Nika STROK UNDERWOOD, 15 years old, was born to a Croatian mother and English father, and is the youngest of four children, therefore loved and adored by everyone. Presently with parents living in France during academic year, Nika started with her official piano education only as recently as February 2018.
Her professor, Ms Raminta has finally arrived and immediately saw Nika was talented. This meant the whole world to Nika and she is the happiest person to be able to learn from Prof. Raminta Neverdauskaité who pushed her from a beginners level to do exams in front of a commission of many professionals to pass straight to cycle 2 in Solfeggio and Piano, with which she made a jump of 3-5 years at the very least. This year Nika has finished 1st year of the 2nd cycle.
In this short time Nika has participated in five competitions, three of international standing and two French nationals:
Nika is a native speaker of three languages – Croatian, English and French, and also now learning Italian and German – and always smiling with a sunlit passion for fun and play. She loves nature and everything about it, enjoys drama, horse-riding, free-diving, photography, fossil hunting, mushroom hunting and loves exploring heritage of all environments and countries whilst travelling with her parents. Nika also enjoys an unlikely mix of ballet and judo, contemporary dance as well as folk dancing, ice-skating, artistic roller-skating, inline skating too, skiing ,handball, swimming, baking and “caking”, and enjoys school a lot, especially math and science. Music is great love, being, living. Nika also plays classical guitar, little bit xylophone and percussions, she sings and has also participated in a musical in production and unique representation of Agnès Brosset’s “The Jungle” in Pontivy, Bretagne, France. Piano though is Nika’s greatest love and passion!
In 2021, Nika founded TAFU (Teens and Friends United), a nature conservation organisation, at the age of just 13 due to her enormous love for nature and her realisation that there is a huge lack of personal responsibility. Therefore, TAFU’s mission is to promote personal responsibility among teenagers to protect and preserve the natural environment. TAFU hosts a wide range of events such as monthly clean-ups, talks, and concerts to raise awareness about conservation and promote action. Nika also writes and publishes nature articles to raise awareness for specific species and their environment. Through their projects and initiatives, TAFU aims to educate and empower teenagers to be responsible for their everyday actions and take small steps towards the big goal of preserving nature. Please see more here
Nika has completed her GCSE exams in summer 2021 and has since then completed three A-level subjects this summer (2022), French, Geology and Latin.
In September 2022, Nika joined a 6th form college, where she is pursuing an intensive two-year course to complete eight A-levels. Nika is excelling in her studies, taking a challenging course load that includes Chemistry, Biology, Physics, Computer Science, English Literature, English Language, Maths, and Music. With her dedication and excellent time management skills, Nika is poised to enter one of the top universities in the world, with a goal of potentially attending Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, or Yale, with 11 A-levels under her belt by the age of 16. Despite her young age and demanding course load, Nika is proving to be a little miracle, consistently ranking among the top students in her class. 😊
Now, at 15, Nika is also beginning her undergraduate journey studying Artificial Intelligence and Robotics BSc (Hons). After which, Nika plans to study Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge and then combine these two fields of study, as well as music, in the hope of making groundbreaking discoveries to help preserve and recover the Earth.
A note from one of Nika’s teachers:
Nika is an exceptional individual. Her drive and capacity for work are unique amongst the students I have taught. Nika is relentlessly hardworking and engages deeply in her study of physics. Nika sets an example for her peers. She can always be relied upon to make meaningful contributions and ask questions that do not necessarily occur to others. She is naturally curious and has a desire to fully understand the world around her. This, coupled with her ability to think critically makes her highly suited to the study of science.
The way she approaches her study of physics is not limited to this subject. She applies herself with the same rigour across her subjects. Her ability to do so speaks volumes about her organisation. She follows an extremely detailed and extensive timetable in order to keep up with all her commitments. To follow this, and to self-manage these demonstrate a maturity that is rather unusual for someone her age. This is further exemplified by her decision to pursue her 8 additional A-Levels in an online learning environment. This model of education requires a great deal of independence from students – a trait Nika possesses in abundance.
