This is how it began: parents and students milling about the corridors on a sweltering day in the midst of Indian summer, tension simmering palpably. Teachers ushered us into the auditorium, clearly excited for the presentation that was to come. The room felt larger, grander than it had ever seemed before, as though it had expanded to suit the importance of the occasion.
When I was first introduced to the International Baccalaureate, I was a 10th grader eager to get a head start on the IAs and essays and presentations that lay ahead. This was in part owed to the fact that, in India, we had a sparse array of selections to choose from with regards to 11th-12th grade curricula, and IB seemed incredibly distinctive compared to the monotony of CBSE or the intense focus of A-levels.
Really, though, the reason I chose IB wasn’t for all of the college-prep that was promised by seemingly omniscient seniors. It was because, for me, IB was a place where I could reconcile my diverse interests and study them as they intersected. Though I knew even then that I planned to pursue a career as an artist, I never had to shy away from maths, or the sciences in the IB (as is so often the case in other curricula). In my Math IA, I was able to use mathematics to quantify the beauty of a beloved architect’s buildings, allowing me to appreciate his works from a different dimension of understanding. In my EE, I integrated Visual Arts and History for an essay where I was able to study the effects of a globalized culture on a local art form, despite our school having little experience in both subjects, because IB gifted me the ability—and confidence—to do so.
At its best, IB is flexible and versatile. It allows you to map your needs onto the subjects it offers: it enabled me to sidle up to science students and talk about astrophysics and then turn to a humanities instructor and engage in a lengthy discussion about indigenous literature. With IB, I could be ambitious: taking HLs in Math and Physics and complementing them with HLs in Art and English. I especially reveled in the fact that I could not be ‘boxed’ into one category.
Simultaneously, IB manages to be grounded in the community. It gives you the ability to alternate between global occurrences and local happenings through CAS and your research projects. It gives you the strength and the space to pursue your interests, even if that sometimes means gambling with your grades in the name of rolling your sleeves up and getting your hands dirty to learn something new.
Even so, my time in IB was imperfect: the program sometimes seemed understaffed and there were infrastructural and administrative difficulties. Yet, the best thing about the IB is that the majority of the experience depended on me; ultimately, it was those classes I had the most fun in, where I risked everything and experimented and challenged my teachers to think bigger, that were the most rewarding. They are the reason my IB experience is a treasured one.