students. I, myself in fact, am passionate in singing, on top of that I am the one who loves to listen to good singing people. There are two people I know who sing marvelously to me; one is undoubtedly Soren and another one is Ko Pai Soe who rocks powerfully.

He, Soren, shared his life story with us, for instance; how he became interested in music, how he started doing music and has become artist/performer, how he was chosen for Aladdin by Disney production, and how he has become a Principle at IPC etc. He then sang a lot of songs both in English and Danish. I sometimes got goosebumps when he sang high notes. He inspired me with his life story, and with his super amazing voice as well. This went as an inspirational experience for me, as a music lover.

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Meeting with a Danish Artist/Performer, Soren

Farewell Dinner/Party/Certification

As time flies really fast and many things came up, I couldn’t be aware of the fact that it came to the end of the summer course. Everything was set in the common room for the farewell night. Everyone looked excited for the last day, with our own prepared performances. But, we had firstly been given certificates for the completion of the summer course by Soren, Rod, and Nikolaj.

Some performances presented by each group of students were inventively hilarious, and some evoked nostalgic memories of the past three weeks. Long conversations between those who’d stay for Autumn Term and those who’d leave IPC and embark on a new journey manifested sign of a strong attachment to one another, and of course, fairly grief.

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Me, receiving Certificate for the completion of the Summer Course

On the 15th August 2018, I woke up a bit early than the other previous days and attended the morning fellowship. I didn’t remember what specifically came up in the morning fellowship. But I kept waiting in the common room to say goodbye to those who were leaving, one by one.

I sighed and smiled staring at the backs of people who were leaving IPC.

“People do not meet by chance, but for some reasons. At last, however, they will leave each other.”

“But we’ve built friendship not only between each others, also families and countries. “Friends don’t kill each other” is what has inspired me in one of morning fellowships, even though I can’t remember who specifically said that. It might be something that IPC is intended for.”