This is also evidenced in her extracurricular endeavours. Her passion and drive extend to a wide range of interests outside the classroom. A prime example of this is her act of founding TAFU – an organisation created to encourage people to take responsibility for the environment. A truly impressive organisation that carries out a wide range of interesting and meaningful projects. Her role as president of the organisation demonstrates her leadership ability.
In addition to her impressive undertakings, Nika is also a genuine and very likable person. She is down to earth, sociable, and always willing to help others. People like Nika are rare. To have the opportunity to work with her and support her on her journey is special.
Chris Dobie Teacher of physics Minerva Virtual Academy
Nika, the Pandemic & lockdowns
First lockdown and realisation of pandemics caught Nika, on her way back from Tenerife, Vienna, Krapina concerts and competitions tour. So, we got stuck! Not too bad, we just arrived on our island, with enough to survive and do things from ‘home’.
So, Nika decided, she will do home-schooling and take her GCSEs early to be able to apply herself as soon as possible; “ and schools are so boring and slow”, she stated.
Her parents supported her as always, soon after she added 3 A-level subjects to sit in spring 2021 along with 12 GCSEs subjects, and 4 Trinity college exams (music theory Grade 8, piano Grade 8, classic guitar Grade 7, Solo singing Grade 6) and also RAD exam Grade 8.
Therefore, Nika’s educational curve went straight up. Private classes online were arranged for all subjects, we even made a dancing studio in the hallway downstairs. Nika is happier and more accomplished than ever before, striving to the exams being finished aiming for A*s (grade 9 nowadays). And hardly able to wait to go uni early, which we soon found out she wanted for years back 😊. All her professors, teachers are expecting her to receive grade 9 in her subjects.
Unfortunately, the government cancelled all the state GCSE and A-level exams. We were fearing Nika would be extremely disappointed, but Nika stays confident, active and writes to the government requesting to allow all private candidates to sit exams this autumn, being advised by her Latin teacher who actually entered her for the Latin exam through her school, which is one subjects that will be done this spring. Spirits up and she continues.
We will soon be releasing recordings of Nika’s new piano repertoire featuring all 3 movements of Beethoven’s “Pathetique Sonata,” Mozart’s “ Fantaisie”, Chopin’s Nocturne in Sharp Minor and a few others, we will also be publishing some new singing & guitar pieces.
Nika finally began to work with her favourite piano professor which is paying off very nicely.
At the very start of the pandemics in Europe, Nika became aware of a project on the Croatian island of Murter and decided to donate her translating to that local project. The island was completely cut off from the rest of the world, as they had many SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 cases. This project was aimed to make it easier on children of the island and the work of the author, Martina Markov, who came up with a great idea to make a series of children stories happening in Croatian National parks, teaching them about the flora and fauna of each park.
Brilliant idea and project Nika recognised immediately.
Nika has done a tremendous job translating the whole “our picture book” (the island covid story) into English and French. Learning old Dalmatian words and expressions, she was quite literally working day and night to get it done quick and well. To those who haven’t done an official translating, this might not sound as big of a deal as it, really is, but believe me, it’s a really big thing especially for a 12-year-old child, but Nika did it with a smile on her face, working very hard. And the book has been published, English and French are available online.
Nika was completely involved with doing whatever possible to raise awareness of the need for the app and spread the love for sharks amongst people, and taught her peers that rays also belong to the Shark family.
Nika also made two robots, both with many functions, for example rock, paper, scissor
There’s another little skill Nika has learnt during these difficult times, which is how to crochet. She went even further and learnt how to do amigurumi and she started a lovely little production of amigurumi/crochet toys.
There are many other ways Nika stayed fully active even during the pandemics time and Nika continues to smile and can’t wait to start actively applying herself to projects aimed at making this planet a better place for us all. For that, she says she has to earn her two degrees ( piano/music degree and science (biology/palaeontology degree).
It’s difficult to describe Nika’s life of smiles and interest so we have tried to put summary of her life and interest in the photo gallery below.