When I first embarked on my IB diploma journey, I was intimidated! I had heard the stories that previous IB students had shared with me about the program and its demands. What the alumni failed to mention during their stories, was how the IB diploma molded them into who they were and showed them their strengths in life.
The 17-year-old me thought that I would barely manage by taking six subjects including theory of knowledge (TOK), participating in creativity, activity, service (CAS) and writing the extended essay. After procrastinating for two weeks about whether or not to do the DP, I went to my school and registered. The IB coordinator was as surprised as I was that I had come back and decided to do the program after my initial resistance towards having to take on so much.
As I registered, the big question came up: diploma or certificate. My mind processed certificate but my mouth said diploma. So, there I was, an IB diploma student.
“It was up to me to define the type of student I wanted to be”
I took a deep breath and decided that I was in a new country, a new school and new learning curriculum and it was up to me to define the type of student I wanted to be. I knew I was dyslexic and learned early on in my academic journey and knew not to compete with others but rather to challenge myself.
I began to go to class and was pleasantly surprised. The IB curriculum was demanding but had a different approach to learning. We were taught to understand rather than be required to recite what we learned. I found my first year of IB challenging but manageable. I was getting the required grades each term in order to qualify for a diploma. I was pleased.
When year two came, the pressure increased. I understood now why the alumni I met had told us those stories of late nights trying to juggle all their coursework. I soon began to understand that I could not cope without regular visits to the educational psychologist on our campus. I found myself there two to three times a week expressing how overwhelmed I was and how I was failing to keep up with the work load and, as a result, grasp a lot of concepts. The educational psychologist helped me by providing me with extra material with a breakdown for the topics I failed to understand. I was taught to list my work, prioritize and set timelines for how long it would take me to complete the work. My educational psychologist also coordinated with my teachers to help me keep up with work at my own pace. Although I felt as if I was barely making it through, I was still getting more than the minimum requirement for a diploma.
Was I succeeding or failing? I was in fact, on the edge of a discovery. Shortly after this, choosing my TOK topic became my “Aha! moment.’’ I was able to find my strengths in life: I am creative, and I am good at research; once I apply both, I am confident I can present anything. It happened like this:
“Thanks to IB I am defined by my strengths”
My frenemie, the TOK final presentation, was coming up and I had always been one of the more reserved pupils in my class. I struggled with my presentations and could never reply back to the questions asked. My classmates were confident, they spoke up and backed up their opinions. I handed in my first draft but was not satisfied. I barely had an argument and wrote an essay on PowerPoint rather than creating a proper presentation. The weekend before my final draft was due I was watching TV and saw the LGBTQ+ community being discussed. It hit me—why don’t I make my TOK presentation about LGBT rights in Africa? I had a passion for LGBTQ+ rights, understood the issue and knew how aspects such as culture and religion gave people different reasons for the way they dealt with the LGBTQ+ community.
My passion for human rights and culture led me to research on the way the LGBTQ+ communities were treated around Africa, it also led me to look at the way in which Western Countries reacted to the treatment. My conclusion dealt with human rights and how everyone has freedom of expression, and how others freedom of expressions may conflict with others beliefs. It didn’t seem like a big change but being able to choose a topic that interested me really helped me focus my creative and research skills. Changing topics also made me feel more at ease during my presentation since I was able to dive deeper into this topic I already had tons of background knowledge on.
Learning to define my own strengths and interests, then incorporating them into my work, allowed me to approach my studies with a newfound sense of confidence. Through identifying my strengths and passion, I was able to pave the path for my tertiary education. I completed the program and earned my IB diploma. I went on to university and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Communication and Marketing. I currently work in my home country as a Graduate Trainee Business Creation and still reap the benefits of my time in the IB.
Thanks to IB I am defined by my strengths, time management and ability to remain consistent.
Langelihle Ndiweni completed her IB diploma at Westwood International School in Botswana in 2014. Langelihle continued her education by attaining a Bachelor of Arts Communication Science with specialization in Corporate and Marketing Communication at the University of the Free State in South Africa in 2017. She is currently working at in her home country Zimbabwe in a medical aid society as a Graduate Trainee Business Creation. She loves being creative and spends her weekends trying out different foods. You can reach her on LinkedIn to get an IB survival tips.