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Great Expectations! Catching up with 2014 Top IB Student, Laura Nikodem

Laura Nikodem had a big final year at BISS Pudong. As Head Girl, she led students and was influential in decision making. As the student who achieved the top score for her cohort, she continues to lead and inspire with her dedication to university life. Laura was happy to answer our questions about moving on; from finding a new “Bund” in London, to remembering influential teachers…

You’re now in your first year of university. When you think back to your time at BISS Pudong, what is the first thing you usually think of?

Honestly, I think about how helpful IB has been, and, strangely, that it wasn’t that hard. In Year 13 especially, I remember feeling stressed, and thinking my future depended on me getting a 7 in particular subjects. For some reason I thought that the first year of university would not be as stressful. But I see now that life does get harder. For many students, including myself, there will be more deadlines, more essays, and harder exams to come. The good part though is that if you choose the right degree, it’s a lot easier to cope with the stress and to stay motivated. Luckily, having studied the IB has helped me a lot and taught me so much about time management and organisation, and I’m very thankful for that when I think about my time at BISS Pudong.

You have moved from one of the world’s great cities (Shanghai) to another of the world’s great cities (London)… are there some similarities? What are the noticeable differences for you?

I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to move to another amazing city. London and Shanghai are actually quite similar. I often think of Shanghai when I walk by the South Bank (I call it “the Bund”), as the River Thames really reminds me of the Huangpu river, separating two distinct sides of a city. They are also similar in the sense that they both offer incredible opportunities. The main difference is the prices. It took me a while to get used to how expensive London is, especially compared to Shanghai.

It is in the nature of international schooling that graduates will disperse and find themselves often great distances from their school friends – in different countries on different continents. Do you stay in touch with your school friends? How do you manage that?

Luckily for me, London is a popular place for students, so there are quite a few people from BISS and other schools here that I meet up with. As for my other friends who are in different cities or countries, I stay in touch with them through social media. I probably won’t be able to go to the US or to Asia anytime soon, but I’ll definitely try to visit some of my friends within Europe in the next few months.

As the top scoring IB student at BISS Pudong last year… give us an idea of how you were supported at the school to achieve your goals. And how do you think your experience studying IB here has prepared you for university life?

BISS Pudong has been very supportive. My teachers always pushed me to achieve great results and I was given great advice that I still use today. I remember a couple of teachers, including Mr. Gichana, Ms. Scott, Mr. Wilson and Ms. Duggan, all preparing me for my Cambridge interview. Even though I didn’t make it to Cambridge, the advice they gave me was very valuable and I plan on using it very soon, during my interviews for internships. Studying IB also has been extremely useful. I often see myself using what I’ve learnt in TOK and applying the critical thinking I’ve developed in IB, in class and in my work. As I mentioned earlier, IB has also improved my organization and time management skills, which are important skills to have at university.

Is there a particular teacher (or two) who you would single out as being particularly influential to your studies? Why?

There are two teachers who have really influenced me and who I feel I haven’t thanked enough. The first teacher is Ms. Scott, who helped with my personal statement and with the first steps of my higher education journey. She’s been a fantastic teacher who’s really pushed me and motivated me to get where I am today. Not only did she strengthen my interest in economics, but she is also one of the reasons I get to study this subject at the London School of Economics. The second teacher is Mr. Lukose, who was my maths teacher since Year 9. Many people don’t understand how anyone can enjoy maths, but I love this subject and it is in most part thanks to Mr. Lukose. He helped me understand so many difficult mathematical concepts, and really made the lessons enjoyable. I perform the best in subjects I really enjoy and I would not have made it to LSE without a 7 in mathematics, so I am extremely grateful that I got to have him as my maths teacher at BISS Pudong.

You were involved in service projects here at BISS Pudong… do you do any volunteering or other community work now you’ve moved on?

Unfortunately, I’ve been quite busy in the first term, so I’ve only started looking at volunteering opportunities a few weeks ago. I really value education, so I’m looking at volunteering jobs where I get to mentor and guide students from less privileged backgrounds, and help them go into higher education.

What are your goals – for now and in the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?

Most of my goals at the moment link to my future career. In 5 years’ time, I should hopefully have my master’s degree, and a graduate job within investment banking or investment management (both divisions are very appealing). Currently, I am applying to spring and summer internships within the financial industry, so that I have a better idea of which division I would really like to go into in the future. Other than that, in the next few years I am planning to make the most out of studying at the LSE, and living in London, as being here really is an amazing opportunity.

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