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Being a comedian within two alternative weeks in IPC

After a few months of classes at IPC, it was time for students to take a little break from the routine and either have some creative intensive classes or trips. This was what we called “Alternative Weeks”, which lasted for two weeks from October 21st to November 4th. There were choices for what each student could do in these two weeks; take a European or Nordic study trip, or alternatively one of three intensive courses on Danish Language, Arts and Culture, and The Power of Stand-up Comedy.

About thirty students were in the Europe Trip and twenty students in the Nordic Trip, the rest decided to stay at school and picked one of the three intensive courses. Students who chose the Europe Trip began their study expedition on October 21, while Students in the Nordic trip were busy in the first alternative week preparing for the trip.

I decided to opt for the Stand-up Comedy despite having no clue what it was about. I was the only Asian student out of the fourteen students in this class. The intensive classes started at 8:30 in the morning and ran til 12:00 in the afternoon. The first class challenged me with two questions: 1) What do I find funny about myself? 2) What do my friends make fun of me?

To answer the first question, I don’t find myself funny. Besides, I never heard my friends saying that I am funny. I don’t even identify myself as a funny person. But, I was in the Stand-up Comedy class, which I found in its self peculiar. Howbeit, I made an endeavor to evoke the past that could have something funny about me. Luckily, I remembered some stories from my childhood that are funny to me and some of my Myanmar friends. Fortunately, I got the chance to test whether or not my stories are funny because Jo and Solvei were, at that time, in a program which is called “Making someone laugh”. They asked me to tell jokes and make them laugh. So, I told them my first story. Actually, they both were laughing while I told the story. But, at the end, they both said,

“This is not funny. It’s embarrassing.”

I said, “What? Alright, I have another story”.

They let me tell my second story. But, they responded the same way, “This is not funny.” I didn’t want to give up although I was already stressed out. So, I said “I have another story. When I was….”. They rapidly replied me “No…stop stop.” This time they didn’t let me make them laugh with my funny stories. No problem! I have got another chance to test my stories with Marie and Gorka (former students) as they were having Alumni Board Meeting at IPC. Marie said “This is not funny”. Gorka said “I don’t understand”. Now then, it was time for me to realize that I should seek something else instead.

Basically, we watched some comedians’ shows and analyzed them in the first half of alternative weeks. As I remember, we focused on Ismo Leikolo, Rowan Atkinson (Mr.Bean), Flight of the Conchords, Chris Rock, Iliza, Bo Burnham and many others. To be frank, I didn’t find most of them funny. It’s not because they are not funny, just because humors are very much  based on the social context, country, cultural backgrounds etc. Of course, it is based on my English level as well. But, Flight of the Conchords and Bo Burnham were out of them my favorites because their genres are, quite similar to one another, musical comedy.

There were other kind of humors that we learned in the class such as Self-deprecating humors, Dark humors, Insult/bullying humors, observational humors, Slapstick/physical humors, Anecdotal humors and so on. In the second week of the class, we learned about writing bits and wrote our own bits for the stand-up comedy show which would take place at the end of the alternative weeks. I remembered another two stories from my village and write a comedy sketch which sounded funny to me. Fortunately, it worked well, we practiced in the class and gave feedback to each other.

Meanwhile, students in the Arts and Culture class and Danish Language Class were also enjoying with their own projects. There were also other activities running in the afternoon, such as fixing the library, yoga, a sauna trip, a climate change stimulation, a trip to Louisiana, an excursion to Arken Museum and to Copenhagen, music appreciation, stitch and b*tch, conversation cafe and many other activities. Twenty students started their Nordic trip on October 28. So, around fifty students were away from school for the alternative weeks. The dining hall looked almost empty which reminded me of the summer course. Silence covered the common room after 9 pm.

Speaking of the additional activities in the alternative weeks, the sauna was my favourite. This was my first experience of this in life; being naked in front of people, jumped into probably the -1 degree Celsius cold sea and back into the 80 degrees hot Sauna. It was amazingly enjoyable. Students traveling around Europe were back to school on October 31, around 9:30 pm, which made the school more animated, we welcomed them with a bunch of cuddles as if they were long lost family members.

It was coming to the end of the alternative weeks, and I was struggling with my preparation for the comedy show. The show happened on the 2nd November, the end of the alternative weeks. We prepared seats in the Lecture Hall for about fifty people and set some spot lights to make the show thrilling. All the comedians rehearsed once before the performance. Frankly, I wasn’t up for the show even though I did the rehearsal.

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The room was full of my fellow students, to cheer us on. There were 10 comedians ahead of me having being applauded. One beautiful thing that happened on this night was that comedians themselves cheered to one another so they wouldn’t be frightened. I prepared two stories from my village, which were about the people who saw the helicopter for the first time in their life in 2008, and a women who had never experienced talking on the phone picking up it upside down. More than two bits were, of course, included in the stories. I picked up a paragraph of Martin Luther King’s popular speech called “I Have a Dream” to open my show and sang the first verse of Abba’s “I have a dream”.

