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Learning for life

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

By Tsering Asha Leba

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Tsering Asha Leba is a graduate of John G. Diefenbaker High School.

As I write this blog post, I have just completed several tasks for my first ever online course that began today. It’s free, it’s a personal interest, and it only requires my iPhone to participate. I graduated with my BA a little over a year ago, but I am not yet ready (in many ways), to go back to the institution of postsecondary education. That doesn’t mean I’m not ready to learn, though.

In 2009, I graduated with a certificate from the IB Diploma Programme instead of the full diploma. During high school I began to notice my mind and habits weren’t jiving well with my course load. I dropped IB courses like flies, until all I had remaining were English and History.

While content wasn’t difficult to understand, I had never learnt actual study skills, or, as I began to realize as an adult, I had never learnt my individual learning style. Like many of my peers, I had coasted through primary and secondary school on natural ability/luck/raw intellect, whatever you’d like to call it. I had been able to get above average grades without truly learning to fail, and so I was never identified as a student who needed to be taught how to study, or how to learn, by either myself, my parents or my teachers.

These issues increased throughout my years at university, and that anxiety of questioning my abilities, my intelligence, or my place in the world, could have been prevented had I been exposed to and educated in a system that promoted individualized learning and individuality, period.

When I was finally ready to accept that I wasn’t learning like everyone else, and opened myself up to “learning how to learn”, despite being more than half way through a degree, I eventually achieved those A’s and 3.0’s that I was always “supposed” to be getting, not to mention peace of mind and a greater understanding of myself as a person and a student.

“That’s the way it’s done” was a phrase I threw out of my vocabulary and I began to enjoy the new unique qualities and habits I was adopting. By breaking down the false assumption that I wasn’t really intelligent if I had to access help, or if it took me longer to get that grade that my peers could gain easily, or even a grade that I could have gained easily once upon a time, I was much more in control of my learning journey. I discarded many traditional methods that I was taught since childhood, and created my own personalized toolbox of skills, techniques, and habits.

Today, students are being educated, trained, and taught to live in a world that is unpredictable; for jobs that could be obsolete by the time they graduate. This rapid change, combined with unprecedented access to information, provides an opportune moment to ask ourselves some serious questions about educational reform, starting with our own experiences.

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Graduation day at the University of Calgary.

The students who make up an IB cohort are high-achieving and motivated folk, but the pressure to do well in school, to be well-rounded in your community, and the other 1 million tasks you’re trying to balance as a 17 year old, can distract and dissuade you from accepting that sometimes you need to take the road less travelled. You need to work at your own pace. Luckily, university is about the exploration of your mind, your ideas, and yourself. It would only be in your favour to locate student services on your future campus. It is absolutely rewarding to discover other ways of learning.

Be open to observing yourself, your habits, environment, and support systems and then ask yourself, how do I best learn? What do I need that would help me in my academic journey? How can the people around me be a part of my academic and personal success? If we expect that the educational systems that we participate in should be constantly evolving, changing, and helping shape our futures, we should have the same expectations of ourselves as students, and lifelong learners.

Tsering Asha Leba, from Calgary, Canada, graduated with an IB Certificate in 2009 and went on to complete her B.A. in Political Science at the University of Calgary. Tsering Asha is passionate about human rights, social justice movements, and international relations. During her degree she completed internships at the Parliament of Canada and volunteered in grassroots, international movements. In September 2015, Tsering Asha relocated to the UK with a two-year work visa to gain international experience for her career. She is excited to write and share stories about her experience as a recent IB programme graduate and explore the varied professions her fellow IB alumni find themselves in, years after completing the IB Diploma.

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