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Graduate Voices throughout 2020

Graduate Voices throughout 2020

IB alumni from around the world share their stories throughout the year as part of our Graduate Voices series. They give advice to current students, reflect on their DP experience and share their accomplishments & adventures since graduation. They follow in the footsteps of our 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 contributors. This story will grow as the year continues, check back for more!

Expanding education

Stories and advice from IB alumni that focus on higher education: Attending university or post-university studies and other educational paths.

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“IB isn’t just compatible with lives outside of the classroom. It’s arguably, at its core, all about finding just as much value and untapped knowledge in our lives outside of school as we do in school”.

Shreya Mahasenan is a graduate of Hillcrest High School in Midvale, Utah, United States. She is currently an undergraduate student at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, majoring in anatomy and cell biology and minoring in political science. When she’s not studying, you can usually find her playing hockey (on an outdoor rink if possible!), playing guitar or listening to podcasts.

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“I was fortunate enough to go to an IB school that encouraged us to think about how we can improve the community”

Ayman Siraj is a graduate of Kodaikanal International School, Tamil Nadu, India. He continued his studies at the University of Southern California (USC) in the United States. He has been working at PWC as a cybersecurity consultant. On weekends, you are likely to find him playing football (soccer), aimlessly scrolling through memes on social media or missing being home in Bangladesh.

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Marina Martinez-Garcia

Seeking experts; inquiries welcome

“You have to be prepared for uncertainty, there are many things that we still don’t know (and that’s why we keep researching)”

Marina Martinez-Garcia is a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School. She earned her BSc in Biology and MSc in Genetics and Cellular Biology at Complutense University of Madrid (Spain) and PhD in Biosciences at the University of Birmingham (UK). She investigates the regulation of chromosome dynamics during meiosis, the cellular division that produces sperm and egg critical for fertility and lives in Boston, where she enjoys its theatre and music scene.

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“I had so much positive influence from wonderful people who validated my potential and helped me practice becoming confident.”

Ishanaz Bahar is the founder and CEO of Kokusaba Learning Partners. She studies Economics at Waseda University in Tokyo, where she can be found organizing ensembles and musicals or singing with the Waseda New Orleans Jazz Club. On off-days, you will find her hunting for her next favorite cafe in Tokyo or singing her lungs out on long distance drives.

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“The IB will teach you to never take things at face value, to dig deep and figure out why something is the way it is.”

Saloni More is a first-year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. When she’s not stressing over memorising medical conditions and drugs, you can find her curled up with a book or running around the park, away from life’s troubles. 

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“The real measure of a moral virtue is how we use the opportunities we’ve been given to benefit those who were deprived of them.”

Marcel Bandur is a Research Associate at the National University of Singapore (NUS). Currently, he is also pursuing a part-time MBA Degree at the NUS Business School. He completed his IB diploma at Regents International School in Pattaya, Thailand in 2008. His passion is volunteering for socially disadvantaged groups, especially migrants and minorities.

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“Thanks to IB I am defined by my strengths”

Langelihle Ndiweni completed her IB diploma at Westwood International School in Botswana in 2014. Langelihle continued her education by attaining a B.A. in communication science the University of the Free State in South Africa in 2017. She is currently working in her home country of Zimbabwe in a medical aid society as a Graduate Trainee Business Creation. She loves being creative and spends her weekends trying out different foods.

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“The IB encourages us to be open-minded and caring beings”.

Maja Johansson Hedstroem is an IB graduate of Katedralskolan in Uppsala, Sweden. After achieving her 44-point diploma, she decided to take a gap year to explore several countries before pursuing a degree in law at Uppsala University. Besides learning more about new cultures, Maja also has a keen interest in history as well as writing and loves being on court for a good game of tennis.


“It can be easy to forget how fortunate we are to receive such an impactful educational experience”

Lino Kessel is a graduate of the Felix Klein Gymnasium in Göttingen, Germany. He is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in international management at the Berlin School of Economics and Law. His studies have allowed him to live for an extensive time in both Mexico and the United States. On weekends, you are likely to find him at brunch.

Why a gap year might be a good fit for you

“If it weren’t for my gap year, I probably wouldn’t have known that I have a hidden passion for entrepreneurship”

Sanad Battikhi is a graduate of Asamiah International School in Amman, Jordan. He took a gap year after finishing high school, and he will be studying architecture at Cardiff University—Wales, United Kingdom. During his gap year, Sanad attended several workshops and courses in business, marketing and entrepreneurship, which grew his interest in that field. A few months later, Sanad pitched his startup idea (Food Saver App) to local venture capitals.

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““Students’ meaningful and active participation in their concept-based learning was the turning point for success in all areas of education”

Rebecca Vasconcelos is an international teacher, currently teaching in the Primary Years Programme (PYP). She completed the Middle Years Programme (MYP) at Shanghai Singapore International School in Shanghai—China, continued her studies in U.S. and Brazilian high schools and is now a Master in Education. When not involving her students in decisions about their learning through authentic inquiries, you may find her gathering friends for a game evening on weekends.