The thing was that I didn’t memorize the last sentence of the paragraph I picked from Martin Luther King’s speech, while I was opening my show. So, I looked at my notes and finished it. Thank God! People also laughed with that part, even though it was a mistake! I couldn’t see the audience from the stage as I was looking into the lights, making me less stressed out. However, my lack of knowledge of English vocabulary caused making my punchlines more difficult. I actually cannot recall which parts people laughed with me or at me because I was always concentrating on what to say next. At last, I overcame this 10-minute stand-up comedy challenge, and my two weeks of preparation had paid off!

Making people happy always returns its happiness to me. Besides, I realized that challenges I face are not so challenging to me when I face them head on!







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.

Holiness of a Pig

The day was dawning, hens had started crowing and birds were singing. It was the middle of June, and I, as the last one in the family, woke up at around 6 a.m. My mom was sitting beside the open-fire and boiling the water, the last task before our breakfast was ready.

 “Son, go bring some fire-wood! It is almost running out here,” said my Mom.

I then looked for some dry and broken tree branches in the fence and went back to her with some so-called fire-wood.

“There is no more salt. Go ask for some salt from your aunt,” said my Mom again.

“Ahh….” I whispered disappointingly.

I did hate to ask something from someone, especially from my relatives. However, I still went to my aunt’s house, which was just next to mine.

“Aunt, can I get some salt?”

“I don’t have that much salt left, but go get some from the kitchen,” replied my aunt uncomfortably.

After I borrowed some salt and went back to my home, I saw my father with butchers and some other old men coming back to our home. The butchers looked a bit drunk and definitely hideous in my eyes. After a while, when I was brushing my teeth with the salt I got from my aunt, a lot of people from the village were coming to our house.

“Mom, what are they doing here?”

“We have the Kayin Spiritual Worship event tomorrow,” replied my mom.

I didn’t understand what she said, so I finished brushing my teeth and watching my face. Meanwhile, my father and the butchers went out of the house and headed to the pig behind the house. Many people were following them, so I followed as well.

While my father was preparing food for the pig, that was almost as old as my younger sister, the butchers were honing their spears. People gathered to look at the pig eating her last breakfast.

I stared at the pig thinking of her death, but she seemed neither to notice nor worry about this. She was just desperately trying to finish her food, which gradually made me angry.


“Why are you just eating your food?” “You should run away immediately!” I said mutely to the pig.

“Hey, children, children, go away. You are not supposed to be here.”

“Go play somewhere far from here” shouted my uncle.


It was about 5 am, when the sunshine had yet to reach the earth. I was sitting between my younger sister and father, and my mom was between my father and my elder sister-who was beside my younger sister. My eldest sister and brother were both away from home studying at their schools. There was a round table in front of us; full of spicy sour chicken soup and rice in one platter altogether.

My father then started whispering something that nobody could hear; for about two minutes he seemed to be saying something to our Kayin Spirit. While all the people in the village were staying quietly and looking at us, my father started eating a bit and then my Mom, followed by my elder sister, me and my younger sister.

After all ate a bit of chicken and rice, “You all can eat now” said my father. So everyone started to eat in one platter altogether by our hands. The chicken tasted sweet, sour and spicy. My younger sister and I wanted to taste the soup. But we dared not to taste the soup as children were not usually allowed to drink soup at the dining table. I didn’t understand that, while they were having the taste of chicken soup, why I wasn’t allowed to have it. That was unfair and I was mutely furious at them.

After we finished eating, people waiting in and outside of my house had already taken their places and were ready to eat at each circular table; with their children and basically all their family members. They had rice and pork curry at their tables. They were desperately enjoying their breakfast of pork, which used to be my beloved pig.

“Can I have more meat?” “Oh…what an oily pig.”

Everyone had their own excuses, but they liked it. Yes, they obviously liked my pig just because I could see their oily lips.

The sun light was starting to touch the floor of the house, by passing through the holes in the roof; when people were engrossed in the taste of the pork. But I couldn’t stand watching people eating my beloved pig anymore. So I left them all to play with my cousins, who were about 100 meters away from them.

We climbed up the guava trees as we did the day before this day, and played. But this time we didn’t hear any screaming of the pig, as we had the other day – because the pig was already in our stomach.

On the day before this day, I was playing on the guava tree with my cousins after our uncle shouted us to leave the pig killing area. At that time of playing, I almost forgot about the pig. But suddenly, we heard the screaming of the pig, which was so loud that we immediately stopped playing. She screamed and screamed until her voice was gradually cracking. The sound made me ache, as though someone had squeezed my heart. I closed my ears with my fingers and couldn’t stop imaging of the appearances of the pig. I then felt warmth on my cheeks, which people call tears – were falling down to the ground after rolling off my cheeks.


I was playing with my cousins on the guava trees, whilst people in the village were  finishing up their breakfast – some had already gone. One of my cousins suddenly made a long hiccup, pulling me from my thoughts. It smelled like pork.

As a seven-year-old boy, I thought, “Oh…the pig is still screaming.”


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.


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”




“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.”