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Fireside chat unites generations of 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 Rya Buckley who recently attended a “fireside chat” at her alma mater, St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Canada to help transition DP candidates.

Student meeting in library - Teamwork

By Rya Buckley

“It is inspirational to speak with someone who is further along your trajectory, especially in the midst of confusion and stress about upcoming life decisions.”

Looking ahead to future education and careers is intimidating and complicated. Whether you’re a young student entering the Diploma Programme (DP), a soon-to-be alumni considering post-secondary options or reaching the end of your education, navigating transitions is easier with guidance. This was the ideology behind the first annual fireside chat at St. Francis Xavier Secondary School on February 21, 2019.

The fireside chat was a collaborative project between four current DP students and the IB coordinators, David Cvetan and Eugene Ladna. These four students, all in Year 1 or Year 2, took on the organization of this event as their CAS project. They wanted to address the fears of incoming students who might have been misinformed about the program. “In grade nine, we didn’t know a lot about IB. All we knew about IB was that you to have to study,” said one of the student organizers as he introduced himself and the rationale behind the event.

The idea behind the event was to give students entering the DP a chance to speak with alumni about their experiences. The event also gave DP students a chance to learn more about the rest of the program and ask questions about university and careers.

Cvetan and Ladna reached out to alumni that had graduated up to six years ago. The alumni that were able to attend represented various years. The oldest graduated their DP in 2013 and the youngest had graduated in 2018. The graduates, all of whom were still pursuing their education, had fields of study ranging from medicine to engineering to business.

“In grade nine, we didn’t know a lot about IB. All we knew about IB was that you to have to study.”—Fireside chat organizer and current DP student

Each period, a different grade of students joined the alumni and teachers in the library, where the fireside chat was held. The students and an alumnus gathered at small tables to discuss students’ questions. The alumni switched tables to share their insights with the greatest number of students.

The range of conversation varied with the grade of the students. Grade nine students primarily wondered whether the program was for them and had logistical questions about the grading system, class schedule and workload. Grade 10 students, on the brink of entering the DP, were thinking more seriously about the benefits and challenges of the programme. The DP candidates’ questions focused on post-secondary programs and student life.

All years were thinking ahead to determine how their education will be able to support their career aspirations. However, the discussions were not purely academic. Many students had questions about extracurricular activities, friendships, living in university accommodation and applying for scholarships.

Students also inquired about the benefits of the DP. In introducing themselves, each alumnus stated one benefit of the DP. Benefits included improved stress management, time management and content consolidation. “One of the benefits was really the relationships that I formed in the IB Programme,” one alumnus said.

In the lunchtime debrief, the alumni agreed that the lesson they wanted to convey was that failure is okay. All the students were stressed about their grades and it was important to the alumni to note that failure is a part of every journey and not a roadblock to a future goal. One alumnus shared that she attempted to get into medical school three times before she succeeded.

The fireside chat highlights the importance of mentorship and alumni-student interaction. It is safe to say that nearly every student learned at least one new thing by asking their questions and hearing about different experiences. It is inspirational to speak with someone who is further along your trajectory, especially in the midst of confusion and stress about upcoming life decisions. With their different academic backgrounds and ages, the alumni gave students a representative image of life after IB.

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Rya Buckley is a graduate of St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Canada and continued her studies at McMaster University. She is a Biology and Psychology major with a love of reading and writing.

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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