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Which University is right for my Child? Page 27

Health Ensuring recovery travel Bali: Island of the gods ask the experts What’s your expat story? education Facts machine




helping others to be the best they can be


ducation and learning have always been our focus and our area of expertise. Our people and the people we work with all have a good understanding of what this means to us. We aim to provide students with the opportunity to be the best they can be. CONTACT TO ARRANGE A VISIT TO OUR SCHOOL OR TO ORDER OUR PROSPECTUS

essentials guide

B r a t i s l ava


Everything you need to know about moving to Bratislava, from those in the know. The guide covers everything from first arriving to housing and education.

W W W . ESSENTI A LSG U IDE b r a t i s l a v a . COM

helping others to be the best they can be Education and learning have always been our focus and our area of expertise. Our people and the people we work with all have a good understanding of what this means to us. We aim to provide students with the opportunity to be the best they can be.





HEALTH The winter blues TRAVEL Bali: Island of the gods ASK THE EXPERTS What’s your expat story? EDUCATION Facts machine

Family Matters Issue 2 Contributions welcome from all of the Bratislava community. Please contact for more information.


The British International School


Travis Murray


Travis Murray








n interesting thing happened to me on a recent trip to my native country that I had yet to experience in my years as an expat living abroad. I’m not sure what the precise term for it is, but I imagine it might be called reverse culture shock. While most people are aware of what culture shock is and how it affects those who have relocated to a foreign land, I’m quite sure far fewer have experienced the opposite effect – returning to their native country and having culture shock deja vu, so to speak. Over the course of my time abroad I’ve generally visited home (I still call it that) with regularity, at least twice a year for a few weeks at a time. However, over the past three years, due to my work schedule and other international travel, I had not been back, instead opting for Skype video calls on holidays and birthdays. Understandably, I

didn’t fully understand the effect that this prolonged absence was going to have on me. The most interesting and annoying aspect of my experience was my seeming lack of ability to shut out the voices of others in public places. Upon visiting the food court of a busy shopping mall, I found myself unable to enjoy the long-missed food that I had specifically sought out on this occasion. Instead, the conversations of those around me overtook my mind, causing what could be described as a minor anxiety attack. Perhaps it might be better to describe it more as indoor road rage rather than anxiety, but either way, I desperately wanted those around me to stop talking. I didn’t want to hear about Justin Bieber’s new song or that it might rain later that afternoon. I didn’t want to know. So I grabbed my food and

exited stage left, finding a quiet bench outside to enjoy my lunch on. I realised at that moment that my long immersion among people who spoke a language I didn’t understand had weakened some mental muscle I didn’t know I had. Apparently that muscle allowed me, and presumably others, to block out the noise of those around me. It was sort of like taking off your sunglasses on a sunny day, exept that your eyes don’t adjust. Sensory overload, in other words. While the symptoms did seemingly subside in time and were by no means cause for genuine concern, the experience did instil in me an appreciation for one aspect of expat life that is generally overlooked – peace and quiet amidst the cacophony of everyday life. § The Family Matters Team

Aelred Doyle



The British International School J. V. Dolinskeho 1 841 02 Bratislava, Slovakia +421 2 6930 7081 (2) Entire contents © 2011 by Family Matters Magazine unless otherwise noted on specific articles

8 14 35 Facts Machine

More than work

Personalising Learning

Mark Angus offers helpful insight into how to get the most out of your school

Maurice Dusault and Alessandra Mariani take Family Matters through a day in the life of IB students

Dr Terry Creissen discusses the importance of personalising learning




27 XX Which university is right for my child?

Mark Angus provides some advice for parents whose children are moving on to university

40 50 60 66 Household services

Cinema of Dreams

What’s your expat story?


Room Service shares some tips on how to choose the right domestic helper

David Robinson runs down some classic films for the whole family

Neil Jensen tells Family Matters about his experience as an expat

Family Matters offers some advice on how to treat basic sports injuries






COMMENT Why we need some good old-fashioned advice

The art of getting your children to talk to you

Some reasons people avoid seeking help even though they need it

Helpful ideas to encourage better communication at home



roblems come in different shapes and sizes – from minor inconveniences to crisis situations that can’t be outrun or wished away. There’s no way to escape these trials of faith and sanity other than facing them head on.

from getting the help they need, because they value what others think about them more than what they need emotionally and psychologically. They fail to see the value of professional counselling, which is objective, scientific and result-oriented.

Among the difficulties people face every day, none are so distressing and painful as relationship problems. These can cause a great deal of stress and even lead to depression, and fights between couples can become so overblown that the only way for the fight to end is for a mediator to come in. Sometimes, a mediator is needed to be a third party, a referee or a peacemaker. The mediator is also expected to provide the necessary guidance and counselling to the feuding parties.

Fear The fear of facing the truth and reliving painful experiences like sexual or physical abuse, drug addiction or trauma from violent incidents can prevent people from going to a counsellor. Remembering painful memories is usually part of counselling sessions and therapy. These memories cause fear and anxiety on the part of the patient. But if someone under great stress or suffering from severe depression neglects to get proper therapy, the problem can be expected to get worse. Reopening a painful emotional wound is never pleasant, but we don’t heal unless we learn to face, and eventually cast away, painful memories from our past. Through counselling, people with serious problems can learn to adjust and cope with their emotional and psychological issues.

Still, many involved in a tussle refuse to acknowledge the need for counselling. Whether we’re talking about a married or engaged couple, siblings or very close friends who suddenly became bitter enemies, the thought of seeking professional help just doesn’t come to mind. Many people hold back from seeking counselling for the following reasons: State of denial Angry people sometimes deny the existence of a problem. With stubborn pride, an angry person can just fume away and dismiss the need to control anger and resolve a problem, believing in effect that things will simply sort themselves out. People can also camouflage or mask their vulnerabilities by refusing to seek help. They see counselling as a situation that will expose them for who they are, warts and all. They wish to avoid that kind of vulnerability at all costs and, as a result, find themselves in a state of denial. Social stigma Some people have a misconception that only mentally troubled people go to therapy. This mindset prevents a lot of people

Religious stigma Some associate counselling with religion or dogmatic beliefs, making the act of getting counselling uncomfortable for those who don’t consider themselves religious or spiritual. While many people have found comfort and refuge in churchbased counselling sessions, many are still wary of getting counselling there since they think they will have to become a member of the church. Few people are strong enough to face life’s storms alone, and there’s no shame in seeking counselling to cope with relationship problems. The important thing is to put time and commitment into your relationship, in the hope of positive results, and over time the resolution of your problems. §

eing a parent isn’t easy. Some days just getting everyone in your family all together at the same time for dinner can seem like an impossible dream. Between after-school sports and clubs and working and errands and carpools, it’s not surprising that almost half the parents in a recent survey said they felt a growing distance between themselves and their children. Today’s children have more things to deal with than kids did even just twenty years ago. Drugs, mixed messages in advertising, peer pressure, packed schedules and outside activities all add to the pressure they face. So how, in the midst of all this chaos, do you find time to talk to your kids – and more importantly, have them talk back to you? Here are several ideas that can help: 1. Eat dinner together as a family at least three times a week. Conversations flow easier when they happen around the dinner table. If your family is conversationally challenged at first, think of conversation starters before each meal. Plan a family vacation, letting each child talk about where they’d like to go or what they’d like to do. Talk about current events, the latest films or upcoming special events. Ask your children open-ended questions that have to be answered with more than a yes or no. 2. Turn off the outside world. Set aside family time each night and have everyone turn off their phones, computers and the television. Let your friends and extended family know that you won’t be available during that time, and stick to it. Your kids (especially teenagers) may joke about it, but secretly they’ll probably be delighted. Use this time to reconnect with each other. Watch a film, play board games, take turns reading out loud, but whatever you do, do it together.

3. Cook at least one meal a week together. Even your youngest children can do something to help. If your kitchen is too small for everyone to fit, schedule a helper or make your children responsible for different parts of the meal. Your family will grow closer during this time, and your kids may even start the conversations themselves. (You can always get the ball rolling by talking about things you did with your parents. While you may not be cool, chances are your kids think your parents are, and will be impressed.) 4. Make it safe for your kids to talk to you. Let them know that you won’t get angry or upset if they talk to you about what’s going on. If they tell you something off the record then make sure it stays that way (emergencies and dangerous situations aside). 5. Listen to what they have to say. If you’re working or doing something else when your child starts to talk to you, they may give up if they know your attention is really somewhere else. Give them your undivided attention when they’re speaking. 6. Use active listening skills. Make sure that you understand what your child is telling you. Repeat what they told you and ask questions. 7. Set aside special time to spend with each child. It may be nothing more than taking one child at a time with you when you run errands, but let each child know that you value spending special time with them. 8. Be patient. Don’t expect a perfect family. If you’re not a 1950s TV family, it’s okay. Remember that perfect families don’t really exist anyway. Just keep trying, and you’ll learn the art of conversation with your kids isn’t as hard as you thought! §






veryone wants the business of starting in a new school to be as smooth, quick and painless as possible, especially if it’s also in a new country. Pupils want to meet their new classmates and teachers and make friends as soon as they can, while parents want to feel reassured that they have made the right decision and that their child will be happy and flourish in their new environment, so they can stop worrying!

Schools also want joining a new learning environment to be a positive experience for all concerned. They want to get to know you and your child, to welcome you into the community and to be able to get on with the business of helping pupils to learn as soon as they can. So while different schools in different countries with different systems might all have their own registration, enrolment and induction procedures, each with their own particular idiosyncrasies, there is nevertheless one constant, one thing that any school wants about their new starters, wherever in the world that school is – everyone wants information. Therefore, you can really help your new school simply by giving them as much information about your child as you possibly can. You might think that schools are only interested in dry, academic documentation. Of course this is important, but schools are about so much more than this and, as a consequence, they value and appreciate information from as wide a variety of sources as possible. It might seem irrelevant, unimportant or even silly, but you’d be surprised at what schools can make out of seemingly unpromising material.








School reports vary markedly around the world, depending on factors such as whether the school is in the independent or maintained sector, the style of curriculum and assessment, the frequency of the reports and a host of other things besides


What do schools want to know? Academic School reports vary markedly around the world, depending on factors such as whether the school is in the independent or maintained sector, the style of curriculum and assessment, the frequency of the reports and a host of other things besides. It may be that the school reports you have are familiar to us, or they may represent a new variation on a theme that we have not encountered before. Don’t worry – whatever the format, a school report will always provide us with useful information and therefore you should provide your new school with all the reports you have, not only the most recent ones. A range of reports over a number of years allows a school to see the ways in which a pupil has developed and gives them some idea as to what might be to come. Your previous schools may also have provided you with other documentation, and it’s useful for us to see that too. These documents might include: standardised test scores; CAT scores (cognitive ability test); educational psychologist reports; speech or occupational therapy reports; reading age scores. These and similar documents will always be useful, as they help us to make sure we are setting the right targets for

new pupils and challenging them appropriately right from the beginning. However, other seemingly less significant material is also of use to us. Small academic prizes might not in themselves demonstrate the direction of a pupil’s future career, but they nevertheless help a new school build up a more complete picture of that pupil as quickly as possible. Therefore, don’t underestimate the value of that Year 3 award for spelling, or that teacher’s commendation for a project, or that prize for memorising times tables – they all help us to understand your child’s overall approach to school, the pride they take in their work and their ability to do well under pressure or under test conditions. Knowing this information can sometimes save us a lot of time in getting to know just where your child’s particular strengths are. Community involvement All schools, and international schools in particular, place a good deal of emphasis on helping pupils to understand the importance of engaging with the community, learning about social responsibility and tackling difficult questions about how the wider world works. Therefore, it is extremely helpful to know the level to which pupils have previously been engaged in addressing these and other related issues.



For older students, we value very highly pupils who have taken part in the International Award (called the Duke of Edinburgh Award in the UK), as it means that they are already on the way to having an understanding of the importance of civic responsibility. Likewise, pupils who have previously been involved in Model United Nations will possess a degree of political and social understanding that sets them apart from their peers. Therefore, this is information that your new school will definitely want to know about and will be useful in establishing the right sort of expectations form the outset. In the case of younger pupils, involvement in organisations such as Boy Scouts or Cubs, Girl Guides or Brownies, army, navy or air force cadets, European Youth Forum, Rotary International, Junior Chamber International, Raleigh International or any similar organisation is also valued highly. If your child has been involved in a group or organisation of this nature, your new school will undoubtedly want to hear about it. It is also useful if your child can speak enthusiastically about their involvement and what they think they learned from the experience. However, it isn’t always necessary to have a certificate or badge to demonstrate the level of engagement. If your child has been involved in any sort of charity or community project, whether at their previous school or through an







A range of reports over a number of years allows a school to see the ways in which a pupil has developed and gives them some idea as to what might be to come

outside agency, encourage them to talk about it and describe the sort of work they did and what they felt the benefits were – this is the sort of conversation that principals love to have with prospective pupils and families, and that will really help your new school welcome you into its community. Sports A lot of the school sport in international schools is of an extremely high standard and very competitive, and so principals are always keen to hear about new pupils’ sporting skills and exploits. Therefore, this is an area where it’s useful to provide as much documentation and physical evidence as you can. If your child has earned medals, certificates, ribbons or badges for any sort of sporting event then bring them along to an interview. Have they set a school or district record? Been involved in a championship winning team? Won a gold medal? Been selected to represent their county, state or country? Achievements like these are things to be proud of and shared, and you should encourage your child to talk confidently about their favourite sport and discuss their achievements as maturely as possible. However, people don’t have to be an expert or a champion, or even especially skilled, to enjoy sport; it doesn’t matter at which level your child has competed or if they have ever been a gold medallist; the very fact that they enjoy and take part in a sport will be important to their new school, and so they should feel comfortable discussing what it is that they like about their sport, and why.

Extracurricular activities There are as many extracurricular activities to potentially talk about as there are pupils in the world, so no matter what your child’s into, tell us about it! There are formal activities from which you may have supporting, documentary material (it’s helpful to collate this and be prepared to present it during an interview or meeting), or there are smaller-scale activities organised on a much more casual basis. In either case, it’s really helpful if your child feels secure and confident enough to be able to talk about them with us. They may be a musician who has completed grade examinations; they can show us the pieces of music they’re working on now to give us a good understanding of their level so we can match them up with the right teachers and fellow musicians. They may have been in an orchestra or ensemble at their old school, in which case it is really useful if they can talk about the pieces they played and their composers, as well as describe their role in the group. Or perhaps they were in a band – again, it helps if they’re able to talk about the type of music they play, and discuss their influences and the other sorts of music that they like. There are so many other fascinating things out there that people are interested in, and likewise so many fascinating things that we are interested in hearing your child talk about. Maybe they can speak other languages. Are into mountain climbing. Have an unusual pet. Have travelled to exotic locations. Have met someone famous. Collect antique coins. Like going to the theatre. Spent some time in hospital. Are part

of a large family. Anything! Whatever it is, we think hearing them talk about it will help us to understand the sort of person and pupil they’re going to be. Perhaps the most important thing is that your child knows how to talk about what interests them. Can they explain when they first became interested in mountain climbing? What is the most valuable coin in their collection? Why do they like to travel? What is the play they have most enjoyed? Their aim should be to share with us their knowledge, understanding and passion for their hobbies and interests, so that we get a good idea of what makes them tick.

