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News > Alumni Spotlight Series > Niko Schoefer (Class of 2007) - Former GSIS Student, Staff & Photographer

Niko Schoefer (Class of 2007) - Former GSIS Student, Staff & Photographer

Niko left GSIS in 2007 as a student and rejoined the school as a member of staff in 2018. He shares with us his working experience and how his passion for photography developed.

Name: Niko Schoefer

Graduation class: 2007

Years at GSIS: 13

University & Degree: European University Munich, Bachelor of Business Administration

Current city of residence: Hong Kong

Could you briefly introduce yourself (background & profession)?

Hi. I'm Niko - I used to be a student at GSIS myself and from 1994-2007 I was in the German International Branch from Kindergarten to Abitur. After GSIS, I went to Munich, where I graduated in business administration and studied digital media on the side. After various internships - including at ProSieben in Munich and at SCMP in Hong Kong - I inevitably moved back to my home in Hong Kong. After a few years at various marketing consultancies in HK, I eventually found my way back to GSIS.

You are a former employee and student of GSIS. What job did you have here and what made you apply for the position?

My job at GSIS was “Marketing Content Creator”. As a schoolboy I was very creative and always got involved as a videographer and photographer at school events - and sometimes I was even found on stage. That led me to pursue a career in the creative field. I had been in digital marketing for a couple of years when I saw the job posting at GSIS - which was all about creating all of the content to be posted on the school website, social media, etc. The task really appealed to me. The fact that I was a student here myself was an added bonus.

How was your experience working at a school that you also attended as a student?

In the beginning it was a very surreal experience. Everything felt so familiar, and yet also very different. The Upper Building no longer looked the way I remembered it, and so did a large part of the Lower Building (no longer a sports field on the 2nd floor) - and I was now friends with many of the teachers who had previously taught me. Suddenly calling her by her first name was very strange. Nevertheless, it was very easy for me to integrate and to feel at home straight away. My past at school also made creating social media posts very easy as I know how and what the community wants to see and hear about.

You took beautiful photos at various GSIS events. What sparked your interest in photography?

My love for photography began at school - and actually began as a love for filmmaking. I was always the one who documented our class trips, any school projects, etc. The resulting pictures was a very welcome side effect. I fell in love with the idea of capturing an emotion or a message in a single shot. It started when I was taking photos on a safari and got some great shots there. That led me to take a job as an event photographer in Munich - and over time it has evolved into portrait and street photography. All of this has helped me a lot to learn how to capture the right moments when taking photos at GSIS, as these types of photography involve both posed and candid moments.

How did you develop your photography skills?

In all honesty, I've learned a lot, if not everything, through my own practice. I've got my fair share of bad photos and my fair share of bad events - even at GSIS! The most important thing for me was to learn what went wrong and make sure I do better next time. I really believe that I developed most of my skills by taking photos that I was not happy with.

Do you have any advice for alumni interested in photography?

First and foremost: go out and take pictures! When I'm out and about, I always have my camera with me and am ready to capture anything that catches my eye. Second, don't get too fixated on having the latest equipment and the highest quality camera. Some of my best photos have been taken with my iPhone - it's the way you capture the things that matters. More expensive equipment only increases that by a fraction. And last but not least - if you feel comfortable in your photography, your photos also convey that to the outside world. No matter what kind of photos you take, there will always be an audience for them. This way you will be integrated into a community and you can improve further.

With this in mind - if anyone of you is interested in my photography, you are welcome to follow me on Instagram: @nikoschoefer

What are your plans for the future?

Photography is my passion and my greatest hobby, but I also want to develop my professional skills. My job is much more than just photography. I keep working on my digital marketing, communication and development skills as these are all areas that really interest me and are on a path that I will definitely see myself on. Of course, the ultimate dream will always be to be able to make a living from photography. Who knows - maybe one day!

Tell us about your time as a student at GSIS. What was your most memorable GSIS moment?

People always say that the time at university will be the most memorable in life. It was different for me. Even though I had a great time in Munich - the time I think back most fondly is my school days at GSIS. In fact, I even moved to Munich with many of my school friends. This is why it is so difficult for me to name a single “favorite memory” of GSIS. From theater performances, to band appearances (yes - I was in a school band), the good old Christmas bazaar on the rooftop of the Upper Building and even Ah Hong, who sold his world-famous spaghetti Bolognese in styrofoam boxes (something very special!) - I could do a lot more name others.

Are you still in contact with old GSIS school friends?

This is by far the greatest insight from my time at GSIS - I made some of my best friends at GSIS. Four of my five groomsmen at my wedding two years ago are GSIS alumni. Although most of them have since moved out of Hong Kong, we still try to see each other at least once a year - or at least until the pandemic prevented these visits. But I can guarantee that if you ask me this question again in another 14 years, I will be able to answer it as well. That's explaining everything...

How did your time at GSIS contribute to who you are today?

GSIS really gave me a great network. I feel connected to others (both classmates and teachers) on a level that would not be possible in a large school. The small classes and the personal character of the school did me incredibly well - and from what I have seen with the current students, this is definitely a value that has asserted itself over the years.

