“At any level of education, adjusting to online learning, remote interactions with classmates and the overwhelming uncertainty that has accompanied the pandemic are all shared experiences to which we can all relate”.
Over the last year, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to meditate on how the IB has helped shape me into the person I am today. Not only have I had the opportunity to contribute to the IB Graduate Voices series and joined the, “Thinking About Day One”, podcast series to discuss the effects of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic on students, but I’ve also spent ample time staying connected with the next cohorts of IB graduates. As I navigate my second year of university, I continue to interact a lot with students who are still in the midst of their IB studies, from high school all the way down to the Middle Years Programme (MYP). In my conversations with them, I often end up talking about how IB shaped the way I see the world and reflect on the way I learned to contemplate the global issues based on my life experiences and education.
Taking a moment to reflect on the single biggest impact that my time in IB left on me, one of the most universal lessons that I carried with me from my IB classes to university was the ability to see the world as my classroom. That is, after all, one of the primary takeaways from an IB education. We go through IB learning not just how to be at our best as scholars but also, perhaps most importantly, as global citizens. We learn to be the leaders of the world that we are soon to inherit from our parents and teachers.
Like a lot of life’s biggest lessons, it’s not always clear how we’ll be called upon to put what we’ve learned to use. The pandemic is something that none of us could have predicted would impact the entire world in such enormous, and potentially irreversible, ways. It has, in many senses, entirely redefined what we see as normal life. For students, transitioning to an almost totally reimagined form of school has been far from easy. At any level of education, adjusting to online learning, remote interactions with classmates and the overwhelming uncertainty that has accompanied the pandemic are all shared experiences to which we can all relate.
“Helping to create a better and more peaceful world, especially when working ourselves back to normal, is a job that the entire globe is engaged in”.
The difficulty of such a massively unexpected upheaval in our lives is no small thing. As with any obstacle that we encounter in our lives, it’s important to see the opportunities lying among the trials and tribulations. These changes are, in some ways, glimpses of the future world that we will be responsible for as the youth and the next generation of leaders. As more of our lives are tied to electronics, we’re seeing, earlier than we likely anticipated, what our jobs might look like in an increasingly virtual world and how we have to challenge ourselves to stay connected with ourselves and each other when communicating remotely. Although we’ve somewhat been tossed into the deep end, as IB learners, the IB learner profile traits that we’ve learned to internalize and demonstrate—like reflectiveness, open-mindedness, general resourcefulness and curiosity to learn—can allow us to grow from our challenges.
To this year’s IB students: You’re learning how to complete your studies in a drastically different way than I did. But if there’s anything that I can promise you, being over a year removed from my time in IB, it is that as you adapt and learn how to continue thriving despite the unique ways in which the pandemic has affected you, you’re actively learning to respond to the most demanding scenario the world could throw at you. You’re demonstrating, to yourself and others, that the obstacles that you face and overcome end up being your assets. They will attest to your ability to exemplify everything that it means to be an IB learner. Knowing how much I learned and grew as an IB student in simpler times, I can only imagine and admire how you are able to put those traits to practice in as extreme a setting as possible. Being a reflective, caring, open-minded, balanced, knowledgeable, inquiring, communicative, principled, caring, risk-taking thinker is an amazing thing during the best of days, but it’s especially important in times like these.
Helping to create a better and more peaceful world, especially when working ourselves back to normal, is a job that the entire globe is engaged in. It is the ultimate example of being a global citizen. We should all be excited to see how the upcoming generations of IB learners can unite under common humanity and guardianship of the world, and how we can make the most out of the monumental changes to our lives. Being students of the world at large and finding the lessons and possibilities in our experiences is how we set the ideas that are waiting to be released from our minds free; it’s how we have a voice and have the impacts that we want to have. Good luck with your future endeavors, and I am excited to see what you all do!
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. You can connect with her on LinkedIn here.
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