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Using the IB experience as a framework in life

We welcome Diploma Programme (DP) graduate Ayman Siraj of Kodaikanal International School to reflect on the value that creativity, activity, service (CAS) brings to your personal and professional life. This is his first story in the graduate voices series.

Using the IB experience as a framework in life
Images courtesy of Ayman Siraj.

By Ayman Siraj

“Employers are increasingly looking for candidates that are well rounded, can critically think and have character outside of work.”

We International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (DP) students spend two years studying harder than most high school students do. Three HLs, three SLs along with the DP core of theory of knowledge (TOK), extended essay (EE) and creativity, activity, service (CAS) are the aspects have to juggle. So, the question is how does all this translate to college and, furthermore, in life? In this IB Graduate Voices post, I want to give you tips to understand how CAS and other aspects of the DP can get set you up for success in college and post-college.

CAS is the aspect of the DP that I think makes it stand out. There’s a lot of students out there that want to just, “get over,” their CAS hours and often miss the bigger picture of personal and interpersonal learning. Personally, CAS shaped who I am today during my formative years of high school. How does this tie all into university and life? Well, if your goal post-university is to get a job—CAS will set you up for success! Why? Employers are increasingly looking for candidates that are well rounded, can critically think and have character outside of work. If you are looking to add something to life more than just your 9 to 5 grind, CAS will definitely do that.

Creativity

Creativity is what really will drive your success post-college. While I am not a 20-year-old veteran of the working world, I can say that in my one year of working this could not be more true. Whether we majored in psychology, economics or engineering many of us graduate and think we are ready to face the world. That thought was very true for me but the moment I stepped into corporate America, boy was that thought shattered. I was consistently thrown into ambiguous situations and assigned tasks of which I had never even attempted before. I clearly remember my first project as a full-time hire was to create fifteen-policy documents for a large corporation relating to various cybersecurity controls. Daunting you say?

“What that experience taught me was that if you have the determination, have an end goal in mind and put in the work to do your research—no task is unachievable”

At that moment, my mind shot back to my time in the DP, where I attended a boarding school on a secluded hill. My roommate, Bharath, was a huge car aficionado. Bharath one weekend had the idea that he wanted to build a go-kart from scratch. My natural reaction was, “I don’t have time for this man,” as I had made the decision to study 4 HLs, but each one of us had to be part of a creativity project to complete our CAS requirements. Anyways, fast forward a week and Bharath had convinced me and our friend, Rohan, that this was going to be our creativity project (caveat, Bharath & Rohan put more hours into this than I did—but group submission am I right?). Did we have previous experience building a go-kart? Absolutely not. Was our CAS coordinator going to even let us pursue this? The answer, after three nos and liability waiver forms signed by our parents, was finally yes. We spent the most part of the weekends in our senior year watching YouTube videos and scouring the local car junkyard for parts to build our go-kart.

What that experience taught me was that if you have the determination, have an end goal in mind and put in the work to do your research—no task is unachievable. I relate this back to my first work project because this is the experience my mind decided to recollect when I was trying to figure out how I would even go about a task that seemed so ambiguous.

Activity

“The routine that the activity component of CAS had put me in to during high school had stuck with me and I knew it was better for my long-term mental happiness”

ayman cricket 2

Most of us equate activity, or action back in my DP time, with physical education or sports. I am one of those people that loves a game of football (soccer for a certain foreign language) or cricket. I am also one of those people that will push sports down on my list when I have too much work. In high school, I played on our school’s cricket team and the occasional pick-up football game. We had to get in 50 activity hours logged per school year.

Now that I think of it, if that wasn’t a requirement I probably wouldn’t have tried out for our cricket team. Did my extra time commitment to sports cost me a point or two in my final DP score, it probably did. Do I regret that? No, because it kept my mind fresh and energized.

Fast forward to university—I made it a point to play in my university’s cricket league on Friday nights to keep activity in my life. I was taking six classes consistently and working an on-campus job, so I barely had time to waste an hour. However, the routine that the activity component of CAS had put me in to during high school had stuck with me and I knew it was better for my long-term mental happiness that I was investing in by playing the sports I loved. I try to do the same as a working professional—it’s harder because I travel Monday through Thursday for work, but I’ve found a weekend only football league recently! It’s also a great way to make new friends when you move to a new city.

Service

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

This topic brings a strong sense of mixed feelings to my mind. Service is great. However, as DP students we are very privileged. Now that I reflect on my service growing up, a lot of it was the token, “day of service,” event where everyone did some sort of clean-up, clothing drive, etc. We took pictures and went home with the thought of we had done our part. I was fortunate enough to go to an IB school that encouraged us to think about how we can improve the community around us and not just take service as something that was a requirement to tick off. I personally didn’t take service as seriously back then and I do regret it.

Some of my friends carried out amazing service projects relating to creating a butterfly zone in the school, installing cooking stoves in homes around the school, etc. As an adult, I somehow started to think more about what giving back to the community meant and that is something that I should actively think about as a privileged member of society. In thinking about this blog, a quote my CAS coordinator Mr. Varghese told me back in high school, “think local, act global,” came to mind. I didn’t understand what it meant back then but now I sort of understand. I recently started volunteering with an organization that teaches English to refugees and new immigrants to America. It’s a very fulfilling experience and bring brings back the immigrant experience back full circle to me.

Whatever stage in life you’re at right now—school, university or working professional—I’d highly recommend to always aim to incorporate creativity, activity, service as a recurring aspect of your life. In school, it’ll help to keep you engaged. At university, it’ll help you stand out to employers when you mention all the extra-curricular activities you partake in and once you start working it’ll keep you sane!

Ayman 600

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 PricewaterhouseCoopers as a Cybersecurity consultant since graduating from USC. On weekends, you are likely to find him playing football (soccer), aimlessly scrolling through memes on social media or missing being home in Bangladesh. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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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