Next steps In the end, you really can’t be too prepared when your child is applying to a new school: • Get as many documents together as you can, even if they seem unimportant or trivial. • Get your child ready to show off their sporting medals and ribbons. • Think about the way in which your child presents him- or herself, and make sure that they’re confident talking about and answering questions about their hobbies or interests. Doing all of this will help the school to get to know your child as quickly as they can, and then everyone – him or her included – can get straight down to the serious business of really enjoying the new school. §




more than work A day in the life of an IB student By Maurice Dusault and Alessandra Mariani


at, study and sleep. So often, one will hear IB students claim (and complain) that their life has been reduced to these three basic components. Of course, in reality this is not what being an IB student is really like. The programme has so much more to offer by providing an environment in which we can develop in diverse ways. Our teachers certainly do have high academic expectations and always encourage us to produce our best possible work at all times. However, the wonderful thing about being an IB student is that the programme is about far more than just academic study. The way the course is structured around a core affords so many opportunities for us to develop in a holistic manner. We participate in all sorts of learning opportunities outside the classroom. The life of an IB student is the starting point of an amazing and intriguing journey as a life-long learner. If there’s one thing you learn as soon as you start the IB, it’s to be organised and do things systematically. We have so many internal assessment and homework deadlines to meet that if we don’t work in a methodical manner we’ll soon fall behind. Fortunately, if we do find ourselves in a spot of bother and needing a little help to cope with the demands of the course, we have a safety net in the form of academic review. If necessary, we’re placed with a mentor who helps us through rough patches by setting targets and offering advice. Gone are the days when we go to class and expect the teacher to disseminate knowledge that we magically absorb. We are now independent learners and, as such, we need to be prepared for the day’s lessons so that we can participate in discussion and activities in a meaningful manner. We have to ensure that our watches are synchronised: there are no bells during the day to signify a change of lesson. This is all part of being independent learners, taking responsibility and ownership of our studies. The typical IB student takes six academic subjects of their choice, one from each of the six groups of the IB hexagon, which is designed so that students gain a broad, well-rounded education. We must study two languages, science, mathematics and a humanities subject. We then have the choice of taking an additional arts, science or humanities subject to make up the full complement of six subjects.

the wonderful thing about being an IB student is that the programme is about far more than just academic study


If we take English as a first language, it’s very different from the subject we studied at Key Stages 3 and 4. Grammar rules and spelling are replaced with learning how to effectively analyse text. We have to be prepared to share our opinions and justify our views. Challenging? Yes, but at the same time a rewarding and enriching way to learn.

The old adage about maths is that you either love it or hate it. Even the less mathematically inclined would never believe how interesting doing an IB Mathematics Internal Assessment is! As for English, the old preconceptions about the subject vanish when we discover that mathematics is so much more than sums. We have to reason out problems, to give



rational explanations for our choice to opt for an algebraic instead of exponential equation. This rational journey is the key to mathematical success. The IB promotes multilingualism, a pivotal characteristic of developing internationalmindedness. All IB students have to study a second language. School offers us access




If you’re more the artistic type, you also have the chance to exhibit your works at the end of each school year in your own art exhibition



to many of the traditional languages, and our teachers patiently and methodically take us through the process. We know we will graduate with the ability to communicate meaningfully with people in countries all over the world. The Treaty of Versailles, Single Party States, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist Russia and Modern China – these are some of the topics we tackle in History. Who could fail to be intrigued by such dynamic and relevant topics? History is no longer an endless dry list of dates and facts. The History classroom is an active and dynamic environment where we’re encouraged to debate and examine historical sources from many different perspectives. Who would have thought it such a fluid and vibrant subject? We have an extensive syllabus yet still find time to balance hard work with some educational fun preparing amusing skits of Tsarina Alexandra’s infatuation with Rasputin for our School Open Day. Biology provides an insight into the workings of the human body and the stunning chemical reactions that take place inside each and every one of us at a cellular level. Who cannot be captivated for a full sixty minutes when exploring the extraordinary workings of organisms? Physics also covers a wide range of topics, from Astrophysics to Medical Physics. A world of scientific wonder awaits beyond the doors of the science laboratories. Something that was completely new to us at the start of the course was Theory of Knowledge. Initially, we had no clue what all this was about. It quickly became apparent that this is a critical thinking course where we learn to examine what we think we know. In TOK, we learn to question everything, to look at things from different perspectives by asking questions and probing evidence, finally making an informed decision about what we accept into our own personal store of knowledge. The key to TOK success is participation coupled with an open mind and a willingness to consider any new idea. We are not forced to accept anything, but rather learn the process of examining concepts before making our own decisions about their validity. We soon realise that Theory of Knowledge applies to all our subjects. It is one of the most important application skills we learn in the diploma programme and it will give us a distinct advantage at university. At the end of the formal school day, we have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities or organise

In TOK, we learn to question everything, to look at things from different perspectives by asking questions and probing evidence, finally MAKING an informed decision about what we accept into our own personal store of knowledge





Maurice Dusault and Alessandra Mariani




we are Enquirers, thinkers and communicators who are knowledgeable, principled, open-minded, caring, balanced and reflective

our own self-directed CAS project. Creativity, Action and Service are mandatory requirements for the successful completion of the diploma. In addition, we must not fall behind on our Extended Essay deadlines so we arrange regular meetings with our Essay supervisors to discuss our progress. After a busy and stimulating day, we head home to hit the books for a few hours before falling into bed to catch a few hours of sleep before that alarm goes off again. We know we might have scared you a little, but don’t worry. The IB isn’t only spikes and thorns. It only seems like that when all the deadlines are piling up. It’s never “all work and no play”. If you’re a musician, you’ll have ample opportunity to perform at school

and at city-wide talent shows and music festivals. If the school bands, ensembles and choirs already on offer do not appeal, we’re able to start our own groups as a self-directed CAS activity. If you’re more of the artistic type who enjoys painting, taking photographs or creating sculptures, you’ll also have the chance to exhibit your work at the end of each school year in your own art exhibition, which is open to the general public. Last year, we participated in the school musical. Aside from providing us with extensive input for our CAS folders, this afforded us the experience and camaraderie of working as a team to achieve a challenging goal. We don’t forget to enjoy the unique experience of being teenagers. We’re

reminded from time to time that the IB profile requires balance. So we aim to balance our school life and social life. The aim of the IB Diploma Programme is to develop us into lifelong learners who are open to new possibilities, new ideas and different cultures. This programme is far more than a set of examinations: it’s a way of life centred on the ideals of the IB learner profile. We are enquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, balanced and reflective.








UNDERSTANDING EXPECTATIONS Parents, ask yourself some tough questions. Do you want to wear the Cambridge sweatshirt when you play tennis with your friends? Sure, who wouldn’t? But dig a bit deeper and get to what really concerns you about sending your child off to university. Not everyone has the same answer, but many parents have fairly similar issues. One parent recently said to me, “I just want to make sure she makes it in the world, that after university she can either get a good job or has found that passion to follow a further course of study. I want her to find her place in the world.” Other parents see university as a means to financial stability for their child – success, independence and opening up more opportunities.



n older teenager craves independence and yet still expects and needs the guidance of parents. One moment they’re confident that they can conquer the world and make all decisions on their own, and the next they’re overwhelmed, wondering how they’ll ever make all the decisions needed to get into the right university. This is where it gets confusing. Parents want to know the correct amount of involvement a parent should Trintiy College, Oxford

have in the university application process. Because each child is different and each parent-child relationship is different, it’s important to first assess both your and your child’s expectations by asking the basic questions: “What do I want for my child from a university education? What does my child want from a university education?” Below are a few guidelines for how parents can encourage and support rather than add to the pressure.

Whatever the reason, make sure you understand what it really is you want for your child. If it’s success and happiness you want for them, remember that success only comes when a person loves what they’re doing. A person that follows his or her passion is more likely to work hard and become committed to their field, with greater results, than someone struggling in a field they hate just to make more money. Second, it’s important to have your son or daughter go through the same exercise independently. What are they looking for in a university experience? On the website students were polled and rated these four factors in order of importance: 1) Course 2) Reputation of the university/league tables 3) Social concerns – who you can get along with – and 4) Location. Your child might already be doing this with their college counsellor, but if not get them to brainstorm and discuss what they’re looking for in their university experience. Many students I talk with are interested in finding the right course of study, but they also express other important factors: • finding that perfect place for their first experience living away from home • an education with a great reputation • a comfortable atmosphere with students that have similar interests or values, such as a love of the outdoors or perhaps a love of city life • opportunities to socialise with new friends • intellectual students that will challenge their thinking • opportunities to study with leading thinkers in their field of study or where famous politicians or scientists are frequent lecturers • Don’t be worried if they don’t know exactly what they want. This is meant to be a brainstorming list that they will revisit and revise again and again, as they gain a better understanding of what they want. After parents and child have completed this brainstorming exercise on paper, listen to your child’s interests first, and then very carefully explain your interests for your child’s future. I say carefully, because as parents we tend to look way out into the future, seeing their path as far into the future as our own. Teenagers, on the other hand, are thinking more about the next few years. Saying that we want them to become financially independent can be interpreted by teenagers as “You’re on your own, kid. Get a job, get a life, I’m tired of paying your bills”; when instead, what we really want is for them to grow into that confident self-reliant person who will feel great providing for themselves. It’s absolutely fine to discuss what a parent can and cannot afford and what help you expect the child to provide in financing their education. It’s not alright to simply say, “I want you to go to a top-20 university.” Perhaps what you’re really trying to say is that you want them to have every opportunity in life, and you want what’s best for them. Remember that the surest path to success for most people is to follow their interests and skills. The most important part of this exercise is listening to their interests and what they want from their college experience, to get a realistic grasp of what they’re thinking.




ENCOURAGEMENT, NOT PRESSURE Knowing where their interests lie, a parent’s role is to then provide their child with the support and encouragement they need. That’s easier said than done, as one New York Times columnist wrote in a column about her daughter’s college application process. In response to one university’s recommendation to parents that “support and encouragement are more appropriate than pressure and unsolicited advice” she responded, “I try hard to relieve her stress and don’t say much unless asked. Well, most of the time.” So what are some ways to offer support and encouragement without pressure and unsolicited advice? It always depends on your child’s desire for this support. But if your child hasn’t come home in their junior year (US) or Year 12 (UK) talking about the university application process, then you need to start the conversation. Here are some easy ways to offer support without the pressure.


UNIVERSITY VISITS You don’t have to make an appointment or do anything formal to visit a university. Just simply show up and walk around, especially if your teenager is on the “feeling more pressure than support” side of the equation. Then if time permits they can revisit universities that interest them, and make an appointment to sit in on a few classes and even talk to the admissions director. For parents of younger children, expose them to universities by visiting them in a casual way. Whenever we travel, my husband and I make it a point to visit a university. Universities usually have a great place to eat and a courtyard or park to take walks in. From an early age children can start getting a sense of what they like and don’t like.




FRAMEWORK FOR NARROWING DOWN CHOICES While it’s important that you allow your child to lead the process of researching and applying to universities, you can help them create a framework to narrow down the choices. Being an international student and seeing classmates apply to universities from all over the world can be overwhelming. There are so many universities to consider, where does one begin? It’s easy to understand how students become paralysed with choice and avoid even beginning the process. Breaking it down into some manageable pieces can help start the process. A parent may suggest creating a spreadsheet and listing the various factors that the child feels strongly about, using this as a way to identify which universities match their interests. Here are some of the deciding factors that you can use to filter these choices. Which country? Does your child want to go back to the country they were born in, or to the country of their current international school, or to another country altogether? This also determines whether they want to be close to their parents during this time or are fine living further away. City or country? Small or large university? Are they more comfortable in a university where most of their life will be on campus: living quarters, meals, classes, shops? Or would they prefer a city-centre campus where the university is spread throughout a city and where city dwellers and university students intermingle (think Edinburgh)? Do they want access to a huge campus with diverse offerings (think University of California, Berkeley) or a smaller liberal arts college (think Colby College)? Climate? While this is one of the last things people think should be involved in a university decision, it plays an important part in the emotional wellbeing of the student. Course of study? If your child knows what they want to study than this makes it easier, but many students at the age of 18 don’t know yet, and that’s perfectly fine. These students will need to choose more liberal arts-focused universities to continue a more general education and then specialise in their third or junior year. Social activities? Does social life revolve around a sorority, eating clubs, athletics? Does your child like the idea of attending a school with a bigname sports team (think American universities such as the University of Tennessee or the University of Florida)? Or would they prefer a university where the city and the arts are the source of social life and entertainment (think New York University or University College London)? Cost and financial aid prospects? Will your son or daughter need to find a job to support their education? If so, ensure that this is permitted in the host country. Does the university provide some type of financial aid or scholarship opportunities? These are just a few examples of deciding factors that a student might put on their university spreadsheet. This framework is merely a tool to give your child a meaningful way of narrowing down choices; it’s not a final tally sheet. It helps create the list. What wins out in the end is usually the emotional attachment a student has for a university. Sometimes that emotional attachment is not fully understood, but can just be described as “it feels like the right place to go.” Finally, the most important thing a parent provides is the emotional support needed during the roller coaster ride a teenager goes through


when contemplating their future. Help them stay above the fray of gossip and hurt feelings that can go on at school about who is assured a spot at Cambridge, or why a certain person got into a university and another did not. Help them understand that in this process they are likely to get some rejections, and that they will be disappointed with some of the outcomes. But also remind them that in rejection and chaos new opportunities arise that might not have existed before. Of course, a teenager isn’t always ready to hear this when they receive a rejection from the school of their dreams. But allow for the grief and then help them pick up the pieces and continue the search. Either they will indeed find a new university and direction, or they might decide to take a gap year and reapply, or attend another university, make great grades and then reapply. As most parents know, life takes many unexpected turns. Some turns are annoying detours, but there is always something to be learned and gained along the way. §




helping others to be the best they can be





ducation and learning have always been our focus and our area of expertise. Our people and the people we work with all have a good understanding of what this means to us. We aim to provide students with the opportunity to be the best they can be. HELPING We do everything to support people and be useful to them, always keeping their best interests at heart. OTHERS Our communities: students, parents, policy makers, the societies in which we live and, of course, our own people. Our work reaches all of them. THRIVE To grow. To flourish. To learn. To be inspired. To stretch yourself further than you, or anyone else, thought possible. To experience more. To keep going, onwards and upwards, closer and closer to your aims and dreams.






the british international school Bratislava, Slovakia


helping others to be the best they can be Education and learning have always been our focus and our area of expertise. Our people and the people we work with all have a good understanding of what this means to us. We aim to provide students with the opportunity to be the best they can be.