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“Because of the skills I learned when doing the IB, I entered university as an expert in writing academic essays, finding academic sources and doing citations”.

Hailing from New York, Tokyo and Singapore (it’s complicated), Lindsay Wong is a history and Asian studies double major at the University of Melbourne who has a passion for words and keen interest in journalism.

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“The potential for teaching moments and opportunities is vast and goes much deeper than merely following the school curriculum”.

Safa Shahkhalili lived and studied in five countries before graduating from Jakarta International School in Indonesia. She has worked on various international development research projects and is the founder and host of the “Rethinking Development Podcast”.

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“Living abroad allows you to broaden your horizons”

Alfred Cueva graduated from Colegio Mayor Secundario Presidente. He aspires to pursue academic research and obtain a PhD degree in mechanical engineering focusing on applied soft materials. When he is not reading a good book, you are likely to find him playing basketball with friends, trying new food, programming or appreciating nature.

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“IB reconstructed my idea of what it’s like to have a quality education”

Sobina Yu is currently a college freshman taking up biomedical engineering because she believes that physics, mathematics and engineering have the power to improve the current medical treatment and diagnosis being given to patients. Most importantly, she has strong advocacy on different social and environmental issues, most especially those that concern the human rights and access to quality education. Lastly, she hopes to one day be an astronaut and has a passion for space medicine.

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“Since all IB teachers are language teachers, all of us are responsible for students’ communication skills and commitment to academic integrity”.

Cecilia Villavicencio is a Diploma Programme (DP) graduate from Instituto Santa Brígida in Buenos Aires―Argentina. In 2006 she became IB staff, in charge of the DP evaluation process in all American schools. In 2013, she became the DP coordinator at Colegio Internacional SEK-Ciudalcampo in Madrid―Spain. At present, she is head of academics at Colegio San Ignacio in Río Cuarto―Argentina.

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“When you’re on your own … know you’ll always be that IB student―reflective, restored and reassured”.

Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Mythili Zatakia is a professional dancer and entrepreneurfounder of the SHOUT Network, an independent network for creatives and writers. Mythili received her IB diploma while pursuing her love of sports and the arts at the B.D. Somani International School, India.

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“I marvel at the teaching and learning opportunities available to students and teachers through my experience in the MYP and DP continuum”

Sarah Clancy graduated from International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, U.S. She studied English and German at Kalamazoo College and holds an MEd in teaching and an MS in restorative practices. Sarah has taught at her alma mater since 2009, where she taught MYP and DP literature and currently coordinates service learning and CAS. She’s a reader of fiction, yoga practitioner and happiest on a beach. 

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“IB values and ethics were lived and taught everyday through a student lifestyle that put the local perspective first.”

Inaara is a journalism, media, and integrated marketing communications undergraduate at Northwestern University, due to graduate in the spring of 2021. She is a third-generation Tanzanian of Indian origin and draws on her identity for inspiration in her work. She is interested in the global south, women’s issues, and is especially driven by research and ingenuity.

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“Stumbling across the draft theory of knowledge (TOK) essay made for a bit of reminiscing but it also came at an opportune moment”.

Ruth Holt is an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and works in the banking industry. She holds a degree from Cardiff University in English Literature (BA (Hons)) and completed the IB programme at Dartford Grammar School for Girls in 2006. Ruth is a mum to larger-than-life one-year-old, with whom she is learning Makaton.

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“While every experience is different, getting a concrete sense of what life is like in a place can be one of the most helpful factors in making your decision”.

Ana Ghiban is a graduate of Shanghai American School, China and Leiden University College (LUC) in The Hague. Ana is currently getting her Master’s degree in International Development Studies research at the University of Amsterdam. She plans to conduct her thesis fieldwork in Romania, her home country, where she hopes to bring the transitional experiences of post-socialist Europe into the field of international development. When she is not studying, Ana loves exploring semi-obscure Dutch and other destinations, both physically and more recently through Google Earth.

Building careers

Stories and advice from IB alumni who are pursuing their passions & careers in many fields and have different levels of experience.

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“After graduating from the IB programme in Warsaw, there was this eagerness to explore exciting areas but also keep an open mind.”

Klaudia Ofwona Draber is the executive director and curator at KODA, an arts nonprofit based in NYC. Connect with KODA on Instagram here. She completed MA in Art Business at the Sotheby’s Institute of Art New York and MSc in Economics at the Warsaw School of Economics, with a focus on the art market. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she enjoys trips to the ocean and walks in Prospect Park

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“While there are stories that need to be shared and audiences that actively seek them—we have to explore and do so with immediacy to reflect current events as they happen”

Liezl Bitas is a graduate of British School Manila in Manila, Philippines. She is currently majoring Film Production in California State University, Northridge, where she learns to further hone her craft as a filmmaker and screenwriter. Since 2018, she has also been a writer for the university’s online publication, CSUN Today.

