We invited IB Diploma graduates to reflect on post-IB life and offer perspectives on topics of their choosing. Alumna Kimberly Rightor is one of this year’s cohort of alumni contributing authors.
By Kimberly Rightor
My days in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (DP) are covered with a weird sort of haze. I remember tired eyes, hard chairs, and blue books waiting to be filled with knowledge I wasn’t sure I possessed. Then there was the endless stream of IB-related jokes. “Will IB successful with IB?” “Who will IB when I am done with IB?” “Well, soon I’ll be done.” So what does it mean to be done with IB? The conclusion of my time as an IB candidate can be easily marked. I thought I closed that chapter of my life four years ago when I walked out of H.H. Dow high school wearing a gleaming white IB sash that my school gives DP students. My little brother Matthew graduated with an IB diploma in June 2016.
To Matthew and the other IB graduates, I must first offer my sincere congratulations. Your time as an “IB Diploma Candidate” is over. But your time as an IB graduate is just beginning… so here are three points of advice to set you on your path.
Use the IB program as a framework to define future “success”
A friend of mine once referred to the IB sash as a tag that screamed “successful student!” For a long time, I perceived the IB degree in a similar manner. I decided to pursue the DP because, as a competitive high school freshman, I saw it as a signpost to success. In hindsight, the IB program didn’t make me into a successful student. The path to success is not finite; nor is the conferral of any sort of degree a sign that learning is done.
The IB program can set you on the path to success but it is not the end-all-be-all. Use the DP to define your own success. I suggest using the IB learner profile to evaluate how you want to grow in the coming years. Want to be more open-minded? Attend an event run by the opposite political persuasion or, perhaps, sign up for a class about different religions. Do you want to better maintain balance as a college student? Set aside an hour for exercise or establish a group for mindfulness meditation. Similarly, think about career goals. If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, establish coursework that can help you get there. Take language classes, network with FSOs, bolster your writing skills. As obvious as it may seem, your brain is not equal to your degree. The skills you learn will take you further than declaring a major.
Use the IB program as a looking glass for self-reflection
When I graduated from college a week ago, I unwrapped the white IB sash that had once served as a bastion of pride. My eyes focused in on the black IB logo. “World School,” it says. “Colegio del mundo.” “Ecole du monde.” The first is my native language; the other two are languages that I am learning. The graduates of this year’s IB diploma program hail from over 140 countries. As you were writing essays about mitosis, students in other countries were racking their brains to write the same essays. But their minds were churning in Spanish or French instead of English.
The IB program helped set me on a path to better self-awareness. Theory of Knowledge was a sledgehammer that made the first crack in the looking glass of my own self-reflection. By serving as a forum for honest conversations about race, gender, and global inequities, TOK re-defined how I saw myself as a Caucasian woman from the United States. For the first time, I started to identify my place in the world. The IB program fueled my desire to learn about other people, countries, and cultures. This revitalized my curiosity and enabled me to learn from a place of intrinsic motivation. Work on your ability to distinguish intrinsic motivations from extrinsic ones.
Realize that dynamism is natural
Before I left home for college, I scribbled the following in my journal: Is my individuality defined by my context? I graduated high school with people that I had known since elementary school. Quite frankly, I was nervous. Who would I be, in the context of other people? It seems like a paradox, but our individuality is partially contingent on the thoughts and actions of other people. We are impressionable; no one is an island. After graduating high school with an IB degree, I attended college in a different state, studied abroad in Switzerland and Morocco, and conducted independent research in Jordan. I was rarely around the same people for a substantive amount of time. The people around me changed me.
My French host father brought out my sarcastic nature and cultivated my appreciation for fine wine, my college friends enhanced my love for lengthy intellectual discussions, and my time alone in Jordan bolstered my ability to interact with people in spite—or perhaps because of– a significant language barrier. Remember your history of the Americas class? Historiography teaches us that we, too, are part of a living, breathing history. Write your own history, but let others help you chose the ink.
And keep asking yourself: Who do I want to be, now that I’m done with IB? Your journey is not over, your path to discovery just begins. And as Dr. Seuss once said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
Kimberly Rightor is fascinated by the ways in which stories can influence global health and public policy. She has diverse experiences in the field of global health diplomacy, which include studying global health in Geneva, Switzerland and researching how to prevent chronic diseases in Jordan. She also taught a course on the Politics of Children’s Literature to peers at Rice University. She is a graduate of H. H. Dow High School.
To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad that want to share your story, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!