Which University is right



his question, which so many parents ask, is a complex one. However, there is another question that perhaps needs to be addressed first: namely, what exactly is meant by the ‘best’ universities? There is undoubtedly an elite group of universities that are renowned throughout the world: Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, Yale. They are quite deservedly famous, have superb facilities, excellent teachers and in some instances a place at one of them does go a long way to guaranteeing a head start in one’s chosen career.






n addition, there are universities that have excellent reputations within their own countries but are perhaps not as well known abroad: Seoul in Korea, Canberra in Australia, McGill in Canada, Leeds in England, Tokyo in Japan, Beijing in China (this list is far from exhaustive). These universities, and indeed many others, have the same standards in real terms as more internationally famous institutions. However, there is another, perhaps more important question that parents should ideally be asking: Which is the best university for my child? The choice of university is a very personal one – not every student is suited to every institution. A wide variety of additional factors need to be considered alongside the school’s academic reputation. Factors such as how comfortable a young adult would be living very far from home; the international nature (or otherwise) of the university town or city; the support services for international students; the availability of scholarships for international students – all of these are important. Even seemingly irrelevant factors such as the weather can have a bearing on a student’s success and happiness – it is not always straightforward for students from warm countries to travel somewhere very cold, for example, even to an extremely well thought-of university. Many parents underestimate the effect of the social conditions at a university on the

there is another, perhaps more important question that parents should ideally be asking: Which is the best university for my child?

academic progress of students. The drop-out rate for universities somewhat surprisingly runs at around 10 percent. Social support and friendship groups are hugely important for all students, even the most shy and retiring introvert. A university with a tradition of accepting students from all over the world may be more welcoming to students from diverse backgrounds than those that do not have such traditions. Even for a student attending university in their home country such matters can be important. Students from a particular location or background might find it easier to make friends and a have a better social network in one university than another.

A particular faculty and its reputation are also important considerations when making a choice and it should be borne in mind that in certain careers and professions it is undoubtedly true that the university one attends can influence future prospects and career. That’s why your choice should have as much to do with the specialties and excellence of the teaching staff in the field that you’d like to enter as more general notions of reputation. For example, in the UK Leeds and Edinburgh are recognised as being superb medical centres of excellence and a degree from either is an excellent passport around the world despite their not necessarily being seen as elite institutions. Therefore, a key




Another way in which to seek information is to ask the professionals. If your child is interested in design, call a design company and ask for their thoughts

issue for parents and students is getting quality information that is relevant to you and the courses you wish to study. Another way in which to seek information is to ask the professionals. If your child is interested in design, call a design company and ask for their thoughts. The same with engineering, or medicine, or indeed any other career. Companies are in fact very willing to answer brief enquiries and a little flattery can go a long way. Of course, you cannot expect them to provide detailed careers advice, but they will often be very happy to say, “Oh yes, I went to Madison University in Wisconsin as it has a superb biotechnology facility,” or “Of course, you must study history and politics at Beijing University as it has a superb reputation.”

fees Cost is a real issue for many parents. Sending a child to university is not simply a matter of paying the tuition fees. Accommodation, food, travel, books – the costs mount up at a considerable rate. The cost of tuition is not always directly linked to the quality of education on offer, or indeed the reputation of the university in its home country. Careful research into the other indirect costs is vital when considering a university, even in one’s home country, as costs can vary considerably from city to city. Financial aid, bursaries and scholarships are being offered

more and more and looking into these and what is on offer can make a considerable difference to the overall cost. In many cases, it can make the difference between being able to attend a first choice university or not. The key factor here is to enquire early, in most cases some three to four years before the intended entry date. This is simply an issue of practicality as many scholarships have detailed requirements for entitlement that might involve a number of years of service to a particular institution or perhaps evidence of belonging to a particular community or service group. Sporting scholarships, artistic scholarships and even musical scholarships also often have such provisos attached. Many parents of talented musicians have made the mistake of thinking that scholarships are always handed out purely on the basis of artistic ability. This is sometimes sufficient but more and more often additional criteria must be met, and knowing what they are in good time will greatly increase the odds of financial aid being available. Furthermore, it is worth approaching a wider range of funding bodies than might be traditionally considered. Even in these credit crunch times, many large businesses and organisations will still have financial aid packages available for university students. Many do have strings attached, such as a requirement to work with the company for a period of time, but these strings might also be seen as benefits. One shocking fact is that each year 22 percent of scholarships remain unclaimed, mostly because no one has applied for them. A quick search of the Internet is

perhaps the best way to begin looking into the funding that might be available – simply typing “scholarship” into Google produces over twenty-six million hits. Universities themselves often have discretionary funds available to help undergraduates in times of financial hardship, but these are not available until the student is already enrolled and university finance managers take a very dim view of planned hardship, so beware!

Curriculum and High school Students today have many choices. By far the most popular choice for international school students is the IB Diploma, which is also the qualification of choice for many of the universities mentioned above, and students with the IB receive favoured applicant status at a number of high-profile institutions. Various national qualifications like the AP programme from the US or the A-level programme from the UK are of course still important in those (and other) countries and might still be a good option for a student who is only considering entry to that country, but the fact remains that the IB offers a far wider choice and should be considered a superior qualification purely in terms of university entrance. Even in the US and the UK, IB is often preferred to AP or A-level.



School Life

Academic grades play a huge part in the admissions process and there is no way around this




xcept in a very few rare cases, the high school which a student attends (or more specifically, the name of the school) does not have any great implications in terms of university entrance. Of the many thousands of high schools around the world, only around ten have meaningful relationships with universities and these are all matters of local or historical tradition. The most important aspect of a high school career is rather the quality of the school in terms of its delivery of the curriculum and the care and attention to the student’s pastoral needs and careers guidance. Once again, a good school for your child is the key factor here. The school should nurture their interests and challenge them to do their best without promoting burnout. You should also consider the pastoral care provided. Keeping a student on a good path and promoting good behaviour and manners is important. For universities with limited places, a school character report can make a very real difference between acceptance or not.

More than schooling, or a school that offers more Participation in activities beyond strictly academic areas can often make the difference between being accepted and being rejected. This is especially true of those universities with more applicants than spaces available. The International Award, internships, community service, work experience and participation in school teams and sporting events can all make a vital contribution as to whether a student is accepted at the university of their choice.

Mark Angus




One shocking fact is that each year 22% of scholarships remain unclaimed, mostly because no one has applied for them

Language Many universities around the world, even in non-English-speaking countries, offer courses in English. Therefore, very often a minimum standard of English proficiency must be achieved. The most popular around the world are IGCSE (from the University of Cambridge, Edexcel and OCR in the UK), TOEFL and IELTS. Some, but by no means all, universities have self-administered tests that can be taken instead of these qualifications but be aware that this is not frequently the case. Having a recognised qualification is generally the easiest (and often the only) way to open the door to the admissions process.

And Finally…

the process of finding and being admitted to the best universities. Academic grades play a huge part in the admissions process and there is no way around this. However, should your child’s grades fall below the absolute optimum for any reason, don’t despair. A gap year is no blemish on an application and, if well spent, can be a real asset. Using a gap year well and then retaking examinations that didn’t go so well can be a very good use of time. Of course, not all retakes require a gap year and some can be done later in the same year. Also, don’t forget that there are very many very good universities around the world that are perhaps not quite as famous as others and might have slightly lower requirements for entry. For some students these are not a poor second-place choice at all. A good school will of course give you sound advice on all possible avenues, from grades that exceed, meet or fall below expectations; you should at no point be left feeling alone. §

All the tricks, tips and hints in the world won’t be able to bypass the one constant in

ark Angus read English and Drama at Flinders University, Adelaide, where he specialised in Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. He also has an MA in Early Modern Studies from King’s Former Principal College, University of London, where his main focus of study was The British International School the repertories of 16th- and 17th-century playing companies.  Further Shanghai study included a Post-Graduate Diploma in Acting from Mountview Theatre School, London, which was followed by six years as a professional actor in theatres throughout the UK. He gained his PGCE in Secondary English from the Open University and was previously the Academic Deputy Head at Westminster Cathedral Choir School in central London. He was at BISS from 2007 to 2011, becoming Principal in 2009. Mark Angus has written for the theatre and radio and published articles in a variety of journals on a diverse range of subjects, from Victorian crime to the theatre of Sophocles.  His interests include literature, theatre, wine, sport and travel.




understanding assesSment and levels Do you really know how well your children are performing? by Christine Armstrong


hroughout the world, a number of different levelling systems are used to help you know how your children are performing and how they compare to other children. Britain* and schools around the world following the British system base their teaching on the British National Curriculum. The National Curriculum was devised to standardise teaching in schools throughout Britain and, in turn, provide standardised ways of assessing pupils in order to make it easier to compare school success throughout the country. In Britain, children are levelled throughout their school careers. All good international schools following the British system level children using the same methods. This ensures that teachers, and thus pupils, schools and parents, know what progress a pupil is making throughout the school year, as well as year on year. The British system of assessment can sound complicated, but it’s not as difficult as it might at first look. There are two main types of assessment used in schools. Summative assessment allows teachers to see what the children

have learnt at the end of the learning process. This assessment is seen in the form of tests. A number of different tests have been devised over the years to help assess pupils. British schools use a range of these in any given subject. However, the tests that most British schools use at the end of an academic year are called SATs (not to be confused with the American SAT test, which assesses suitability for university). SATs (Standard Assessment Tests) are given formally at the end of Year 2 and Year 6 and are used to show a child’s progress and how they compare with other children born in the same year. Optional SATs are available for Years 3, 4 and 5, and schools may use these to identify a child’s level at the end of the academic year. In this way you can be confident that a school using summative assessment will be keeping a close eye on your child’s progress all the way through school. The second type of assessment used is formative assessment. This is an ongoing aid to learning and is based on both the teacher’s and pupil’s assessment of where they are at a given moment and what they need to do to move forward. It’s designed to provide learners

with feedback on progress and inform development. It can be used to identify any areas which would benefit from extra attention on the part of the student, or extra support from academic staff. The methods used are less formal than a test or exam. Formative assessment should be taking place all of the time in school, while summative assessments are more likely to happen on a term or end of unit basis. Good teachers are aware of a child’s level throughout the year, and many schools embed a range of formative techniques and summative tests, constituting a key part of the school’s ethos. Together, summative and formative assessment combine to provide a complete picture of a child’s level and progress within the school.

EDUCATION If your child is in a school following the British system with good formative and summative assessments in place, then their level will be clear. The final hurdle for parents unfamiliar with the British system lies in understanding the levels themselves. In Primary School, the National Curriculum is split into five levels ranging from level 1 to a potential level 5. A general guide to where an average pupil will be throughout their primary school life is shown in the table to the right. By the end of Year 6, when pupils finish primary school, the average child will be a Level 4. Each level can be split into three sub-levels: a, b and c. Sub-level ‘c’ represents a child who is only just managing to work within the level; ‘b’ represents a child working securely within the level; and ‘a’ represents a child working towards the next level. For example, an average Year 2 child should be a 2b by the end of the year, indicating they’re working securely within the level 2 range. An average Year 6 child is expected to be working at level 4b, and so would be working securely within level 4. The table to the right gives an outline of the sub-level a child should be at by the end of each year in primary school. While these levels and sub-levels are used to help assess how children are performing and the progress being made, it should be stressed that they’re indicators only. Finding that a child is working below or above these sub-levels tells a story that implies something may need to be addressed. In some cases this may lead to extra support and provision through the Gifted & Talented programme, or through additional learning support. Other factors, such as English as a second or third language or settling into a new school or country, also influence where a child is at any given moment in time. It’s the duty of teachers and schools to use their expertise to consider everything in context to best meet the needs of the pupils within their care, and to make sure that all pupils make excellent progress in school. *For the purpose of this article, ‘Britain’ refers to England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as Scotland uses an alternative curriculum system. §


Average Age of Child

Development Matters & Early Learning Goals

2-5-year-olds, working towards a Level 1

Level 1

Average for 5-6-year-olds

Level 2

Average for 6-7-year-olds

Level 3

Average for 7-9-year-olds

Level 4

Average for 10-11-year-olds

Level 5

Above average 11-year-olds

Good teachers are aware of a child’s level throughout the year, and many schools embed a range of formative techniques Year Group

Age of Child

Sub-Level Target


















4b or above



Panta Rhei

A bookshop where you can relax

Visit the chain of Panta Rhei bookshops offering a wide range of books of various genres as well as books in English, including DVDs and CDs. Take a breather at our Café Dias shops and enjoy coffee from around the world, or a tasty cake. The paints, special materials and painting tools offered in the DaVinci workshops won’t just be enjoyed by the children!