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“Though making choices can be daunting at times, I have become a lot more intentional in appreciating my privilege in having my options”.

Brent Liang is a graduate of Shanghai High School, International Division, Shanghai, China. He continued his studies at the University of Sydney in Australia. He is a 3x student founder and a Chancellor’s Scholar. On weekends, you are likely to find him obsessing over Mac Miller’s music.

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“VR in remote patient monitoring is an exciting development and one that should be carefully thought about prior to widespread adoption”

John Christy Johnson is an M.Sc. biomedical engineering candidate at the University of Alberta Rehabilitation Robotics Lab with a background in physiology and neuroscience. His thesis project incorporates elements of telerehabilitation, virtual reality, and wheelchair biomechanics.

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“The fears that I once experienced were valid but at the same time, I wish someone told me that everything was going to be okay and that I did not need to be so worried”

Rachel Tseng is a graduate of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) in Singapore. She is currently completing her final year at Northwestern University in the United States where she is majoring in neuroscience and minoring in chemistry. Outside of classes, you are likely to find her doing research or cooking at home.

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“I believe it’s vital that schools and parents work together in partnership to teach kids on gentle self-soothing and stress management techniques that students of all ages can use to cope”

Eleni Vardaki is part of the minority of DP teachers who have experienced the programme from the perspective of a student. She completed her IB diploma at the Anglo-American School of Moscow in 2004. In 2010, she received her Master’s in Education from the University of Cambridge, and since then she has worked as a classroom teacher, workshop leader, middle manager and virtual youth mentor.

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“You are equipped with the skills, the agency and the power to be as successful as you desire”.

Victor Scotti, Jr. is a graduate of Morgan Park High School in Chicago, IL. He continued his studies at The University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. He is the Founder & President of the Scotti Scholarship Foundation, Inc., a not-for-profit scholarship fund for deserving Black undergraduate students in the United States. Victor is also a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

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“It is important to listen to your environment, to engage in your local community and to find your stance in their world”.

Tammy Gaibrois is a graduate of John R. Lewis High School, in Springfield, Virginia, U.S. She continued her education at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. She is now taking a sabbatical from her career as a landscape architect to raise her two children in Denver, Colorado. She is a supporter of independent artists, writers and public policy advocates. She loves to follow new creatives and organizations.

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“I was able to make unique friendships and connections, which I would not be able to make in my home country”.

Zaneta Marcinik is a graduate of Steinmetz College Prep High School in Chicago, Illinois, U.S. She is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She moved to the United States from Poland in 2013. She loves working with people. In her free time, she bikes and reads philosophy or psychology books.

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And in this time spent alone, in enough stillness, you might learn that you like to color outside the lines on printed pictures. And that structure is confinement”.

Ashleigh Fields is a graduate of East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, U.S. She continued her studies at Howard University in the United States. She is an honor’s journalism major and political science minor. On weekends, you are likely to find her running track.


“What I want to do is challenge the norm of the urban environment as the most important, or even single, place for development”.

Linnea Huhta is a millennial and DP graduate of Björknäsgymnasiet in 2009. She is a polyglot, author and also serves as the administrative director and head of unit for the municipality of Pajala, Sweden. She contributes to the development on revitalizing the minority language of Meänkieli. You might hear her voice on the air as host of a podcast soon available at or reciting poetry through her business, “Words by Huhta.” 

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“Those who are able to recognize and understand the inner workings of people are perhaps the true thinkers of society”

Anum is a writer, editor and an empathy & compassion cultivation facilitator. With roots in India, Pakistan, the Middle East and Canada, she is passionate about the fluid interrelation of cultures and perspectives and is a strong advocate of social justice and reform. Her work is rooted in the belief of a metaphysical alignment of the core human values of empathy and compassion. Anum studied political science and history at the University of Toronto.

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“My research, from feminism to censorship, and all the academic conferences, where I presented my research, would ultimately feed into my curatorial practice”

Lenette Lua is a creative producer whose practice spans across curating, collaborating, researching and translating. As a graduate from the Royal College of Art in 2020, she is the founder and curator of Transparent Domain ( that explores the possibility of participatory and collaborative social practice in reconciliation with the self, others, nature and wider environment. 

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“Leading a student group represents a unique opportunity to supplement your in-class learning and effect positive change on fellow students and your institution”.

Liam D’Souza is a graduate of the IB Diploma Programme (DP) at Turner Fenton Secondary School in Canada. He completed a B.A.Sc. in Engineering Science at the University of Toronto and is currently working in software consulting. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball and volunteering as an editor for an undergraduate scientific journal

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 We appreciate your support in sharing IB stories and invite you to connect with us on LinkedIn, Twitter and now Instagram!