The reflections of a graduating IB senior

Photo by Suad Kamardeen on Unsplash

By Katie Ryu

In May of my sophomore year of high school, I received an email of congratulations. Seventy students, including myself, were invited to join the eighth cohort of International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme students at Granada Hills Charter (GHC).

I knew that if I joined, I would be making a commitment to a two-year program, one with a distinct set of requirements and expectations. IB Diploma students take six IB subject courses plus Theory of Knowledge, a compulsory core subject. The Creativity, Activity, and Service (CAS) Project is another unique element that students must complete and pass, entailing sustained engagement in a long-term, substantial service project that makes a positive impact. I also expected a significant amount of writing in the form of assessments, lab reports, and the critical Extended Essay (EE): an independent piece of research that culminates with a 4,000-word paper externally assessed by IB examiners.

Ultimately, I accepted my spot in the cohort. Now, two years later, I will be graduating as a member of IB Cohort 8.

It certainly wasn’t without a fair share of challenges–especially during senior year, which was characterized by the EE as well as multiple Internal Assessments on specific subjects that took the form of essays, commentaries, or oral presentations. Having seven classes can also take a toll. This year, many of my classmates are even taking Theory of Knowledge as an eighth-period class. IB is many things, but it wouldn’t be fair to describe it as easy. This is a program that is academically rigorous and known for its workload. 

That said, I believe it’s worth the effort it demands. I’m nearly finished with the program, and despite the struggle, I don’t regret it. I joined because I wanted to learn and challenge myself, and I accomplished both of those things.

“The IB program and curriculum are all about inquiry and in-depth, concept-based learning,” IB Coordinator Sean Lewis said. “We are far less concerned with how many facts you can memorize than we are with how well you can ask questions and seek answers.”

IB at GHC, in particular, also has some incredible benefits, the teachers being one of them. These teachers are exceptionally passionate, understanding people who know the IB curriculum unbelievably well. They do all they can to help their students succeed. In my many years of schooling, my IB teachers stand out to me for being some of the best teachers I’ve had the honor of learning from. 

Additionally, there is something so appealing about being a part of a relatively small academic program. It’s definitely not for everyone, as some students prefer to interact with different students in different classes, but I liked how there was some sense of community–one forged from shared struggles, classes, and understandings.

IB workshop days also contributed to that. In years past, prior to the shift to distance learning, IB students would enjoy the privilege of designated workshop days where they would spend the entire school day in Rawley Hall or even Highlander Hall. The day would be filled with various activities and assignments, reflections, time to work on CAS, and so on. But this was also a unique occasion in which nearly all of the cohort would be together in one place. I can recall fond memories of sharing study music, splitting assorted snacks, and collectively pushing through assigned tasks. This year, the workshops transitioned over to Zoom and Google Meets to take place after classes.

This program also allowed me to meet some very remarkable people. I don’t think my peers are necessarily the way they are as a direct result of IB, but I do know that the program united us in a way that encouraged growing closer and bettering ourselves with one another’s support.

“IB students are curious above all else, and they are community-minded,” Lewis said. “I feel like I’m lucky to work with some of the most amazing young people in the state of California, period.”

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the sense of accomplishment IB brings nearing the end of it all. Completing the EE, the Internal Assessments, CAS, and all the other classwork feels almost surreal looking back. It certainly felt impossible at the time, a herculean task that bordered on absurdity. 

Obviously, it wasn’t. But it was difficult enough that I gained a sense of pride thinking of what was achieved. 

“I’ve watched every single student in all ten cohorts grow and mature as a result of their experiences in the IB program,” IB mathematics teacher Anais Arteaga said. This is Arteaga’s tenth year of teaching IB, having taught it for two years at a different school before coming to GHC. 

 IB is what you make it, and it is in many ways an opportunity for growth, challenge, and furthering one’s goals. I’m grateful to be a member of Cohort Eight, and I’m grateful I chose IB.

“IB isn’t easy, and we missed out on a lot of fun IB activities because of quarantine this year,” senior Sydney Perkins said. “However, I think that there were a lot of lessons that have accumulated over the past years that I am just starting to realize. I wouldn’t change the last two years and I will graduate with no regrets.”