Panta_208x279.indd 1

Po k aždej stránke viac

Banská Bystrica•Bratislava•Dunajská Streda•Komárno•Košice•Martin•Michalovce•Nitra Nové Zámky•Piešťany•Prešov•Prievidza•Senec•Šamorín•Trenčín•Trnava•Žilina 15.6.2011 12:51:36


Personalising learning By Dr Terry Creissen


f you really want to make the right choice of school for your children, you need to be aware of how the school meets their individual needs. With a class of pupils, how can we really guarantee that all children are stretched and supported in developing their skills, knowledge and understanding so that they remain motivated and passionate learners? There are many ways in which schools try to make the learning experience individualised to pupils. Perhaps the best way is one-to-one tutoring, but there are many other ways that teachers can group pupils to ensure that they are challenged and stretched on an individual basis. Some schools choose to select their pupils on entry through testing, similar to many private schools in the UK and elsewhere. Others offer a streaming approach which classifies learners as high, average or low ability. This approach is, in my view, fundamentally flawed because it fails to recognise that there are different skills required to be good at maths compared with English. Branding them through selective education or streaming fails to recognise their individual talents and fails to support their specific areas of development. Similarly, relying on mixed ability can be harmful because few teachers

can manage the individual needs of pupils effectively in broad ability groupings. Professor Eric Bolton, the former Chief Inspector of Schools in England, said that in classes where no setting takes place, “Most teachers aim for the middle: the bright children are frustrated and the ones at the bottom get left behind.” This is why many school have adopted a more flexible approach through setting. This targets pupils at different abilities in different subjects. Children are tested to find out their innate abilities and then placed in sets tailored to their learning needs. The problem with any approach that groups children by ability is that children do not always progress in their understanding at a fixed and steady rate. In the same way that they have physical growth spurts, children also experience mental growth spurts. One minute they are half the size of their parents and before you realise it, they are towering over us. The learning process is not an exact science and many children experience a series of eureka moments when they suddenly make the breakthrough in a specific area. Teachers see this regularly in lessons when children just seem to finally get it. A problem that



they have not been able to master suddenly becomes clear, and they make a great leap forward in their understanding. So, even with a setting system, there needs to be flexibility throughout the academic year to ensure that children can move easily between sets, based on their progress. This requires teachers to make continuous assessments of the abilities and progress of all pupils in their classes, coupled with formalised tests and questioning to check understanding along the way. This progress needs to be carefully tracked and measured against standardised assessments to ensure that the teachers’ assessments are in line with other staff. In the UK, this was previously managed through the Standardised Assessment Tests (SATs) but good schools prefer a more regular, termly assessment to ensure that their judgements on individual pupils are accurate. So, when you visit a school, ask them how they ensure that children in classrooms are monitored and assessed to ensure that they’re making the right level of progress, and ask how they provide additional support to children who are experiencing difficulties with their learning. Check to see if they have a learning support teacher who can sometimes work with children on an individual basis for a short period of time to overcome barriers to success in the education system. If they’re using a setting system, check to see if there are systems in place to ensure consistency in marking and termly checks to guarantee that learning growth spurts are rewarded and that areas of concern are quickly addressed. Only by asking the right questions can you be sure that your children will be given the chance to thrive and be the best that they can be. §




Why is it important to learn MUSIC? By Heather Brown Music teacher


ou don’t need to be fluent on an instrument to reap the benefits of learning music. Simply humming your own tune or listening to your favourite music can instantly bring on a smile. Music gives people the confidence to step up to their peers and perform with their own interpretation and feelings. Music gives people the opportunity to lead and work as a team. Music can help to define a nation’s culture and shape communities. Music can help to characterise moods and is proven to help heal the body. In short, music features in everyone’s life in some form or another, so learning about music can be extremely beneficial in shaping a person’s future, attitude and work skills.

different levels. This may be performing your own composition, or singing while acting a role on stage. Perhaps you will perform to the class, or maybe to the whole school – perhaps even on television. Performing allows you to develop the skills needed to face an audience, make mistakes and deal with those mistakes under pressure. Performing also gives you the chance to learn about your audience, discovering how to engage and interact with them. Reading an audience can be crucial in clinching that deal or selling your product, summing up to the jury or breaking news of a life-threatening condition to a patient. Performance skills are easily transferable to other subjects and situations, and music is one of the simplest platforms for improving these skills.

Confidence and self-esteem

Leadership, management and teamwork

How many times have you been nervous when delivering that presentation to the executive board, taking charge of a meeting or speaking in front of the class? Having the confidence to perform in front of others, either solo or in a group, is an invaluable skill that can be transferred into nearly every school subject and area of life. Music gives you ample opportunities to perform on many

Many jobs today require leadership, management and teamwork. Being part of a musical group can help to advance these skills in a fun and creative way. Learning to be a principal player in an orchestra, lead trumpeter in a jazz band or front man in a rock band gives you the opportunity to take responsibility for others in




If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. I get most joy in life out of music. Albert Einstein

” the group, manage rehearsals and build a positive and healthy team attitude. Management skills, deciding who gets to perform what solo when or which piece to play at which concert, are crucial. Decisions have to be made in all areas of life, and making sure everyone is catered for while enjoying themselves and improving their skills is a fundamental management skill found in nearly every profession. Opportunities to develop such transferrable skills are abundant throughout all kinds of music activities, at all ages, from the recorder ensemble in primary right through to the senior choir. Creating an ensemble together teaches you to accept ideas from others, implement your own ideas and learn to compromise, and demands negotiation and discussion skills from all members of the group.


Every culture shares some common features and celebrations such as weddings, funerals and birthdays, and music can be the one thing to gel them all together. You don’t have to speak another language to be able to jam or perform with someone. You don’t have to be fluent in German or Italian to enjoy listening to Mozart’s operas. Music can help children to understand the values

of others and the way their cultures and nations think. Through performing, listening and composing their own Christmas, New Year, Divali and Thanksgiving music, for example, children can learn the similarities and differences of music from cultures around the world and appreciate their richness and diversity. It also helps children to define their own identity.


Music also gives people a chance to work across the age groups, religions and races. People from different walks of life get the chance to meet others, not only within their own school or community, but also through wider regional, national and international competitions, school trips and regional orchestras. For children, there are also national youth initiatives such as the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. Children get to work with adults both in and out of school hours in a professional capacity. All these opportunities help children develop their sense of relationship with people and their varying roles within the community. Furthermore, performing in the community allows children to become a greater part of it and, in some ways, define it. Look at music of the recent past, for example. Music from the




“Students who can perform complex rhythms can also make faster and more precise corrections in many academic and physical situations.”— Center for Training and Motor Skills, 2000


One group of elementary students received musical training, while another group received an equal amount of discussion skills training. After six months, the students in the music group achieved a significant increase in reading test scores, while the reading test scores of the discussion skills group did not change

both war and peace, and bold political statements, all of which helped to define certain eras. For instance, Live Aid in 1985 was perfect proof of how powerful music can be in linking communities around the world and helping to achieve a common goal. In addition, music has been proven to affect the brain. Research done by the American Music Therapy Association and the British Music Therapy Association has shown that a strong beat and/or a change in tempo can bring about changes in brain waves, heart and breathing rates and memory. These changes can be used to relax the body and help it deal with stress. Listening to music has also been linked with improving the symptoms of people with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.

So, how can I learn more about music?

It’s easy! Depending on where you are in the world, most schools have a music programme in some form or another, either embedded in the curriculum or as a programme allowing extra lessons or activities around school hours. Lunchtime activities and extracurricular activities after school and at weekends provide ample opportunities for children and adults to get involved. Staff bands are also open to parents and friends.

So what can learning music do for you?

Journal of Research in Reading, 1994

Music improves your mind and body, develops your knowledge and understanding of different cultures and gives you a bank of key transferable skills. And if nothing else, music is fun!







very family, when coming to a new country, may at some point require domestic help or a nanny for the children. The household services system differs from country to country and varies according to local tradition. It’s not always easy to find the right domestic help. What needs to be taken into consideration and which steps need to be taken? The current system of services in Slovakia offers two main alternatives. In the first case, it’s mostly students or older ladies coming to your home. The choice is usually based on references or they’re chosen from online ads. There’s no work contract and no insurance between the two parties, but the price is usually more favourable. In the second case, the services are offered by an agency. The parties sign a formal contract and the agency takes full responsibility for both the employees and the insurance. In this case as well, it’s necessary to consider references, the history of the company and in the end the overall impression you get of the agency.

Household services How to choose the right domestic helper By RoomService

These are the questions you should ask yourself before you decide on a service provider:

What are my requirements? Think about the frequency of the services needed. Decide whether it’s sufficient for you to have your home cleaned once a week or if you’d prefer to have it done more often. Furthermore, contemplate the scope of services and try to estimate the time frame in which this work can realistically be done. You can estimate the time frame at the beginning and finalise it after a couple of visits of the cleaner to your house. Prepare a list of work to be done and decide what will be part of the cleaning. Will ironing, window cleaning, doing the laundry be part of it? How often do you want the furniture in your library to be dusted, and how often do you need the porcelain inherited from your grandparents to be cleaned? Setting the timeframe is also

important in the case of babysitting services. If you require babysitting regularly, it’s most likely that your preferred sitter will not always be available, so it’s always good to have a back-up. In the case of a nanny, you need to have a clear picture of the scope of her duties. Will driving a car, picking up the children from school or nursery, cooking or doing the laundry be part of the job? Do you plan on taking the nanny with you on family trips or holidays? If you don’t speak Slovak, consider whether the nanny must speak your language fluently, or if an intermediate

level is sufficient. You might wish the nanny to speak Slovak to your children as this could help to familiarise them with the new country.

What’s my idea of an ideal domestic helper? The cleaner’s experience and references are, of course, the deciding factor, as well as her flexibility and willingness to adjust to the client’s requirements. Decide whether you prefer to employ a younger lady or an older woman. When you choose the latter, our

experience says that it’s likely she will be less flexible and will have her own ways. Sometimes their age doesn’t allow them to do more demanding tasks and they get tired sooner. As for a nanny, apart from references, you will probably be interested in her character and her special abilities which she could use to motivate your children. Think about what you would like her to be able to do, e.g. play the piano or the violin. Jot down a list of at least eight features that your nanny should definitely have and then scratch half of them out. It’s unlikely that you’ll find Ms Perfect Nanny, but




someone close to you can help with the choice (your spouse, a friend or even your children). Despite the effort, it’s possible you’ll find yourself making some compromises. Start with choosing at least two or three candidates. Don’t get over-excited by a positive first impression. If you like a person at the first meeting, arrange a second meeting a little later. When it comes to the cleaning ladies, their references will tell you a lot. It’s best if they provide you with a contact for a company or an agency they have worked for in the past. This way you don’t have to be afraid that the contact detail they have given you is a friend who will pick up the phone and talk positively about them. You can contact the HR department of the company they worked for, or call the agency at the phone number you find on their website. Ask them if they were happy with the work of the candidate and, if she doesn’t work there anymore, ask why. Plan to come to the first meeting with a potential nanny together with your partner, or your children, and try to meet at a place where you spend a lot of time (children’s playground, climbing frame and so on). After the meeting, compare your opinions; it’s possible they’ve noticed something you haven’t.

at least you can attempt to find someone who is close to your idea of one. It’s also not uncommon that one person takes care of both your cleaning and your children.

What will be at their disposal? Think thoroughly about what she will have at her disposal. Are you going to give her your house keys or the family car? Since a stranger will be in your house on a regular basis, insist on signing a proper contract and having an insurance policy. This will give you the chance to

claim your money back in case of negligence or any damage caused by either the nanny or the cleaner.

How much do you plan on investing in the domestic helper? The price for the work of a domestic helper is calculated based on the actual service hours. If you decide to use a cleaner without a contract, the price varies between 4 and 7 Euros per hour; the price for an hour of babysitting can be anything between 4 and 8 Euros. The payment is usually due on

the day of service and is paid in cash. If you decide to employ a helper through an agency, the prices are in the range of 6 to 8 Euros per hour. You have to also take into consideration extra charges for the language skills of the helper. If you have a clear idea of how many hours of service you require and you know the hourly rate of the helper, it is very easy to calculate how much it will cost you. Do not hesitate to ask for a discount if you require a greater number of hours. You have to understand that the actual process of choosing will take time. It is always best if

Ask lots of questions during the interview and don’t hesitate to ask about her family or what she likes to do with children. A good hint for you could be the answers to questions like: What kind of games did you like playing when you were a child? Which toys did you like? Were your parents strict or lenient? If the candidate is an experienced nanny, ask her specifically about the games she likes to play with children. Ask her what she doesn’t like, what kind of work she doesn’t fancy and what she does in order to avoid it. This way you can get a clear picture of her character, her work attitude and her behaviour in situations she finds challenging. Don’t avoid unpleasant topics. Try not to be sceptical during the dialogue, and beware first impressions. Improvise and ask about the




When you’ve chosen a domestic helper, agree on a trial period of one or two months, after which you can re-evaluate your arrangement

details that come up during the discussion. If you feel you’ve found the right person, check her background. You can ask for a security background check or check the validity of her ID by running the ID number through this website: When you’ve chosen a domestic helper, agree on a trial period of one or two months, after which you can re-evaluate your arrangement. Both parties have the right to terminate the arrangement. If you agree on specific hours of work, stick to them. If you happen to change or cancel work times, you might find yourself going through the same selection process again. Upon signing a contract with a nanny, don’t forget to inform her about any health issues and anything she should be aware of, so that there’s no room for misunderstanding. Don’t forget that the helper must respect you. If this isn’t the case, search some more. As time goes by, you’ll find that you will appreciate the time you spent looking for a new, reliable and skilful helper.

Advantages of a work contract We recommend that you either sign a proper contract with your domestic helper

Dagmar Matuskovicova


or save time by using an established and recommended agency, particularly if you want to avoid challenges connected with proving wilful neglect or not keeping to the verbal agreement. Clear rights and duties of the client and the service provider are parts of the agreement. These can be adjusted based on the mutual agreement. Insist on domestic helper insurance being part of the contract too. We recommend that for the first meeting you come to the premises of the agency, where you get the information first-hand. During this meeting you should have a chance to see order forms, general terms of agreement and candidates profiles. You may be able to choose a candidate right there on the spot. This kind of system will save you a lot of time and the chosen candidate can start working for you in the next couple of days.

your family. Remember that first it’s most important to make sure you yourself have clear requirements in mind, and then to communicate them to the service provider. After establishing the working relationship with the domestic helper it’s also important to further maintain this relationship in order for both parties to be happy. Don’t hesitate to visit our website, www., for more information on how to find a nanny or a cleaner for your home. Please email us at roomservice@ or phone us at 0904 407400 (Ms Matuskovicova) or 0911 661417 (Ms Bakanova).

Another part of the agreement is a domestic helper exchange system that ensures that if a helper is sick, on holiday or affected by an unexpected event, she is replaced by another candidate within an agreed time period. The decision is yours, and finding the right person to help you maintain your household and take care of your children is going to make your life easier and allow you to spend more quality time with

asa graduated with a degree in Pedagogy and Chemistry, and also has a degree in Biotechnology. She gained valuable experience by working with children in a foster home, at reeducation houses and by teaching at high schools. Later, she specialised in Internet marketing Owner of RoomService and personal management. After three years in this field she again Bratislava, Slovakia returned to work with children and tutoring, which triggered her to establish the company RoomService as a family service including household services like cleaning and senior care. The main idea of RoomService is to simplify clients‘ lives, help them with their housekeeping and take some of the stress off of being a parent. Dasa believes that each family, child and senior deserves an individual and sensitive approach. Thorough selection of the appropriate helper in the household is vital, since they become a part of the family.




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Soft landing Unravelling the red tape By Interdean Relocation


ealing with the process of moving your family into or out of Slovakia can be a daunting task. There is the sea of documents to complete in a very foreign language, the need to face intimidating state officials in antiquated state offices, a complex and draconian bureaucracy derived from the former communist era. Add in the pressures of uprooting your family to a new location and it can be a recipe for panic. As someone who has worked in moving and relocation over the past six years, I have helped hundreds of families deal with the stresses of moving internationally; and as an American who has stared down the process of becoming registered in Slovakia firsthand, I’ve got my own stories to tell. Simply knowing what to expect and getting assistance from people who know the way the system works can turn the experience from a potential nightmare into a simple stepby-step process, allowing you to settle into your new home as quickly and peacefully as possible.

Below is some information and advice to make the process easier to understand.

