What the IB taught me, and how I settled in a new country

Posted on 27th Jul 2017 in International Students, International Baccalaureate, United Kingdom

Martina Ghinetti, a former student of Impington Village College in the UK, writes about her experience of the IB...

The continuous headlines, dominated by A Levels, have made me reminisce about my time in sixth form. I am originally from Italy and, rather unconventionally, moved to the UK without my parents to pursue my sixth form studies. I stayed with a host family in Cambridge and attended Impington Village College, an IB World School. At 16 years old, it was a little bit of a culture shock, but I found it extremely exciting.

I knew I would want to go to university abroad and to be able to travel using my degree, and didn’t feel confident that Italian universities provided enough opportunities for undergraduates in terms of professional development. For the same reason, upon moving to the UK, I decided to follow an IB education rather than A Levels because unlike IB, I had never heard of A Levels so didn’t think they would be internationally recognised. Not only did moving to the UK at 16 open my eyes to the world around me but the international perspective of the DP gave me a real passion for traveling the world and made me extremely inquisitive about other cultures.

Before leaving Italy, my school transitioned from offering GCSEs to the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP), which prepared me for the high standards of learning that the DP requires. Even though IB programmes are intense, the DP in particular prepares you so for higher education. The majority of the people on my degree course studied three A Levels and now struggle with the amount of work – especially the level of independent study – that is expected. As I had so many on-going projects throughout my IB studies, I learnt time management skills and how to prioritise my workload, as well as other key competencies, which obviously help me at university, but will help me in the world of work too.

My application to university was rather stress-free, and I found that universities in the UK appreciated the breadth of subjects and international focus of the IB.

During my sixth form years, one of the biggest differences that I saw between the schools in our two countries, was the way that UK schools use different learning materials, which are a lot more effective. Due to the nature of IB programmes, lessons feature a wide range of learning techniques, which were more beneficial to me than working from a textbook – they pushed me to learn in a number of different ways, far beyond rote memorisation!

The breadth of subjects within the DP gave me opportunities to discover my academic passions, especially because I didn’t have to focus and restrict my future opportunities at just 16. I studied seven subjects: Italian, English literature, science, maths, geography, economics and human rights. I think that having such a huge variety of subjects to study up to the age of 18 meant that I had experienced a wider range of courses when I applied to university.

I am now studying law at SOAS University of London. When I first joined Impington Village College I wanted to go on to study politics, but while I was studying the DP I realised that I wanted to make a real difference and help people (and so, chose law). I think this development stemmed from the 10 attributes, including being principled, caring, open-minded, that IB programmes nurture in students through the IB Learner Profile.

My favourite element of the DP was the creativity, action and service (CAS) project – a compulsory part of the programme. For my project, I created a Model UN Club for my sixth form. I found CAS extremely rewarding; helping others makes me happy and community service isn’t something you would normally find as a compulsory element of your school years. I now volunteer as a GCSE mathematics teacher with a local school.

The extended essay, another compulsory module of the DP, was incredibly hard work. However, with hindsight, it has prepared me for university in ways that I didn’t realise at the time. I had to research, analyse, and write a 4,000 word essay on a topic of my choice – I decided to write about a topic which is personal to me; political corruption in Italy in 1994. The in-depth research I carried out has helped so much at university, especially studying law!

SOAS was my first choice university and it really is a dream come true to now be studying here – and I’m grateful to Impington Village College as well as my host family for their part in my achievement.

Martina Ghinetti is an International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) alumna who studied at Impington Village College, Cambridge and is now reading Law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London.

This article first appeared in Issue 8 of World Student magazine. You can read the full issue at www.world-student.com