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A DP grad looks at 40: Part one—to current students

Each year we invite IB alumni to share their experiences, interests and advice with our global community in the graduate voices series. We welcome Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Tara McCook, who ruminates on the value of her IB experience from Murphy High School throughout her life.

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By Tara McCook

“I had my first taste of the whole wild world, and it was an amazing feeling. I never wanted to let that go.”

I earned my diploma in 1998, which was a long enough time ago that thinking about it makes me a little uncomfortable. In some ways, I went through school in another reality than this one. My class sits on the border between the digital world and what my dad jokingly calls the “analog” world. I was well into high school before I got Internet access at home, and my family had to save money for quite a long time to be able to afford that computer. We also didn’t have the money to travel extensively; our vacations were family car trips from my home in Alabama to my grandparents’ home in Florida. My knowledge of other parts of the world, even other parts of my own country, was limited to what I read in books or picked up in class.

Though I didn’t really sense it at the time, my world was very small. The Diploma Programme (DP) was my first real introduction to learning about the world. It was the first time in my education that I was asked to seriously engage with viewpoints that weren’t American or European. Authors from Africa, historians from Brazil and Mexico and philosophers from Asia helped me think past the boundaries of my microcosm for the first time. For my extended essay, I dove deep into comparative politics, analyzing how one type of government played out in two separate cultures. I had my first taste of the whole wild world, and it was an amazing feeling. I never wanted to let that go.

“The DP invites you to be part of a community: a community of IB learners, yes, but also the community of people who recognize the value of one another’s perspectives.”

Now that I’m nearly 40 years old, I can trace a lot of the successes I’ve had in my life to that initial exposure to the world at large. You’ve heard a lot about the benefits that the DP brings to you and they are real. You learn to persevere, to analyze and to consider a broad range of viewpoints. You learn to look around a room and notice who’s not being included, and you’re equipped to bring as many perspectives to the table as you can. And when I finally got the opportunity to go abroad for the first time, traveling to my employer’s India office to meet colleagues and lead training courses, I felt equipped to responsibly and comfortably move through another culture. My work in the DP gave me a bedrock of cultural competence and an openness to new experiences that I may not have gained any other way.

There’s a joy in seeing the world for the broad, wide wonder it is. The DP invites you to be part of a community: a community of IB learners, yes, but also the community of people who recognize the value of one another’s perspectives. You become, to put it simply, a bigger thinker. You grow into your own creativity, your own sense of purpose in the broader world. IB left an indelible mark on me. I can’t wait to see what it does for you.

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Tara L. McCook is a graduate of Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama, USA.  She continued her studies at Christopher Newport University, Louisiana State University Paul M. Hebert Law Center, Georgetown University Law Center and George Mason University in the United States. She is a lawyer, curriculum strategist and trainer working in the public accounting industry, and in her spare time enjoys cross-stitching, writing and relaxing on the Alabama Gulf Coast. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.

To hear more from Diploma Programme (DP) graduates check out these IB programme stories. If you are an IB grad and want to share your story, write to us at alumni.relations@ibo.org. We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!

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