Top Nav Breadcrumb

CAS, self-reflection and being a lifelong volunteer

We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Alumna Frances Marsh is one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.

By Frances Marsh

Frances Marsh completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Durham before joining the European Voluntary Service.

It is coming up to four years since I completed my IB Diploma and despite bemoaning the creativity, activity, service (CAS) evaluations back in 2012, I am now relishing the chance to engage in a bit of self-reflection. CAS documentation seemed so unnecessary, frivolous in among the six other subjects, theory of knowledge (TOK) course and extended essay that we were busy writing. But now they’re completed, I’m really beginning to appreciate those evaluations, the CAS element as a whole, and especially the Service element, as an important part of where I am today and what I’ll do in the future.

CAS is enshrined within the IB; you cannot receive your Diploma without it. The CAS programme allows IB students to plan and lead their own projects, actively participate, and develop personal and interpersonal skills – not simply counterbalance academic studies.

For me, the most memorable and highly personal CAS projects I did were those which fulfilled the ‘Service’ elements requirements. My cohort came together to fundraise for a teenage cancer charity close to our hearts and we put together tactile story-telling packs for children at a local school for the blind. And I co-led a project where we taught lessons in local primary schools on the importance of global education equality for girls.

It was for a CAS project that I travelled to Austria, helping out at a youth organization’s annual summer camp. Improving my ability to speak German was a happy by-product of my week there. Reflecting now, the experience helped me get the position I am in today, on a European Voluntary Service (EVS) placement working with their international umbrella organization, the International Falcon Movement – Socialist Educational International (IFM-SEI).

Rather than following the paths of my fellow graduates into ‘ordinary’ jobs and prestigious graduate schemes, I’m on a different type of scheme with a different type of prestige. I am working in Brussels with an amazing children’s rights movement of youth organizations doing things I would never have thought I would, from helping to plan an international camp for 3,000 young people, to organizing seminars and putting together educational publications.

The EVS scheme, which facilitates international exchanges across Europe and beyond in a well-structured, well-funded arrangement that also places emphasis on the volunteers’ training, personal development and language-acquisition, is 20 this year. My fellow EVSers in Flanders, aged 17 – 30, from Italy to India, are on placements as varied as a community farm, circus school, disability rights organization and women’s refuge. Making friends with people from all over the world, I have enjoyed exchanging cultural nuances, whilst also recognising similarities, and the offer to go and visit Brazil some time is not to be sniffed at either.

Of course the IB played a crucial part in my decision to apply for the EVS placement at IFM-SEI; recognising the value of doing something for my own personal development, living abroad, working for an organization that values young people and their human rights education. I am reflecting now, that the IB differs from other educational programmes in that it teaches its students about being a global citizen; about the responsibility we have towards other people – our immediate neighbors or those thousands of miles away – and the environment. But I can also recognise that it fosters a lust to continue broadening our minds and expanding our horizons.

Every IB student will have completed very different, very personal ‘Service’ projects among the maths lessons, science experiments and speaking a non-native language. But every IB student will have learned, through them, that you that you can plan your own projects, make a difference, learn a lot and have fun along the way by doing something that benefits your local or global community. I’m hooked and I know that I’ll carry on doing my own ‘CAS projects’ as a volunteer for life.


Frances Marsh received her IB Diploma at Finham Park School in Coventry, UK in 2012. She completed her undergraduate degree in English Literature at the University of Durham and is now on a European Voluntary Service placement in Brussels working for IFM-SEI, an international children’s rights movement. She is passionate about accessible education, feminism and human rights, all of which were fostered during her IB studies.