Getting you and your family registered in Slovakia For non-EU citizens, becoming registered in Slovakia can feel like scaling a mountain. You need to complete the registration documents (all in Slovak), get properly sized application photos taken by a professional photographer, make a trip to the post office to purchase the administrative stamps; and most challenging of all is getting together the documents from your home country. Organising the

paperwork demands several hours of work, and sometimes months of waiting while documents from your home country are attained. But as difficult as organising the paperwork is, for many people it’s not even the most tedious part of the process. The visit to the actual foreign police office to submit the paperwork can offer its own special kind of frustration. Due to understaffing and an abundance of foreigners seeking residence in Slovakia, it’s not at all uncommon to need to wait at this drab office from 7am until 3pm before being able to present your documents to the foreign




police and begin the registration process. Some poor souls wait all day and are told to come back the next day to start all over again. When you do finally make it to the front of the line, an officer (who may or may not speak English) will be there to not so patiently ask you about your application. If you don’t speak Slovak and haven’t been through this procedure already then this entire process is nearly impossible to do alone. With the help of a relocation agency or a very patient Slovak friend who knows the procedure, this can all become much more simple. They can organise the many different sets of paperwork, wait in line for you for most of the day for this first foreign police visit and navigate this otherwise tricky administrative minefield. Fortunately, if you’re European then a visit to this office is a relatively quick procedure. Just a few completed forms and a walk through the fast track “EU citizens Only” line – not dissimilar to the preferential customs lines that you can whisk through at the airport – and you’re on your way. However, it’s still highly recommended that you go with a Slovak speaker with some experience in the procedure so that any questions the foreign police official has can be answered.

Knowing the customs – Moving your household goods internationally When moving internationally, the shipping of your household goods to your new country can be quite an illuminating process. Customs clearance regulations, which dictate what is and isn’t allowed through the border, often provide an interesting view into the culture and current politics of the country and usually show their embracing of or disaffection with government bureaucracy. Either way, it’s essential to know the rules of what will make it past the border and what potentially objectionable items to leave behind in hope of avoiding a minor international incident. Among the countries with the most unique customs clearance regulations, notoriously strict Singapore is perhaps the most interesting in what they enforce. They don’t allow the import of chewing gum (they love their clean, unsticky sidewalks); and film aficionados need to know that bringing their DVD collection can mean they’re in for quite an expensive and time-consuming ordeal. Due to tight censorship laws, each movie included in the shipment must be listed to determine if it qualifies as too controversial, racy or potentially seditious for entry. A fee can be charged to you so that a customs official may view each movie in order to ensure that it is appropriate for bringing into the country.

When moving internationally, the shipping of your household goods to your new country can be quite an illuminating process

Fortunately, if you’re just hoping to bring your children’s cartoon movies or your homemade family videos then it’s no issue, as these are exempt from viewing fees. Otherwise, you’re usually better off leaving your films behind, unless you want to sponsor a professional government movie critic to give a thumbs down and reject some of your favourites. For connoisseurs hoping to bring their wine or spirit collection in their shipment, this can be a major issue in your new country. First and foremost, a hefty customs tax is almost always attached to importing alcohol. For example, bringing wine into the USA generally costs USD1-2 per litre, but this can be higher – and the paperwork more complicated – depending on which state you’re moving to. And importing wine or any other alcohol into most Muslim countries is discouraged at best and completely prohibited and highly punishable by law at worst. For these reasons, most people moving under a corporate relocation package are not allowed to include alcohol in their shipment. It keeps things simple and clear, even if it comes at the price of disappointing those coming from assignment in places that create especially good wines and spirits. The most challenging imports are often animals. You must complete a thick dossier of files and a number of procedures to get your beloved pet into your new country, including vet-approved certificates, tests for communicable diseases, a chip implant and a pet passport. The time-consuming organisation doesn’t mean that you need to leave your pet behind, but you should be well prepared months in advance and ready to pay a hefty sum of money to get your furry friends to accompany you to your new location.

In addition to knowing what one can and can’t import, it’s important to know what documents are required to accompany your goods. Each country can ask for something different – work permits, residence visas, passports, customs declarations and more – so it’s absolutely vital that you work with a top relocation company that will give you plenty of time to complete the documents and advise you on the procedures. Of course, it’s not always difficult to move your goods internationally. The best example of this is the European Union, which has a fantastic system for shipping from countries within the Schengen zone. EU regulations allow duty-free shipment and do not require customs documents for moving household goods. This greatly decreases complications and speeds up delivery immensely in comparison to the other countries of the world. So you can rest easy when wanting to ship your pets, your film collection and whatever else you wish to bring with you to your new home. You can be assured that even when dealing with the more complicated and challenging customs clearance rules, the process can be easily managed when you get proper support from an experienced relocation agent. The knowledge provided and assistance given can make the process go from a real concern into a mere consideration, allowing you to focus on the more important issues involved with moving your family to your new home country. §

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No longer lost Nanette Woeste recounts her relocation to Bratislava by Nanette Woeste


oming from Canada, moving to Eastern Europe without ever having been here before was without a doubt overwhelming. There’s no comparing good or bad. Things aren’t better in one place than in another, just different.

The problems we encountered were at first tremendous, and there are still issues after being here for only a short few months. However, with each passing day life is easier, and that’s the great news. At first my days were filled with excitement, mixed with fear of the unknown. We arrived in July during a heat wave, and for a person who is not keen on heat, this was strike one against Slovakia. Strike two, our hotel was small, had no central air conditioning and had a funny odour. The first two weeks were very hard. We have three children; being uncomfortable alone is one thing, with children it’s a whole new ball game. It got better. I met the previous owners of our new home and found that they were truly a blessing as they helped me find my way around the village, took me to the school and a few shopping centres, told me about everyday life here and made me feel welcome in Slovakia. Then we got settled into our new home, and as we understood the area more things seemed to ease a bit. Transportation is very easy in the city. Outside the city I’m sure it is as well, but when

you can’t speak the language it’s difficult. I will always remember my three-hour trip to the school. It’s a 20-minute car ride, but I didn’t have a car, my husband couldn’t get time off and I needed to register the kids in school and get their uniforms. With three kids in tow I traipsed around Bratislava, lost ninety percent of the time. We made it to the school in 40-degree weather in three short hours. At the school, the ladies were like angels – helpful, kind and English-speaking! They drew a map with street names on it and told me what tram numbers and buses to take to my next destination. I used their phone to call my husband, to let him know what was going on, as being new I did not have a mobile yet. One of the ladies said to me that I should text my husband the address of the uniform shop in case I needed him to pick me up there, but I politely declined. My thinking was I would just call from a pay phone… Bratislava, I know now, does not have pay phones. We went to the uniform shop and ordered the uniforms, only to find that they only take cash. I was not in the habit of carrying

cash. Now we were hot and tired, I had no idea how to get to the train station, I had very little money on me and the kids were hungry. I needed my husband to come and rescue me. But how? We walked for an hour looking for a pay phone. They have all been removed. Panicked, I went to a travel agency, and even though they did not speak English they could tell I needed desperately to use the phone. I called and told my husband to come and get us. But where was I? I had no idea. What a disaster. With hand signals, pointing and a lot of combined effort, I was able to find out where I was and tell my husband. We were rescued. Needless to say, I now have a car, a mobile phone and a GPS! With the kids in school, my life now has a sense of normality. Resources at the school are abundant, and I found that diving head first into community life there was the best thing I could have done. I have met so many wonderful parents who have made the past two months truly enjoyable. I am learning new things daily about my environment; any questions I have, I know now I can get them answered; and our adventures are exciting. §




THE CINEMA OF DREAMS “Film as dream, film as music. No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.” Ingmar Bergman by David Robinson


inema is now well over a hundred years old, yet it’s still not taken as seriously in schools as novels, art or music. Could that be due to the dumbed-down, unimaginative fare all too often forced down our throats at multiplexes around the world? Sadly, much of contemporary Hollywood cinema is aimed at the lowest common denominator, and much of its audience seems content with a few cheap laughs, some tacky CGI effects and some none-too-subtle product placement for junk food or tie-in toys. However, every now and then a new film crops up and makes us remember the excitement and joy of our early cinematic experiences. Perhaps the joyful characters of Toy Story 3, the ground-breaking effects of Avatar or the melancholic magic of Up was loved by you or your children recently. The films and TV we experience as youngsters may have some effect on the subjects we study and the career paths we choose. It’s amazing how many of today’s most successful scientists can trace the beginnings of their scientific interests to a childhood encounter with Star Trek, Star Wars or Doctor Who. One wonders if the young Stephen Hawking, who actually appears in an episode of Star Trek, would have chosen the career path he did if his viewing habits consisted of reality TV and talent shows.

It was with these feelings in mind that the Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton introduced her Eight and a Half Foundation in 2009 as part of the Scottish Cinema of Dreams Project. Although she has starred in many blockbuster movies, perhaps most memorably as the White Witch in the Narnia films, she talked about how she feels children today are almost bullied into watching some of Hollywood’s trashiest films by allencompassing marketing campaigns and a lack of exposure to the other avenues of cinema that exist. The foundation aims to show that there’s a whole world of cinema out there telling stories about everything from aboriginal children forcibly taken from their parents in 1930s Australia, to a lonely Parisian schoolboy whose only company is a red balloon, to a Russian hedgehog lost in the fog on the way to visit his friend the bear. If you’re not familiar with these films, then you and your children are missing out on stories every bit as engaging and memorable as those of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Many of us might be wary of force feeding ‘arty’ films to kids whose expectations of cinema have come to be all about explosions and 3D CGI effects. However, I’ve been amazed at the patience and enthusiasm I’ve seen from secondary school students for all sorts of films, including black-and-white and subtitled films. I’ve seen students with attention deficit disorder transfixed by a long,


subtitled French film about boys trying to continue as normal in a school under Nazi occupation and stunned into silence by its understated but heartbreaking conclusion. Film can, of course, open avenues for interests and discussion about every topic under the sun, from the size of the universe to poverty in rural China. Watching a film together is a simple but very effective way for families to spend some quality time. All too often parents use films as babysitters rather than a time to share the same thrills, tears and laughter. A film shared can later lead to all sorts of discussions, ideas and memories. Why not set aside a film night once every month or so where you can grab some tasty but healthy snacks, turn the lights down low and sit down as a family and share an amazing experience together? You could then follow up the viewing with some sort of related realworld experience. Here are a few suggestions for films you might enjoy watching with your family. A lot more information can be found at the Eight and a Half Foundation website: §


For younger kids under 8 01

01. The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse, 1956, France) A young boy makes friends with a rather unusual red Parisian.


02. Paddle to the Sea (Bill Mason, 1969, Canada) An epic journey across the waterways of Canada.

03. Kirkou and the Sorceress 02

(Michel Ocelot, 1998, France/ Belgium/Luxembourg) A West African folk tale made for the big screen by this French animator. A big hit in the secondary school too.


04. Spirited Away / My Friend Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988, Japan) Two of Japanese anime master Miyazaki’s masterworks.


05. The short films of Norman McLaren (Scotland/Canada)


Norman McLaren’s jazz-infused shorts can open the door to a whole new world of abstract cinema, and are great fun too!

06. ET (Steven Spielberg, 1982, USA) Spielberg’s classic is still as involving for children today as it was in 1982. 07

07. The Singing Ringing Tree


(Germany 1957) Bewitching and, for some, terrifying German fairytales.

08. The Hedgehog in the Fog (Yuri Nornstein, 1956, Russia) A mysterious short animation about a nervous hedgehog.

09. The Animations of Oliver Postgate (UK) A whole generation of British children grew up on Postgate’s delightful animations, such as Bagpuss, The Clangers and Ivor the Engine.






For 8-14-year-olds


01. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955, USA) One of the greatest films ever made, this noir is an exciting tale of murder and deception and is even more engrossing today than when it was made over 50 years ago. I’ve yet to find a secondary student who doesn’t enjoy it.


02. Great Expectations (David Lean, 1946, UK) Dickens’ story still looks fantastic in this classic British film. Kids will be scared and enthralled by Miss Havisham in particular.


03. Kes (Ken Loach, 1969, UK) A fantastic story of a lonely high school student who finds escape from the dismal north of England with his pet kestrel.


04. Not One Less (Zhang Yimou, 2003, China) Students get really engaged with this story of a young girl who has to teach a class of even younger students in a poor village in China.

05. Rabbit-Proof Fence (Phillip Noyce, 2002, Australia) 03

The heartbreaking story of three young Aboriginal children taken from their mother and their attempt to walk across one of Australia’s most remote deserts to get back home.


06. The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1982, UK) You and your children are certain to cry but also to learn a lot about humanity and the deceptiveness of appearances from the story of Joseph Merrick in Victorian England.


07. Empire of the Sun (Steven Spielberg, 1987 UK) The true story of JG Ballard, who grew up in a huge villa and attended a British school in Shanghai in the 1930s, only for it all to disappear as the Second World War arrived.


08. La Belle et La Bete (Jean Cocteau, 1946, France/Luxembourg) Cocteau’s surreal masterpiece was a huge influence on the better-known Disney animated version.


09. Au Revoir Les Enfants (Louis Malle, 1987, France/Germany) A subtly devastating portrait of high school friendship in wartorn France.

10. The short films of Jan Svankmajer This Czech film-maker’s surreal short animations transfix viewers of all generations.



For older teens


01. Hope and Glory (John Boorman, 1987, UK) Growing up in London during the Second World War. Much funnier and not nearly as depressing as that might sound.


02. My Life as a Dog (Lasse Hallstrom, 1985, Sweden) Funny and touching tales of Swedish boy Ingemar growing up with his terminally ill mother.

03. The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan, 1997, Canada) 02

Echoes of the Pied Piper of Hamlin in a small Canadian town as it attempts to come to terms with grief following a terrible school bus accident. Has a 100% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes website and has been voted the best Canadian film ever.


04. La Haine (Mathieu Kassovitz, 1995, France) A day in the life of three young Parisians looking for justice and excitement from their housing estate. Startling black-and-white photography and a super cool French hip-hop soundtrack.


05. Beijing Bicycle (Wang Xiaoshuai, 2001, China)


Teenager Guei gets a job as a bicycle courier in Beijing but encounters some trouble in the hutongs.

06. Persepolis (Vincent Paronnaud, 2007, France) Fantastic adaption of a comic book about an outspoken Iranian girl growing up during the Islamic revolution.

07. Show Me Love (Lukas Moodysson, 1998, Sweden/Denmark) 04

One of the most emotionally honest teen films ever, about a girl growing up in a boring Swedish town. Also known by another title that can’t be published here.


08. Boyz in the Hood (John Singleton, 1991, USA) The saga of a group of childhood friends growing up in South Central LA. A great film to show any gangster rap-enamoured teens about the importance of education, responsibility and friendship.


09. Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach, 2002, UK) A 16-year-old boy trapped by poverty and drugs in contemporary Scotland looks for an escape for himself and his family.

10. The Wholphin DVD collection The people behind the hugely successful McSweeney’s books and magazines produce this DVD magazine with exciting and engaging short films from all over the world.







Ten must-read books for teenage girls

1 2 3

By Mark Angus

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte (13+) A truly gripping novel that all teenage girls should read! It is the story of an orphaned girl who is unloved by her aunt and sent to boarding school. After school, she becomes a strong willed governess and takes a job at the house of Mr Rochester, where she hopes she might have finally found love and companionship. However, Mr Rochester has a dark secret from his past which continues to haunt him in his present. This is one that you really can’t put down once you get started!

Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy (16+)

As with many of Hardy’s novels, I found this one took a little time and perseverance to get into when I first read it as a teenager. However, it is truly worth the wait! It is an incredibly powerful novel which will rouse your emotions and leave you shocked and, at times, in disbelief. It is a heavy read and deals with many tragic and shocking issues, but it is also a fascinating one, revealing the strength and honour of Tess in a weak and dishonourable Victorian world. Suitable for older teens.

Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman (13+) This is a really thought-provoking and clever novel which discusses issues of racism and prejudice. Callum (a Nought) and Sephy (a Cross) find their life-long friendship being torn apart by a segregating society in which the Crosses dominate and the Noughts become increasingly oppressed. Blackman skilfully turns the world as we know it upside-down and forces us to see the world from new perspectives and in different ways.





Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (13+) An absolute must-read for all teenage girls! It is a novel in which you can fall completely in love with Austen’s characters and lose yourself in their world. It is a brilliantly witty story which offers great insight into the world and the way we make assumptions about the people we meet. It is considered one of the greatest love stories of all time and I honestly believe it lives up to that reputation.

5 6

Northern Lights – Philip Pullman (13+) This is another really gripping fantasy novel about a teenage girl, Lyra, living in a strange yet familiar world. Pullman’s writing and creation of this world is wholly convincing and forces the reader to consider new possibilities, questioning the world around them as they know it. It is jam-packed with adventure and action which doesn’t stop, from beginning to end!

Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (13+) Another must-read for all teenage girls. The story of the March sisters and their determined sense of fun, happiness and laughter, both in good times and hard times, is one that all teenage girls can relate to. The way that comedy and tragedy are seamlessly blended together makes Alcott’s novel one which will be forever remembered as one of the greats of American literature. The fact that it continues to break its readers’ hearts today is testament to its brilliance!


8 7



A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket (11+)

TwIlight – Stephenie Meyer (16+)

This is a novel and series that readers seem to love or hate! If you don’t take it too seriously and allow yourself to become absorbed in the fantasy, this is a fantastic read, as are the other novels in the series. The stories are filled with action, drama and suspense as well as a love story which seems doomed by an endless array of obstacles. It’s a good read, suitable for older teens who love a bit of horror, fantasy and adventure as well as a good old-fashioned romance!

This is another brilliant series about the misfortunes and bad luck of three orphaned children following their parents’ death. The books warn readers that they are unpleasant and unhappy, and certainly live up to this warning! These stories offer a unique change from some of the more cheerful, traditional examples of children’s literature and make a point of not treating children like delicate creatures who need a happy ending every time. If you like horror, drama and something a bit different, you’ll love these!



Vicky Angel – Jacqueline Wilson (12+)

This is a tragic yet beautiful and uplifting story of two best friends, Jade and Vicky. When Vicky is killed at the beginning, the reader is truly shocked. However, once the shock has passed you become captivated by the ongoing friendship between the two girls and Jade’s journey to come to terms with the loss of her friend and move on with her own life. This is a really inspiring and beautifully written novel for teenage girls to read.

The Other Side of Truth – Beverley Naidoo (14+) This is a novel which will make you think. The narrative is powerful and emotive from start to finish and raises issues of injustice, political asylum and bullying. The tragedy of the children’s lives in the novel makes you consider hard the life you have and the horrific experiences people living alongside you may have had, as well as the suffering taking place around the world.





MOVING WITH CHILDREN The friendly people at Allied Pickfords help Family Matters navigate through the issues of relocating with children in tow By Claudia Neumayer International Move Consultant Allied Pickfords


any expat families with children will be moving on from Bratislava. It’s important to understand what impact this move will have on your children. The needs and concerns of children faced with relocating vary greatly depending on their age and the destination of the move. With older children and teenagers, psychological and emotional needs are the priority, whereas babies and toddlers have more basic requirements such as physical comfort during the transition. Young children will generally feel safe and comforted as long as they’re in the presence of their parents; however, a major worry for them is being left behind. It’s therefore important that, no matter what age your child,

you communicate with them effectively. The move must not come as a surprise and you should introduce the subject as early as possible. As a parent, your role is to encourage communication, providing comfort and emotional support. Your children may experience a whole range of emotions, including anger, sadness, relief and excitement. You will need to help them through this emotional battlefield and allow them to express their fears and concerns openly. It can be beneficial to hold regular family meetings where you all discuss your feelings, questions and worries. Once children feel respected and listened to they become more open to discussing the positive aspects of the move.

General hints for making the transition • Encourage children to learn about the new country in advance (this will help you learn at the same time). • Provide children of all ages with a special address book and stationery for keeping up with old friends. • Email is a cheap way to maintain daily contact with friends. • Take video and photos of the new home and area if your children are unable to see them before the move. • Arrange to visit new schools and meet teachers before the actual first day of school. • Explore your new area with the whole family as soon as possible.

children may experience a whole range of emotions, including anger, sadness, relief and excitement



Children of this age worry about being left behind, especially when they see their favourite toys being packed away and their parents’ attention diverted from them and their normal home routine. Instead of getting them out of the way by sending them off to Nana’s or a baby-sitter, let them stay with you and help you pack up their possessions and toys. Never throw out any of these prior to the move, regardless of their condition, as having familiar things around is of great comfort to young children.

YOUNG CHILDREN A major factor in ensuring a smooth transition for the whole family will be the initial reactions of each child. When

you introduce the subject of moving you should be as informative as possible and explain why you feel the move will be of benefit to the entire family, not just the working parent. With younger children, it’s best to keep things lighthearted and fun, as they will want to know things like how their toys and furniture will be transported from one place to another. Acting out the process with these toys will help them relate to what will be happening. Books and games are another good way to help your children express their feelings and concerns. If your child has special needs, it’s important that they understand any variations in how their needs will be addressed. Hints • Provide the needed reassurance, stability and security. • Show them the destination on a map; this helps them become familiar with where they’re going. • Books and games are a

useful tool for explaining the moving process. • Give them things they can do to feel involved, such as sorting through belongings for outgrown toys and clothes and putting things in boxes. • Help them feel involved on moving day by allowing them to pack their flight bag, selecting the books, toys and snacks they would like to take.


Teenagers will face more complex issues when moving. During adolescence, teenagers seek validation and approval, which is often achieved within friendship groups. Leaving these friends, changing schools and giving up coveted sports positions and various hardearned opportunities will seem a daunting prospect. Although they will understand the idea of belonging somewhere other



than where they’re presently living, they may not have the skills to accept the idea of moving easily. They may have concerns about their capability to adjust to a new culture, and fear of the unknown may leave them feeling insecure and anxious, and lacking in confidence. Hints • Be respectful of their emotional needs. • Be clear about the benefits to the whole family. • Anticipate some of the concerns that may arise and have responses prepared. • Encourage open communication and honesty. • Encourage them to keep a diary; this is a nonconfrontational way for them to work through their concerns. • Subscribe to magazines or hometown newspapers that have youth contact. • Suggest exchange visits with friends. §




What’s your expat story? Neil Jensen explores the expat experience by Neil Jensen Director Allied International


o what’s your expat story, and how did it come about? Was it something you planned, a long-burning desire, or just something that came out of the blue?

Me? Well I blame my mother, although as always, your mother always knows best. Way back at the tender age of 16, having gone back to school to take my A-levels in the northeast of England, it was clear that I needed to be doing something different with my life. Therefore I decided to apply for a job working in a bank. An application form duly arrived in the post and I proceeded to complete all of the questions, albeit struggling with one of them: “Are you prepared to be mobile with the job?” Ever keen to do the right thing, I consulted

my mother to see what she thought. Her answer made a lot of sense. “Say yes, because the bus station in Whitley Bay goes just about anywhere.” So, having been accepted for the role with the bank, it was possibly a more mobile move than I expected when in 2000 the bank moved me to the Dubai office. Sadly the bus station in Whitley Bay had long since closed to make way for a shopping mall, meaning that we had to fly, so maybe mothers can’t be right about everything.

I gradually came to the conclusion that there are pros and cons in every expat posting


My assignment in Dubai was initially for three years and involved numerous visits to Saudi Arabia to visit clients of the bank in the main cities, as well as one or two far-flung outposts too. In 2004 I moved to Hong Kong with the family, which is where we remain today, having now left the bank after an enjoyable 23 years. During my 11 years overseas I have during the course of the job travelled to over a dozen countries in the Middle East and Asia. Over the years, I have gradually come to the conclusion that there are pros and cons in

every expat posting, and the way we deal with the challenges provides us with the long-term foundations of our future. I have found that the issues I and my family face are basically the same, wherever we live. Expat conversations when people meet tend to include the following three questions: • How long have you been an expat? • How long did you originally plan to be away from your home country? • How long will you stay here?



Very quickly, I realised that the answers to these questions formed a similar pattern: • Anything up to 40 years was not uncommon. • People rarely had a plan to initially stay away longer than two-three years. • Rarely does anyone look further ahead than two more years.




Challenges exist for all of us both personally and financially, and often the crisis you are experiencing today becomes something you learn from and in the future often (hopefully) laugh about


ersonally, if asked these three questions I’d be no different in my answers; and while I would say to you that for question 3, I would hope to stay overseas for the long term, nobody really knows for sure. A lot of this comes down to the cost of living where you are, your ability to provide the best for your family and ultimately having the financial means to sustain all of this.

We all have numerous tales that we enjoy sharing (often more than once) in a social setting, which is one of the upsides of expat life in my view. Sadly, and all too often, we also hear tales of personal misfortune from a financial perspective, often as a result of circumstances but sometimes due to receiving the wrong advice, or more commonly not understanding what is being taken on in the first place.

Challenges exist for all of us both personally and financially, and often the crisis you are experiencing today becomes something you learn from and in the future often (hopefully) laugh about. It may be a problem with the children, relationship issues, personal injury or a complete financial disaster.

Something I have found fairly common over the years, especially within close-knit expat communities, is a willingness to openly discuss personal financial ventures. In fact, I can still remember sitting in a client’s living room in Saudi Arabia many years ago with an audience of people asking me more questions about the individual’s investments than he did. The reason for their presence was probably more to do with the fact that the client made the best wine on the compound and any excuse to come and drink it was readily accepted, but it was clear to me nonetheless that people were far more open when discussing personal financial issues than I was used to.

One of my own classics was that as an avid footballer, I unfortunately sustained a bad knee injury in Dubai, requiring a full knee reconstruction. The operation seemed to go well, but as the days progressed following the operation the pain got worse. I eventually went back to see the surgeon, who expressed concern about the wound. Upon closer probing, he started to pull bugs the size of woodlice out of my knee. It transpired that the eggs had originated in the hair of our domestic helper and nested in the bed, and were feasting on the wound each night. These days, I put it down as ‘expat life’ and can laugh about it, though I don’t remember feeling the same way at the time.

Whatever your reasons for becoming an expatriate, you probably have a high level of expertise in your chosen field and are hopefully remunerated accordingly for this. Unfortunately, when discussing how to save and invest this hard-earned money, you are all too often expected to be an expert in all things financial and can be swept along by numerous

success stories, jargon and terminology that you don’t understand, just going with the flow on the basis that everyone else is doing it, therefore so should you. Over the coming issues, I will try to peel back the layers when it comes to buying property, opening a bank account, obtaining a mortgage or investing that hard-earned money. I will explore some of the jargon that is used and strip it down into plain English, hopefully giving you the confidence to ask the right questions and to understand what it is you want to do and how you should do it. While you may not be planning to stay away from home beyond two more years, this may well change; therefore you need to ensure that you are maximising the opportunities that expat life gives you while retaining flexibility for future changes if appropriate. Anything can be as complex or as simple as one wishes to make it, and relevant education not only provides knowledge, but also gives you guidance for planning and managing your life, as well as meeting the objectives you have for you and your family. If you have a particular question or area that you would like me to cover in future editions of Family Matters, it would be great to hear from you. §












Parenting is the most difficult job in the world. The process lasts longer than most modern careers. It requires a larger investment – in time and money – than just about any other activity. The complexity of choices is greater, and the outcome more uncertain. Greater patience is needed and the roller coaster of emotions is more daunting than in any other undertaking. Parents have to learn, virtually from scratch, a range of new skills – and they have to get their job as close to right as possible the first time. Relatively simple diaper changing rapidly gives way to complex medical conundrums. Educating a child, both intellectually and ethically, not to mention choosing among formal education alternatives, is a serious and difficult process.

Dealing with divorce and singleparenthood, safety, emotional wellbeing and a spectrum of practical and value-based situations can tax the best parents. These, and many more situations, often offer puzzles to solve that have inherently mixed practical, psychological and ethical dimensions. Mix in grandparents, media reports and ‘expert advice’, educators’ views, other children and many other outside influences – both on the parents and the child – and you have one hellishly difficult stew. Parents who successfully negotiate the maze often have some basic characteristics in common. People with the ability to view life’s challenges with a sense of confidence


and resilience go a long way toward instilling those characteristics in their children. Showing respect toward their spouses – and their children – helps engender the same quality in the child in two ways. It helps grow self-respect in the child, and leads them to a proper respect for the rights and value of others. Parents who early on demonstrate a sense of fair play when deciding among competing claims give children a good foundation in many ways. The child benefits from the justice shown toward their valid concerns, while at the same time witnessing an approach that becomes valuable in later life. Along with these values, parents who demonstrate willingness to devote time to listening and sharing experiences establish a foundation of life-long trust and love. Life doesn’t always reward good behaviour. But fortunately, all the effort needed to be a good parent pays off in a hundred ways. Raising children well is a tremendous source of pride and joy, and rightly so. Helping provide the skills – intellectual, emotional, ethical and social – needed to thrive in an increasingly complex society rewards parents many times over.

Parents are right to enjoy both the practical results of their efforts and the deep emotional satisfaction that comes from the process and the outcome. Few careers consistently offer such high dividends for a job well done. ■






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Ensuring Recovery Treating basic sports injuries


njuries are an inevitable consequence of playing sports, but they need not recur and become your lifelong bad back or ‘dicky knee’. Injuries that are treated effectively in both the short and long term have a good chance of healing completely and permanently.