________________________________________________________________

Name: Niko Schoefer

Graduating Year: 2007

Years at GSIS: 13

University College & Degree: European University Munich, Bachelor of Business Administration

Current city of residence: Hong Kong

Could you introduce yourself a bit (background & profession)?

Hi. I'm Niko - I'm a GSIS Alum and was part of the German International Stream from 1994-2007, going from Kindergarten all the way to Abitur. After my GSIS journey I decided to go to Munich, where I got my degree in Business Administration, while also studying digital media on the side. I went on to various internships - most notably at ProSieben in Munich, and at the SCMP in Hong Kong - after which I inevitably moved back to my Home, Hong Kong. Following a few years at various marketing consultancies in HK, I, at some point, somehow found my way back to GSIS.

You are a former staff and student of GSIS. What did you do for work at GSIS and what made you apply for the role?

My initial role at GSIS was Marketing Content Creator. As a student I was very creative, and always got involved in school events as a videographer, photographer - and sometimes you even found me on stage. This led me to pursue a creative career. I had already been in Digital Marketing for several years when I saw the job advertisement at GSIS - which very much revolved around creating all content meant to go up online on the schools website, social media etc. The role itself really spoke to me. The fact that I was an Alum was an added bonus.

How was your experience working at a school that you also attended as a student?

At first it was a very surreal experience. Everything felt so familiar, and yet also very different. The Upper Building didn't look how I remembered it, as well as a lot of the Lower Building (no more Undercovered Playground) - and I was now colleagues with many teachers that once taught me. Speaking to them on a first name basis was very weird. However it was so easy for me to get integrated and familiar with the school buildings and immediately felt right at home. My history at the school also made creating social media posts very easy, as I know how and what the community would want to see and hear about.

You have taken incredible photos at various GSIS events. What made you interested in photography?

My love for photography started back at school - and actually started as a love for filmmaking. I was always the one to document our class trips, any school projects etc. Still photography was a very welcome side effect. I fell in love with the idea of capturing an emotion or a message in a single shot. It started with taking photos on safari, getting some great shots there. That pushed me to get an event photography gig in Munich - and over time that evolved into portrait and street photography. All of these really helped me learn how to capture the right moments when I took photos at GSIS, as those types of photography both include posed shots, as well as candid moments.

How did you develop your photography skills?

Honestly - a lot, if not all of it was learning by doing. I've taken my fair share of bad photos and have done my fair share of bad events - even at GSIS! The main thing for me was to learn what went wrong, and make sure I'm ready next time so that doesn't happen again. I really believe I've developed most of my skills by actually taking photos I wasn't happy with.

Do you have any advice for alumni who are interested in photography?

First and foremost: get out there and shoot! Especially doing street photography, I always have my camera with me and am ready to capture anything that catches my eye. Secondly, don't get too hung up on having the latest gear and the most high end camera. Some of my best photos were done on my iPhone - it's the way you capture things that counts. More expensive gear only bumps that up by a fraction. And lastly - once you feel confident in your photography - get your photos out there. No matter what kind of photos you take, there will always be an audience for it. That gets you integrated in a community and can enhance your skills even further.

On that note - if any of you are interested in my photography, feel free to follow me on Instagram: @nikoschoefer

What are your plans for the future?

While photography is my passion and biggest hobby - I want to further develop my professional skills. My job is much more than just photography. I've been further developing my skills within digital marketing, communications and development, as these are all areas that really interest me and are on a path I definitely see myself going down. Of course the ultimate dream will always be to be able to support a family with just my photography. Who knows - maybe one day!

Tell us about your time as a student at GSIS. What was your most memorable GSIS moment?

People always say that your time at university will be the most memorable of your life. For me that just isn't the case. While I loved my time in Munich - the time I most fondly look back on is my time at GSIS. In fact, I moved to Munich with a bunch of my friends from school. Which is why it is also so difficult for me to pinpoint one single favorite memory from GSIS. From drama productions, to band shows (yes - I was in a school band), the good old Christmas Bazaar in the Upper Building courtyard and even Ah Hong selling his world famous spaghetti bolognese in the styrofoam boxes (that one was very niche!) - I could go on and on.

Are you still in touch with old GSIS school friends?

This is single handedly the biggest takeaway from my GSIS experience - some of my best friends today are people that I met at GSIS. Four of my five groomsmen at my wedding 2 years ago are GSIS alumni. Even though most of them have since moved away from HK - we still make an effort to see each other at least once every year - or at least we did until the pandemic shut that down very quickly. But I can guarantee if you ask me this question again in another 14 years, I will be able to answer it in the same way. That really says it all ...

How did your GSIS experience contribute to who you are today?

GSIS really set me up with a great support network. I connected with people (both classmates and teachers) on a level you won't get at a big school. The small classes and personal nature of the school is one that I very much value - and from what I've seen in the students today, that is definitely a value that has carried through over the years.

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