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Six years later – an open letter to IB students

We invited IB Diploma Programme (DP) graduates to reflect on their lives and studies. Learn more about the IB Alumni Network at ibo.org/alumni.


Dear current and prospective IB students,

What do I remember most about my IB exams, essays and grades? The answer is simple. Six years later I can’t recall the details of any of my IB Diploma Programme papers. Even so, I still very much practice the process of thinking considerately and keeping a positive attitude. As cliché as it sounds, those two teachings changed my life!

When it was time to plan and execute my university career, I was beyond excited; not because it was the next milestone, or because I am the first generation in my family who had the option to go to college, or because it was a great opportunity for my career. While those are all positive and realistic reasons, I wanted to attend college because the IB Diploma Programme convinced me that academics is more than “being smart.” The academic environment helps build self-identity and personal development and this was such an important experience for my young self. As a university student, it was vital for me to continue to become a well-rounded and profound person – a course that the IB diploma set out for me.

My studies led me to a degree in landscape architecture. The beauty of landscape architecture is that the common public has very little understanding of it. Some believe it is an environmental and sustainability profession. Others think it is about gardening and planting.  It is most known for designing parks and public spaces. Rarely, is it understood as historic preservation work. And a few recognize it as designing cities through policies and planning.

Through my college education and the start of my professional career, I learned that the most successful architects consider all of these aspects in their work. It is important to be balanced in both technical and design skills. An IB education taught me the concept of versatility and this was among the most valuable lessons I learned as a student. As an adult, I chose a career that nourishes my creative interest and identity. My IB education taught me how to succeed by pushing beyond  my comfort zone and tackling my weak areas. The IB Diploma Programme isn’t about memorizing and learning facts; it is a practice that applies to many, many areas in life.

This leads me to the secondary lesson, which is keeping a positive attitude! Yes, analyzing a massive amount of considerations and accomplishing tasks you are weak in can be super overwhelming, but the answer is ironically simple. Simple does not mean short whatsoever. The most accurate responses are quite lengthy because it includes a ton of limitations and constraints!  To me, simple means my responses and decisions feature all factors. IB turned me into a goal-orientated, list checker. But don’t worry, not everyone does!

The IB diploma was many things to me but most importantly, it was the first major opportunity in my young life to make a difficult decision: to challenge myself or accomplish high school with ease. A general word of wisdom, you learn more by doing things the hard way. (But listen to your parents and stay out of trouble!)

Whether you are writing an extended essay, deciding on your career, or figuring out world events happening around you, the answer is rarely a straightforward yes or no, right or wrong. Reality is simply a paradox of complexity. Learning that as a teenager was difficult but IB helped me through it. I hope it will for you!

An IB survivor,

Tammy Do


Tammy Do is intrigued by people, culture and society and how we fit into the physical setting of nature, landmarks, and places. She followed her interest in design by earning a bachelor of landscape architecture and working as a landscape architect in Maryland, US.

Have a great story to tell? Write to alumni.relations@ibo.org and learn more about the IB Alumni Network at ibo.org/alumni.

  • Mohammed Baba

    Tammy’s open letter should be a must read by all IB students past and present. It is an embodiment of IB education. In retrospect, I often wonder how I survived my journey in education through secondary, post secondary, without the supportive framework embedded in the IB philosophy.
    A definite must-read for IB community. Thank you!