Such are the joys – a day in the life of an IB Diploma student

Posted on 3rd Feb 2017 in School News, Diploma Programme, Switzerland, International Baccalaureate

Ekaterina Plotnikova, an 11th-grade student at The American School in Switzerland (TASIS), addresses the challenges and rewards of being an IB student...

"Literally, so much work, I can’t deal," "I’m so stressed out," and "Why did I sign up for this?' are just a few of the things you may hear IB students saying during our study time in the dormitory on any given night.

I must confess that I have said many of these things as well. But now that I’m halfway through my first year as an IB student, I have begun to develop a respect for the imposing International Baccalaureate, which "aims to do more than other curricula by developing inquiring, knowledgeable, and caring young people who are motivated to succeed".

The main struggle of being an IB student is learning how to be flexible. A lot of times the assignments will take you out of your comfort zone, which you will have to adapt to. That could simply mean that the work is much harder than you expected it to be, and you just don’t have time for anything else. Being able to manage your time properly is the key to success in this programme. Everything is possible: you just need to understand what is expected from you and complete all the assignments.

The IB is not so much about memorizing and trying to recite the material by heart – it’s mostly about learning, writing, and being able to apply your knowledge in real-life situations. Some classes are more challenging than others, and they all definitely have a different approach. Being a good learner isn’t always enough. The IB is about logic and experience. In my opinion, it suits international schools because there are kids coming from different places with their own backgrounds, and they are already used to changes.

The IB teaches how to become a well-rounded person, and for me it’s not even about college acceptance anymore. In the IB lots of times you may ask yourself, "Am I caring enough?" or "Am I asking enough questions?" These thoughts will come because of your own considerations. Sometimes you will need to help others because you learn that way better yourself. Sometimes you won’t find all the answers to your questions, but you will be on the right track to finding them by asking more.

I like the programme because it makes me think about the social and environmental aspects of life. For example, in my Ecology class we usually talk about humans’ effect on the planet. And in Business Management and Economics we are learning that being a triple bottom line organization is more appreciated amongst firms worldwide.

In the IB, you have to do a lot of extra activities for charity, sports, and community service. Those activities are called CAS (creativity, action, service). You have to write reflections about them to analyze your everyday and overall performance. It’s important to manage it with the schoolwork that’s given and balance all the activities. I like to be busy, so I find it quite nice when I am always doing something. When I have too much free time, I get even more tired because I watch useless videos that will not lead me anywhere in life.

The IB will force you to change your daily schedule. It is important to maintain your energy while you are in the programme. Sometimes you have to give up some activities for other ones, but you always have something to do. If you are sitting and daydreaming in the IB, you are doing something wrong.

My typical day goes something like this:

I wake up in the morning, very tired from the previous night’s homework overload. I can hardly open my eyes, but I finally get up to collect the books I left on the table before collapsing into bed. Because of all the stress and all the different emotions I go through, it can be quite hard to fall asleep at night, especially when I have huge tests the next day.

When I get to school I sit in my usual seat. I don’t change my position because I want to feel as comfortable as I can in the classroom.

I do a decent amount of work in all my classes. I happen to have a semester test later on today. I hardly studied for it because I had to complete other work, all of which is very important for the IB.

TOK is a complete disaster for me. Especially today, on Wednesday, when it’s first period in the morning. I hardly understand anything that goes on in that class, but it’s even worse when I am half asleep. I do have so much respect for you, Dr. Mauro, but why is your class so complicated?!

After having Math, English, Economics, Business Management, and Environmental systems, I go numb. My brain does not function anymore. It’s sad to realize only half a day has passed, but I do not give up.

After school I always have something to do. This Wednesday I go to the gym. It was quite something to force myself to perform a workout because, um, I am still half asleep?

Then I have to change my clothes fast and furious and run to meet Mr. Chevalier – to help me with this article, actually. Sooo much fun!

After that I have to serve a family-style dinner, which happens once every two weeks and counts as my CAS activity. It lasts two hours, and this time I almost poke a girl’s eye with a fork. ON ACCIDENT, I promise. Then the exact same girl’s hair gets stuck between the plates. Again, on accident.

After dinner I have to do my homework. To be honest I am too tired to do anything, and I just pass out until the next morning. Life is tough!

Perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but it is a busy life. I do like to think it’s worth it.

What makes the IB rewarding is what you will take away after finishing the programme. The six classes you take might not all be the ones you want to take in college, but you do become more aware of all social and environmental problems. Each class intersects with the other one because sometimes they often touch upon the same topics. For example, in Ecology we talk about Gross Primary Productivity, which we also discussed in Business Management and Economics.

The IB gives you a habitat of learning. It’s one of the most difficult programmes in the world that prepares students for university. A lot of professors say that in college IB students find it much easier to adapt to the overwhelming amount of work and the new environment. The IB definitely makes students more responsible and productive with their work.

We are required to take six year-end exams, one in each subject, and also have to complete several Internal Assessments in each class. Each of these assignments require both logical and ethical thinking. For example, in English Language and Literature you usually create different text types using suitable conventions. In Business you often have to research a family company and find a solution for their issues. For Economics you may analyze an article applying all the knowledge you’ve earned throughout the programme.

To be able to manage all the work, students must decide how they want to order their priorities. To be honest, not everyone does all the work that’s assigned. (Sometimes it’s impossible to.) In fact, students select the work that’s graded and try their best on the hardest areas. When work is not required to be turned in, students often use it as study guides later.

In TASIS it’s great to be an IB student. Every teacher is willing to help you when you need help. There are writing centers that can help if English isn’t your first language. There are people that motivate and encourage us to stay in the programme. Even though it’s very challenging, it can be quite fun as well!

To see more student work, visit the TASIS blog.

For more information about TASIS, see their profile on