The most common basic sports injuries are muscle tears and pulls such as quad strains, hamstring strains, pulled calf muscles and dead legs, sprained ankles and acute and chronic shoulder or rotator cuff injuries. While, later on in the recovery stage, each of these injuries will require different approaches and different rehabilitative strategies, there are some basic steps you should follow in the early days after your injury. In the immediate 48-72 hours afterwards, it’s important to avoid taking anti-inflammatories. SinoUnited Health Physiotherapists advise that it’s okay to take analgesics, but they must be paracetamol-based, not aspirin-based. This is because, at this stage in the healing process, you actually need that inflammatory process to bring along the good stuff to fight infection and encourage healing. White blood cells, for example, help to remove damaged tissue. In this crucial period it’s best to take the RICE approach. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, four actions

you need to take in order to limit damage to your tissues and create the best possible environment to allow your body to repair itself. (Occasionally you might also see PRICE or even RICER, where P stands for Protection and the final R stands for Referral. Protection means removing the risk of further injury, which can be done by taping or strapping, or by providing a splint, sling or brace. For tips on how to correctly tape an injured area and prevent further injury, check out the SinoUnited Health website at Referral means sending the injured person to a specialist for a diagnosis on how to best treat the injury.)

rest Immediately after an injury it’s important to rest the area. If it’s causing pain, don’t try to continue exercising or playing sport. Don’t

In the immediate 48-72 hours afterwards, it’s important to avoid taking antiinflammatories





push through the pain if you can’t bear weight in the area or if movement of the joint is painful. Please note, however, that this is not carte blanche to set up camp on the couch with every single episode of The Simpsons known to man – try to keep up a certain amount of physical activity. The point is simply that you should not cause further damage to the particular area that is injured.

ice Ice should be applied immediately after an acute injury. When there’s been a localised trauma to the body and there’s an active bleed, it’s necessary to reduce blood flow to this bleeding site, as increased bruising (blood in the spaces between the cells) slows the healing time, and increases discomfort and scarring of the tissue. All of this makes complicated rehabilitation more likely. This should be checked by applying ice (to decrease blood flow volume through vasoconstriction – narrowing of the blood vessels) for periods of 10-15 minutes on and off for around two hours. In this time, you should be able to apply ice around six times. Too much ice (longer than 15 minutes at a time) will result in reflex vasodilation (widening of blood vessels to increase volume of blood flow), whereby more blood is sent to the area to compensate. Do not use heat on the area, as this will also encourage vasodilation.

compression Use a pressure bandage to help prevent and reduce swelling, which decreases joint movement. Wrap the injured part firmly but make sure that you do not constrict the blood flow.

Elevation Keep the injured area elevated, as this will help to drain swelling away from the joint. The area should be elevated above the level of the heart, or at least higher than the most proximal joint of the limb concerned (i.e. hip or shoulder). The healing process takes place over 6-12 weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. In the 3-5 days immediately after the injury, the so-called ‘lag phase’, the body is trying to patch itself up. It’s like repairing something with wood glue: unlike super glue, which dries quickly, wood glue remains squishy and wet for a long time. When a wound is at this stage, it’s best not to prod it or stretch it and move it around. In some cases it may be necessary to see your doctor. Here are some red flags that you should watch out for: If it’s impossible to bear weight, you may have a fracture, cartilage damage or a serious ligament injury.



Instability. If you can’t move the area as much as you used to, or indeed if it’s displaying signs of hypermobility (i.e. you can move it much more than usual), get to a doctor. Instant swelling within an hour of the injury means that bleeding is occurring, and is a sign of something serious. If at the time of injury you hear a crack, tear or pop, get to a hospital. And finally, decreased sensation (like a numb hand after twisting your elbow) or a lack of pulse may indicate that an artery or nerve has been involved in the injury. For example, an elbow popped back into place may pinch the artery or nerve between the bones in the process. In the 5-20-day recovery phase, you can start gentle movements and stretching. After three weeks, you can begin to prepare the injured area for a return to the sport that caused the injury by targeting it with more specific rehabilitative exercises. Healing tissue is relatively dysfunctional and needs to learn how to move the way the original tissue did. The body loses its proprioceptive abilities in that area, as the receptors that send this information to the brain are damaged alongside the muscle or the ligament: thus, the muscles forget how to move properly. Consequently, injury is more likely to recur if you don’t take it slow and allow your muscles to learn how to move again.



School Life

Island of the

Gods Experience the flavours of Bali


ali, at the top of the Indonesian Archipelago, draws tourists from all over the world. The dry season from May to September is the best time of the year, with spectacular landscape, lush green forest and colourful flowers reminding visitors why this is called the Island of the Gods.








rriving at Denpasar Airport, you’ll feel the island heat mingling with salty sea breeze, natural and passionate. You can get your visa on arrival on Bali, and the airport terminal has multi-lingual pamphlets introducing the local landscape and culture. You can get a cab to your hotel, or organise a private car and driver for your holiday; almost every driver speaks basic English. Bali is divided into several regions, with Nusa Dua and Kuta the most famous. There are plenty of hotels here, many of them global chain hotels with their own well-equipped private beaches. One gorgeous example is the Beach Hotel in Nusa Dua, which provides azure waves, white sand and lush coconut trees. Surf and swim to your heart’s content, or get a tan lying on a beachside chair. Food, shopping

and entertainment are nearby. You’ll find both global brands and delicate local handicraft. There are also plenty of bars and nightlife.

Terraced rice paddies in Bali

There are plenty of hotels here, many of them global chain hotels with their own well-equipped private beaches

Hotels in Kuta are another good choice. The beaches there are white and smooth, and a surfers’ mecca. Kuta is a bustling place, with a busy shopping street. One option to stay is the quiet and peaceful Beach Hotel in Nusa Dua. Special mention should also go to Jimbaran Beach, where the beautiful sunset attracts travellers from all over the world. However, not all of them know that it’s also famous for the fishermen that go to sea in traditional canoes. Here you can watch the sunset at dusk, enjoy a candlelit dinner or seafood barbecue and listen to ballads performed by local singers. Bali has great historical and cultural beauty. When







Words are not enough to describe the splendour of the island








you’ve had enough sun for the moment, check out the local culture, the religion, handicraft and art. Built two thousand years ago to worship the Sea God, Tanah Lot is the island’s most famous temple. Overlooking the vast ocean from a steep cliff, Tanah Lot is another great place to enjoy a perfect sunset and may be Bali’s most popular tourist attraction. The most extraordinary views come at high tide, when the temple seems to separate from the land. Note, however, that tourists may not enter the sacred temple. What else? If you’re into local handicraft, don’t miss the traditional cultural centre and ancient capital of Bali, Ubud. Here you’ll find the royal palace, part of which is open to the public, part still a royal residence. Despite the fact that Ubud is no longer the political centre, it still has its own vitality. The market in Ubud is full of handicraft and batik workshops.

Golf Course in Bali

In the north of Bali you’ll find the active volcano Gunung Abung, the island’s highest peak, which last erupted in 1998. Perched on top of Gunung Abung, there’s a terraced cafeteria offering local delicacies amidst fabulous volcanic scenery. You can also camp at the foot of the volcano – cooking with the heat of the volcanic soil! Bali means ‘come back’ in Balinese. Words are not enough to describe the splendour of the island – the beauty of Ayung white water rafting, Lake Bratan or Pura Ulun Danau Bratan, as well as the spas and the cuisine. This gorgeous island has unique natural landscape and historical sites, just waiting for you.

Traditional Balinese ceremony

Source: Easy Journey Travel (86 21) 6345 5965, 137 6423 2500







Houhai Lake

pop into peking

Laura Westley explores the sights and sounds of Beijing after two years living there


Zhengyang Gate


o many, Beijing doesn’t sound like the most obvious location to visit. It doesn’t scream family vacation and probably doesn’t appear on the list of top cities to visit in your lifetime – those would be New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong, San Francisco, maybe Las Vegas. However, having lived in the city for the past two years and having visited other cities in China, what I have discovered is a sprawling city full of culture, vibrancy and creativity.

The Great Wall

Guomao, CBD

When I look at China’s major cities, Shanghai and Hong Kong shout out as the tourist destinations. They fulfil the criteria that many set out in order to have a pleasant break: warm weather, bustling city environment, great city skyline and a cosmopolitan atmosphere, to name but a few. However, one thing that I feel they lack in comparison is the culture found in every crevice of Beijing. Known as the culture capital, it definitely has a lot to offer, with scarcely a major building of any age without at least some historical significance. Underneath the surface, this city epitomises China and what it stands for. Dodging the polluted skies and the variable weather, the perfect time to visit is in spring (which lasts a few short weeks in April and May) to avoid the scorching heat of summer, or in autumn (once again a few short weeks, in October) to avoid the mind-numbing temperatures of winter. Having had more than a few friends and family members out to visit, I feel I’ve worked the tourist circuit. A simple stroll around the streets allows you to be immersed in a true Chinese city: horse and carts walking the streets of Gulou, small single-storey buildings making up the hutongs of Nanluoguxiang and Wudaoying, ice skating or boating on the lake of Houhai and Beihai, men and women carrying the most enormous stacks of wood, plastic or rubbish on the smallest of motorcycles, small food street vendors selling must-have guanbing or jianbing. All these images are caught up in the sea of dust that appears to cover almost every surface in the city – however, that simply adds to its character.


Peeking over the top of walls and interspersed with dilapidated housing blocks, you can see the roofs of temples and traditional Chinese buildings, all still working as if they’ve been frozen in time and the city has formed around them. These contrasting buildings allow you to see Chinese traditions and the real China, rather than the modern facade that you sometimes see in other cities. However, this is not to say that Beijing isn’t modernising. One of the most famous sights of recent times, and an amazing architectural space, is the Bird’s Nest. Visiting this area, you can truly see the pride that Beijing and China took in the 2008 Olympics. The Bird’s Nest itself is a structural marvel, with cool steel lines






criss-crossing to form a tight-knit building. The contrast of this huge stadium with the clear open skyline around it made it a centrepiece of the most expensive Olympics in history. On most major street corners you’ll see the emblem of the Chinese government, marking its stamp on grand official buildings. These lead into the CBD (Guomao), which is like many other business districts, with huge high-rise buildings and thousands of city workers striding through the streets. This area and the Sanlitun district give Beijing its modern edge and provide the easy break that many need when they want to find a little bit of Western normality. One of the most noticeable attributes of Beijing, and what really makes it stand out from other Asian cities, is space. Hong Kong has narrow streets, squeezing trams into the middle of them, making you feel as if you’re walking on a tightrope. Bangkok likes to fill every single area of pavement with a street seller, whether of clothing, food or insects on sticks – you can barely walk without being stopped to buy something. Vietnam likes to ambush you with motorcycles everywhere you go, congesting the roads with millions of people on their bikes. Whereas when you walk around Beijing you feel like everything has been stretched, everything is on a grand scale, with roads four or five lanes wide, appearing to go on for miles. It makes you feel as if you’re not walking in one of the world’s most populated cities (over 22 million people) but in a sprawling, sparsely inhabited town. If you hop on a bike, the cycle lanes are like your average car lane; the embassy district roads in Sanlitun and Ritan are colossal and tree-lined, creating a peaceful and calm environment. However, this all changes the moment you step into a car. When you arrive at the major ring roads, those huge wide lanes are jam-packed with cars, bumper to bumper, horns blaring – justifying the title of the world’s most congested city. The canvas of culture makes Beijing a remarkable city. The historical sites that fill it radiate tradition and customs. Each building, park or house gives you an insight into one of the world’s oldest empires. The most famous, a World Heritage Site and wonder of the world, is the Great Wall. This vast wall made up of a series of stone and earthen fortifications encompasses the city

and stretches as far east as Shanhaiquan, where it reaches the sea. Unfortunately, restoration of this magnificent human feat has been over-zealous in some sections. Badaling, for example, now has almost perfect stone paving, a Starbucks and a KFC. This definitely takes away the grandiose feel that should surround the area, making it difficult to truly imagine what it would have been like when the wall was being built. However if you travel to Mutianyu this feeling returns and you can begin to see the wall in all its beauty. If you’d like more of a challenge, heading to the section of the wall named Simatai provides you with the opportunity to climb the steps, literally! This part of the wall is very rural and restoration has not really taken place, making it a fascinating trip and a breathtaking walk. Closer to the city itself you’ll find temples emitting the smoke and smell of incense. These houses of worship are sanctuaries filled extensively with sculptures and traditional Chinese paintings. They almost seem to be museums, open to the public as well-kept dynastic cultural artifacts. They look incredibly distinctive with their highsloped black-tiled roofs and rich red and goldpainted wooden frames. The Summer Palace is a magnificent temple. As you meander around it, you’ll find the vista frequently changing. The halls, pavilions, bridges and temples, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill, all blend together harmoniously in spite of their individual styles. It’s justifiably known as the ‘garden of gardens’. The most well-known palace in Beijing is the Forbidden City, sitting to the north of Tiananmen

Tiananmen Gate




Summer Palace

Temple of the Sun Park

Square and Mao’s Mausoleum. The Forbidden City was home to 24 emperors, reigning over the country for over 500 years. It was the centre of Chinese rule, and this is felt as you walk through the gigantic high red doors. Even these have a story to tell, with the strategically positioned gold knobs representing the ranks in the feudal hierarchy; rubbing them as you pass is supposed to grant you luck in your future endeavours. The Forbidden City is surrounded by a six-metre-deep moat and a tenmetre-high wall, and there are 9,999 rooms you’re able to look into. It’s advisable to walk away from the main path in the middle, as these narrower paths allow you to find hidden gems, like the rooms filled with Chinese porcelain and pots. The huge brass urns leading up to the steps in each section give a regal air, and the detailing of the ceilings of each room paints a picture of what life was like for the emperors living there. Upon leaving the Forbidden City, heading out the main back gates leads you directly to Jingshan Park. If you get there early enough you can hear women singing traditional Chinese opera. This park, like all parts of Beijing, has historical connotations: it’s famously known

as the site of the suicide of the last Ming emperor, the Chongzhen Emperor. Never have I been to the park without seeing men and women dancing, people playing musical instruments and people performing tai chi and exercising at various intersections – every part of the park reveals an aspect of local Chinese life. An amble to the top of the hill in its centre is the main reason for coming. From here you can look down and see the Forbidden City in all its glory. From the top of the pagoda the 360-degree view allows you to not only look at the Forbidden City, but also the rest of Beijing stretching out in front of you. Local food is definitely something you must try when you come to Beijing, and it’s usually on most visitors’ lists. When I arrived here I imagined the food would be like my average Chinese back in the UK… how very surprised I was! Don’t expect to find your chicken chow mein, sweet and sour chicken balls, prawn crackers and special fried rice. It appears the Chinese chefs in our home countries are fooling us. What you find here is true traditional Mandarin cooking. Don’t be shocked to find the odd chicken head or animal bones floating in your soup. Of course you can choose not to have those dishes; if you want to stick to the straight and narrow, head over to the many duck restaurants to sample the city’s most famous dish. Dumpling restaurants are dotted around the city; Maizaidian Lu is home to an incredible dumpling restaurant where you walk into what feels like a cave, plants dangling over your head, but sit down and eat an array of coloured dumpling dishes. Dim sum is also much loved here; a trip to the Lama Temple and then over to Jindingxuan, a very traditional-

looking three-storey building with an amazing dim sum selection, is a must. This restaurant is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’s always a queue no matter what time you visit, which speaks volumes. Once you’re seated, the service is so efficient that you feel as if they could prepare your food in their sleep. Local Chinese restaurants can also be found around the Sanlitun area, although this has recently made way for Western dining. If you wander down the adjacent road, look for an amazing restaurant called Middle 8; further down, there’s a restaurant with no obvious name that does the most amazing home-style Chinese cooking. If hutong dining is something you wish to tick off your list, head over to Dali Courtyard and then for a quick drink in Amilal to really immerse yourself in the Chinese way of life. The street comes alive with Chinese lanterns and neon lights, making sure you’re constantly reminded that you’re in China. For me, Beijing has opened my eyes to truly embracing what it means to be Chinese. When you look beyond the dust and dirt, you’ll find a city that’s rich in heritage and will always be. Coming to China and not visiting Beijing would be a mistake; and hopefully I’ve given you an idea of what you would be missing. §



















