Street: So you’re from Singapore?
Alex Amstrup: My dad grew up in Denmark, on a farm, and my mom grew up in the Philippines. My dad just wanted to get away from Denmark as soon as he finished high school, so he moved to the Philippines, met my mom there, and they got married. Then they moved to China in the 80s, when it was still really closed off and really communist. I was born in Hong Kong. Then they moved to Indonesia, then Singapore. So I spent most of my life in Singapore.
Street: What languages do you speak?
AA: I speak English fluently, because I went to an American school. My Danish and Tagalog are...pretty basic...My mom would speak a lot of Tagalog to my sister and I growing up.
Street: You study French—did you study abroad in France?
AA: No, I went to Senegal.
Street: What was that like?
AA: I think it was the best six months of maybe my life, maybe Penn...I was living with a host family in Dakar, and there were 13 people that lived in the house. I was the fourteenth. There was an eight month old, and then my “grandmother” was like 76 or something. So it was three generations of the same family. I took classes with professors in the local university.
Street: Did you travel?
AA: I traveled around a lot. I made it out to Mali, very soon after the civil war ended. Like two weeks after.
Street: What’s your favorite memory from Senegal?
AA: On my last night there, there’s a lighthouse at the top of this tiny mountain or really big hill. My friends and I snuck up...and hiked to the very top, and hopped a fence to get into the lighthouse, and camped out there for the night. We just looked out over the city, had beers and reminisced about the semester. It was very out of a movie.
Street: What’s it like to be president of Elmo?
AA: It’s weird managing a group of friends, like being the authority figure amongst your peers.
Street: If Elmo had a mascot, what would it be?
AA: We’ve had a possum living in our house, which just sucks. He isn’t afraid of us at all, he’ll just be around. So maybe a possum. He’s pretty cute.
Street: Can you describe Mortarboard in three words?
AA: “Declining bar tab.” Or “open bar event.”
Street: There are two types of people at Penn...
AA: The people who can find their way home from Dock Street without using Google Maps, and the people that couldn’t.
Street: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go and why?
AA: Iceland. I’ve always wanted to go there. It’s the most geographically active spot in the world, there are geysers and volcanoes and shifting plates. I’d want to explore—there’s the biggest glacier in Europe in Iceland. Icelandic horses have the purest bloodline of any horse, that goes back to the first Europeans. It’s illegal to bring any other horse onto the island, because you’d contaminate the bloodlines. Apparently as well, 80% of Icelandic people truly believe in, or wouldn’t rule out the existence, of elves.
Street: What would your superpower be and why?
AA: It would definitely be to speak, read, and write every language in the world.
Street: If you could have a drink with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you drink?
AA: I would have coffee and cigarettes with Bill Murray. I want to hear his philosophy on his profession and how he’s become the actor he is.
Street: Who’s your current celebrity crush?
AA: Betty White...I feel like she’s aged very gracefully and when I’m old and wrinkley and ugly and looks don’t matter, I would want to have a partner who’s as chill and hilarious as Betty White.
Street: Do you have a favorite Philly bar?
AA: There’s a new bar called the Crow and the Pitcher that opened this summer and they have really good cocktails—they have a mixologist.
Street: If you were a cocktail, what would you be made of?
AA: Whiskey...some fresh ginger—it’s good for the stomach and pairs well with whiskey. And then some sort of effervescence, like soda. So a whiskey ginger fizz or something like that.
Street: What’s your spirit animal?
AA: I think an accurate spirit animal would be a river otter, but I aspire to be a humpback whale.
Street: If you could compete at an event at the Olympics, what would it be?
AA: I’ve always been really fascinated by the biathlon where you ski and then you shoot. Like, what? How do you do that?...I just want to know how to handle a gun whilst skiing.
Street: If you’re stuck on a desert island, what three things would you bring with you?
AA: I think I would bring avocados, sunglasses, and a snorkle.
Street: What advice would you give freshman you?
AA: Join a performing arts group. Either Excelano—but I would become way too brooding—or something cool like African Rhythms.
Street: Give us a cheesy pickup line.
AA: I recently discovered D’Angelo, the R&B singer. I think if I were trying to pick someone up, I would just take my shirt off and sing D’Angelo to them. But I’d probably have to go work out for a couple years.