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Off to Oxford II: Congrats to 2019 graduate Clara Strømsted!

"I’m generally very excited to just move out and to meet all the people I’m going to be around for the next three years. I can imagine that you get a special bond especially with the people from your college, because you live so close together. I’m also very much looking forward to the social life as it seems there are a lot of fun traditions and a great community with many opportunities to do sports and explore your interests. I’m naturally excited that I get to learn from some of the best within my field, and I’m looking forward to learn how to get tools to understand/analyse politics better, to figure out what it means to study philosophy, and to take a more mathematical approach to economics rather than the theoretical approach as taught in the IB."

Did we as a school contribute to your success?
"In terms of successfully getting into Oxford, I think CIS encourages a learning environment where you shouldn’t be scared of speaking your mind. You won’t be told off for saying something wrong, and you’re always encouraged to try even though there’s risk of failing. This was useful in the interviews because honestly there wasn’t a point where I was sure I was saying the right thing, but I still spoke and showed my thinking process. My success in the IB in general, I think, can partly be credited to my teachers as well. They were always super helpful, and would spend extra time explaining you things, if you needed help with a concept or an IA. They’re very knowledgeable and passionate, which motivated me to do well, because I knew they were putting in effort. Also, there was a general positive attitude towards learning among the students at least in my grade level, which helped everyone do better."

What piece of advice might you give to our current Grade 12s?
"I wish I hadn’t wasted time on worrying and doubting as much as I did because it wasn’t helpful at all. I learnt that telling myself during a test or whilst writing an essay that I can’t do it, would make me unable to do it. When I let go of the thoughts and just tried even though it wasn’t perfect the first time, I at least made progress and was able to do tasks I thought I couldn’t do. It’s just a waste of time to sit and worry if it’s right or if you can do it, because it doesn’t lead to anything productive. Also accept that if you want to achieve a certain level in some subjects, especially if you struggle, then you will have to prioritise practicing. It takes time to do well in the IB, because the more practice you have the more confident you’ll be and the more likely you are to be able to solve the problem or answer the question."

Which of the IB Learner Profile traits do you think you personally have developed the best?
"I think a lot of the traits have come to surface during my gap year, because I was so obsessed with grades and performance during IB that I didn’t really let myself explore those traits as much. That is not to say that the traits didn’t develop during the IB as well. Reflection was a heavy part of IB and although it was very forced at times, it means that I naturally reflect on things now. For example, when I started working in the restaurant, as I began to gain experience I could reflect on to improve my customer interactions and realise what I could do better. I’ve always asked a lot of questions, and I also got to do that in the IB and develop it. When my friend and I were on a hike with a local around the Inle Lake (who fortunately spoke good English), I learnt so much more, because I could ask all types of questions about the area, which essentially were founded on concepts I’d learnt in anthropology and economics. IB definitely taught me to be principled and to use my time effectively, because of the workload combined with social life and sports. This has been further developed in my gap year, because I lost the structure of school, and had to use my own time effectively, when e.g. one day I’d only have 3 hrs of work and then 12 hrs another day. Also the communicator trait was important in group work in school, in my German orals, and in writing essays. This laid foundation for my ability to communicate well with my colleagues about different tasks, as well as with strangers, who didn’t necessarily speak English, when I travelled."

How was your gap year?
"From the beginning of my gap year until February I worked part-time in a restaurant in the evenings and on weekends, and during the week days I worked for an accessories company, as an office girl doing all sorts of odd jobs and running errands. This was partly to earn enough money to go travel, but also to get work experience. I think it’s been invaluable and has taught me lots of things about myself and skills that I couldn’t learn in school. In February I left to travel with a high school friend and we went to the Philippines, north Vietnam, north Laos, a bit through Thailand, and then Myanmar. It was so amazing to get to visit different countries back to back like that, because it gave an interesting perspective to be able to compare them in terms of nature, people, history, culture, etc. based on the experiences we’d had. We got to dive, hike, swim, see a lot of temples, visit museum and meet new people both locals and other backpackers. It unfortunately got cut short due to COVID19 but I’m really grateful for all the experiences I got to have."

We hope the new experiences Clara will be getting will be just as gratifying and wish her all the best in Oxford and beyond!