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6 El Gaucho (93, C2) Hviezdoslavovo nam. 13, 811 02 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (3212 1212,, elgaucho@ 7 Flowers restaurant & Wine Bar (93, C2) Erdodyho palac, Venturska 1, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (2092 2733,, 8 Le Monde (93, C2) Rybarska brana 8, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5441 5411,, manager@ 9 Leberfinger (93, C2) Viedenska cesta 257, 850 01 Bratislava – Petrzalka (6231 7590,, huto@ 10 Liviano Restaurant (97, C2) Kutlikova 17, 852 50 Bratislava – Petrzalka (6828 6688,, liviano@

Bars and restaurants

11 Mezzo Mezzo (93, C2) Rybarska brana 9, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5443 4393,, mezzo@

1 Au Cafe (93, C2) Tyrsovo nabrezie, 851 01 Bratislava – Petrzalka (6252 0355,, aucafe@

12 Paparazzi Cocktail Bar & Ristorante (93, C2) Laurinska 1, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5464 7971,,

2 Camouflage Restaurant (93, C2) Erdodyho palac, Venturska 1, 811 01 Bratislava – Nove Mesto (2092 2711,, info@

13 Parcafe (88, B3) Budkova 39, 811 04 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (0911 902 992,, parcafe@

3 Chez David (93, C1) Zamocka 13, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5441 3824,, recepcia@

14 Rambla Restaurant, Grill & Tapas Bar (93, C2) Michalska 9, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (3231 1313,, rambla@

4 Carda Kormoran (97, C3) Antolska 2, 851 05 Bratislava – Petrzalka (6829 7810,, csarda@

15 Tarpan Majova 23, 851 03 Bratislava – Petrzalka (6224 1585,, tarpan@

5 El Diablo Bar / Hacienda Mexikana Restaurant (93, C2) Sedlarska 6, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5464 2101,, info@

16 Tempus Fugit (93, C2) Sedlarska 5, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5441 4357,, 17 UFO Watch.Taste.Groove (93, C2)

Viedenska cesta, Novy most, 851 01 Bratislava – Petrzalka (6252 0300,, 18 Upside Down (93, C2) Laurinska 4, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (3211 1100,,

Accommodation 1 Austria Trend Hotel Bratislava (93, C1) Vysoka 2, 811 06 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5277 5800, 2 Best Western Hotel West (88, B1) Koliba Kamzik Les, 833 29 Bratislava – Nove Mesto (5478 8692, 3 Crowne Plaza Bratislava (93, C1) Hodzovo namestie 2, 816 25 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5934 8111, 4 Gate One Hotel (91, C3) Ambrusova 7, 821 04 Bratislava – Nove Mesto (3277 0000, 5 Hotel Devin (93, C2) Riecna 4, 811 02 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5998 5111, 6 Hotel Baronka (90, A1) Mudrochova 2, 835 27 Bratislava – Raca (4487 2324, 7 Hotel Bonbon Bratislava (97, C3) Antolska 2, 851 05 Bratislava – Petrzalka (6829 7999,, bratislava@ 8 Marrol’s HOTEL (93, C2) Tobrucka 4, 811 02 Bratislava (5778 4600,, rec@

11 Kempinski Hotel River Park (92, B2) Dvorakovo nabrezie 6, 811 02 Bratislava (3223 8222, bratislava) 12 Radisson Blu Hotel Carlton Bratislava (93, C2) Hviezdoslavovo namestie 3, 811 02 Bratislava – Stare Mesto ( 13 Skaritz Hotel & Residence (93, B2) Michalska 4, 811 01 Bratislava – Stare Mesto (5920 9770,, recepcia@ 14 Sheraton BratislavA (93, D2) Pribinova 12, 811 09 Bratislava (3535 0000,,

Fitness and Beauty 1 FIT RELAX (90, B3) Tomasikova 30, 821 01 Bratislava – Ruzinov (4342 3977, 2 FitCurves (95, C1) Jasikova 20, 821 03 Bratislava – Ruzinov (0917 616 566, 3 Golem Club (93, C3) Einsteinova 18, 851 01 Bratislava – Petrzalka (0917 508 649,, 4 InPulse Fitness – Narodne Tenisove Centrum (90, A3) Prikopova 6, 831 02 Bratislava – Nove Mesto (492 098 52,, info@ 5 Love 4 Tennis (90, B2) Turbinova 1, 831 04 Bratislava (0911 508 720,, info@

9 Hotel no.16 (92, B1) Partizanska 16a, 811 03 Bratislava – Stare Mesto 6 Shine Spa Sheraton (5441 1672,, hotelno16@ Bratislava Hotel (93, D2) Pribinova 12, 811 09 Bratislava (3535 0000, 10 Hotel Perugia (93, C2) Zelena 5, 821 01 Bratislava – Stare 7 Squash Centrum (89, D3) Mesto Legerskeho 3, 831 02 Bratislava (5443 1818,, perugia@ (4446 1272,,




Hotel Marroll’s is one of the nest four star hotels in Bratislava. Our Hotel is situated in the heart of the historic centre of Bratislava. We offer accomodation in 51 rooms and 3 luxury apartments. All the rooms are air conditioned, exquisitely furnished in retro style, equipped with latest technical equipment. Unlimited high-speed Internet access, plasma TV with 200 satellite programmes, in room PC and free minibar are a must. Parking is provided in the underground garage. Hotel Marroll’s offers 2 conference rooms for important social and corporate gatherings - Congress hall and Green saloon. We invite you to enjoy our unparalleled level of luxury and hospitality offered in a unique atmosphere with retro style.

LISTINGS 8 VERTIGO – climbing centre (94, A1) Trencianska 47, 821 09 Bratislava (0948 223 173,, 9 Virastudio (97, D1) Haanova 17, 851 04 Bratislava (4569 3255,, info@ 10 Vitalstudio (90, A3) Presovska 38/A, 821 01 Bratislava (0918 629 589,, 11 Woman line (93, C3) Muchovo namestie, 851 01 Bratislava (0944 405 805,, 12 Zora Centrum (90, A3) Vajnorska 98/h, 821 02 Bratislava – Ruzinov (, zoracentrum@ 13 ZION SPA Kempinski Hotel River Park (92, B2) Dvorakovo nabrezie 6, 811 02 Bratislava (3223 8451,, krp@

Health 1 University Hospital Bratislava Ruzinov (90, B3) Drienova 38, 826 06 Bratislava – Ruzinov (4823 4111,, 2 University Hospital Bratislava Antolska (97, C3) Antolska 11, 851 07 Bratislava –

Petrzalka (6867 1111,, 3 University Hospital Bratislava (88, B2) Limbova 3, 833 05 Bratislava – Kramare (5954 1111,, 4 University Hospital Bratislava – Stare Mesto (93, C1) Mickiewiczova 13, 813 69 Bratislava (5729 0111,, 5 Medicover (94, A2) Prievozska 4/B, Apollo BC II Blok C, 821 09 Bratislava (3217 1211,, info@ 6 Medifera (93, C2) Sturova 12, 811 02 Bratislava (5720 0910,,

(5477 1025,, 2 Bibiana – International House of Art for Children (93, C2) Panska 41, 815 39 Bratislava (5443 4986,, bibiana@

04 Bratislava (0903 779 793,, 11 The Bratislava Puppet Theatre (93, D2) Dunajska 36, 811 08 Bratislava (5292 3668,, 12 ZOO Bratislava (88, A3) Mlynska dolina 1, 842 27 Bratislava (6010 2111,, zoo@

4 Children’s Museum (93, C2) Vajanske nabrezie 2, 813 31 Bratislava (2046 9160,,


5 Gasparko Puppet Theatre (93, C2) Rudnayovo namestie 4, 811 01 Bratislava (0911 110 287, www.bratislavskygasparko. sk,

7 Medissimo (97, C2) Tematinska 5/A, 851 05 Bratislava (3230 3030,, info@ 8 Medtronic (96, b1) Panonska cesta 17, 851 04 Bratislava (6820 6911,,

7 Hopsasa Play Cafe (93, D3) Sustekova 51, Bratislava (0917 449 570,,

9 Pro Care (97, C3) Betliarska, Bratislava (3232 3800,

8 Horaren (88, B3) Lesna 1, 811 04 Bratislava (5478 9050,

1 Bobova Draha Bratislava (89, C1) Koliba – Kamzik


3 Biofarma Natura (98, A1) Biofarma Stupava Salas (0918 280 546,,

6 Hop-La Indoor Play Area (96, B2) OC Danubia, Panonska cesta 16, 851 04 Bratislava – Petrzalka (0904 909 909,, info@

kids and fun


1 Jewish Religious Community in Bratislava (92, B2) (5441 6949,, 2 Masses in English – PROTESTANT Church (93, C1) Panenska, Bratislava 3 St. Ladislav Catholic Parish (93, C1) Veterna 1, 81103 Bratislava (0905 829 830,, 4 Bratislava International Church (93, C1) Palisady 48, 81106 Bratislava (5443 3263, www., BratislavaInternationalChurch@gmail)

9 Klub Palisady Sancova 9, 811 06 Bratislava (0915 428 124,, 10 Trampolino (88, A3) OC Cubicon, Stare Grunty 24, 841

Please submit all requests for inclusion in our listings to:



FINAL WORD Hybrid vigour in the classroom Mike Embley evaluates the case for hybrid thinking and how it applies to students and teachers


ny good gardener or farmer will be very aware of the idea and practice of encouraging cross-breeding to promote what is called hybrid vigour. The basic idea is that often crossing two pure-bred lines of plants or animals works to produce a new offspring with the best characteristics of both parents. Indeed, top-quality seeds for keen gardeners are often marked “F1 hybrid”, referring to the fact that they are a first-generation mix of two excellent lines. As with plants and animals, so with ideas. The mixing of minds and cultures often gives rise to something new and powerful. We can see this as modern communication allows ideas to move quickly around the world and mix in ways that their creators never intended or envisaged. Some of these ideas have been among the most

powerful cultural movements of the 20th and 21st centuries. While undeniably powerful, these ideas have not always been constructive or a force for good, and one can speculate on the ramifications of such cultural foreshortening as it progresses over future generations. However, one idea whose time has definitely come, and whose tangible benefits are apparent, is the movement of teachers and ideas about teaching around the world. Each and every top school must have at its core the success of its students as its first priority. This success shouldn’t be limited to, but of course must include, academic success. Many students gain just as much from musical, sporting or artistic endeavours though, and we shouldn’t overlook the role of personal challenge and development.

Each school has its own character that imparts something extra to those in its care. At The British International School we pride ourselves on our commitment to strong family-focused communication, good manners, social graces and discipline. Some would call these values traditionally British. It’s true that British culture places a strong emphasis on good manners, but this is not unique! In fact British culture is something of a hybrid itself, a fact which should not be forgotten. We are THE British School in many senses and must remain so. That fact brings great value, and our slightly traditional nature and academic, artistic, sporting and personal success is what our families expect from us. However our community is made up of families from all

over the world, all of whom have something to offer. Equally, our teachers have a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences on which we can draw. Teachers who have had exposure to a wide range of teaching methods in their training and continuing professional development also benefit from being able to choose the most relevant methods. Although the very trendy Learning Styles theory is falling rather out of favour of late due to the lack of evidence supporting it, variety remains very much an important part of a teacher’s tool kit. After all, our students must be able to operate in the modern hybrid world. What better way to succeed than for them to become exposed to a little hybrid thinking themselves? §

School Life


It’s easy to make a good decision at the beginning of the week:

Set out for the restaurant Upside Down in Laurinská Street, Bratislava.

If you thought that the original Gothic vaults in Bratislava were possible to nd only in St Martin’s Cathedral or Bratislava Castle, after entering the restaurant Upside Down in Laurinska Street 4 you will be pleasantly surprised. In the café entrance you can see a beautifully preserved 14th Century Gothic wall.

We are also pleased to introduce Fusion cuisine … a culinary fantasy. Fusion cuisine combines different cuisines from a region or country into a single eating experience. It is a new culinary art which goes beyond traditions, conventions and geographical borders. It cannot be imagined. You must simply try it!

What does this steak house recommend? Why not try our oxtail soup and as a main dish, have a steak to follow. In upside Down you will be offered the best Scottish or Argentinian sirloin. There are many special offers from cookery displays to birthday treats.

The restaurant won the ‘Best Bar Menu 2009’ and offers 230 kinds of whisky amongst its wide selection of beverages. The special tasting menu and useful whisky-pedia is prepared for the curious. Lovers of quality wines, Bazzara coffee and various kinds of tea will have a eld day.

Begin your week with a wonderful meal at restaurant Upside Down. Set out for the restaurant Upside Down and leave your worries behind. Half price Mondays do not just mean halfpriced steaks … they mean steaks plus sauces and delicious wines for 50%. Restaurant Upside Down is the synonym for quality, good taste and excellent service. Come and try us today!

Diamond ring for a whisky expert!

Upside Down - Steak & Whisky Dreams, s.r.o. / Laurinská 4, 811 01 Bratislava Reservations: +421 2 321 111 06 / Tel.: +421 2 321 111 01 (ofce) / Fax: +421 2 321 111 09 E-mail: / Web:


School Life

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