Beyond graduation

How a quick coffee changed the way I feel about my IB students stepping into the big wide world.

Of course, we had to take a selfie. Of course, we had to take a selfie.

If there is one thing guaranteed to make you feel your age, it is revisiting old university haunts. I was dismayed to find my halls of residence renamed, the teacher training programme discontinued, and worst of all, the weekly student night is now called “Klass”. I dislike misspelling at the best of times, but when the credibility of my education is at stake, I really do take exception.

Nevertheless, I was thrilled to be able to meet up with one of my former International Baccalaureate (IB) students for a coffee. A classic example of a third culture kid, Michelle was originally from Hong Kong, but grew up in Vietnam. I wondered how she had got on with university life in the UK. As we spoke, I was surprised to immediately hear echoes of her IB education. 

On arrival at the university, Michelle met some other students from Hong Kong, but they wanted to speak Cantonese in public. She did not feel comfortable with this, preferring the inclusivity of using English. International mindedness.

When Michelle thinks back to her school days, she now realises how much work it was for teachers to support her and the other students through the IB programme. Reflection. 

Her upcoming placement year will be spent living and working in Japan: she plans to learn the language and is keen to experience a new culture. Global citizenship.

She is volunteering regularly for a local charity which supports socially excluded people to build sustainable, independent lives. Service.

When one of her housemates fell ill for an extended period of time, Michelle looked after her. Caring.

Sometimes, she even misses the intensity of the IB workload. Time management. And, referencing? A breeze! Academic honesty.

Graduation season is now upon us and many a teacher will look at the sea of gowns, caps and smiling faces and wonder, “Are they really prepared for life beyond our sheltered international school community?” My conversation with Michelle has given me confidence that the IB truly develops internationally-minded, respectful, capable and compassionate global citizens.

As we watch our students graduate later this month, let us take a moment to remember that we are shaping the adults of tomorrow, and, of that, we should be proud.

I thank Michelle for allowing me to share her thoughts and her photograph. For the record, she is an excellent speller.