Let’s face it, high school could be pretty rough. Every single one of us know all too well about those four particular years loaded with rumors and gossip that tried our patience and put our morals to the test. It’s obstacles like those that became so overwhelming they’d start to override the main reason for high school: an education.
It’s true, when most look back on the best times of their high school experience, it’s not the learning part they remember. Every memory about the textbooks they read and the exams they took are drowned out with memories pertaining to the clubs they were in, that championship game they won, the person that sat behind them in class and the yearly homecomings. In other words, the reason we all go to high school is hardly ever at the core of the memories we relive.
But what if it was?
Picture this. It’s 6:00 a.m. and the alarm goes off. “The quicker I get out of this bed, the quicker I can get back into it.” Now it’s 7:15 a.m. You hike upstairs to your locker where your classmate meets you at his. Half asleep and with droopy eyelids, you both fiddle with your locks and gather your books.
The cafeteria is the place to be. There you have your daily dose of a toasted bagel and iced coffee, the only thing that’ll ever wake you up. Still, you have to finish the homework you swore you were going to get done the night before and study for an exam that you have in four hours, all while working against the sound of the first period bell.
You swear that bell always rings too early.
Now you’re up in first period English preparing for your 15 minute presentation on Chinua Achebe’s life and how it’s relevant to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness." Next you’re in history debating whether or not The League of Nations was responsible for the outbreak of WWII and what follows is six more classes, one just as mentally invigorating and intense as the last, with a glorious thirty minutes for lunch somewhere in between. Eventually the dismissal bell rings but still, there’s more. It’s time for National Honor Society and then rehearsal. Before you know it, you’re at work. By the time you get home, it’s 8:15 p.m.
Congratulations! Your evening is just getting started.
The history group chat is going off every forty seconds with people asking questions about the notes for chapter 16 while you’re on Skype with your best buddies from English Class trying to analyze Robert Frost Poetry for ten minutes straight through. You can’t forget that paper that’s due tomorrow either. You know, the one that was assigned three weeks ago but you left until tonight to do? Yep, that’s the one. Before you know it, it’s 3:00 a.m. and finally time to crawl back into bed. You open your eyes and it’s 6:00 a.m. Rest in peace, circadian rhythm.
The best part is International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Students get to do that all over again the next day.
For the past two years of my academic career, I’ve been apart of the IB Diploma Programme. It consists of rigorous courses with the expectation to complete a series of internal assessments and an Extended Essay, all in hopes of earning an International Baccalaureate Diploma. It’s time consuming, sleep depriving and challenging, but it was also the best thing I’ve ever done.
Along with the sleepless nights, fourteen hour days, never-ending printer jams and of course, cups of iced coffee, I had 27 of my closest friends by my side going through the exact same thing as me. We all committed ourselves to the programme, shared the same schedules and were the only ones awake at 2:00 a.m. to debate over rubrics and mark schemes. They were there to cheer me on in moments of success and to support me in times of failure.
I must say that my 27 peers and I were very lucky to have the IB teachers we had. They were understanding and knew taking full IB all while trying to maintain a social life was a challenge and did everything in their power to help alleviate our stresses. However, they also held us at a higher standard and expected us to meet their expectations because they knew we could reach them. Our teachers gave compelling and thought-provoking lectures about Mao Zedong’s consolidation of power and why we should all feel sorry for Hamlet’s Ophelia. They gave us the resources, books, strategies and the overall knowledge to succeed. Yet, we gave each other the life and the will.
When you have 28 teenagers working their hardest on a bountiful three hours of sleep, stress and an extra strong cup of iced coffee, the inside jokes come as a necessary therapy. Many of these would be conceived in bouts of exhaustion and procrastination. We’d be just nearing 2:00 a.m., printing out our final copies while we’d jokingly argue about whose paper would come back with the worst grade. And almost every time, someone would say through their laughter,
“Well, teamwork’s what makes the dream work!”
When your education is not only at the forefront of your high school experience but what arguably consumes it, It’s so easy to give up. It’s so easy to spend all of your weekends home typing away at your desk and to quit doing the things you love. It’s so easy to say “this is too much” or “nobody gets it."
What’s hard is to tell yourself it’s possible to do everything you wish to do.
It was only possible for me to tell myself that I could manage my coursework and a social life because of the 27 people I spent everyday with. The people who not only encouraged each other to be the best they could in the classroom, but also encouraged each other to take part in and do the best they could in the things they loved. They were there to support you through all of the hard work but also there to pull you away from the screen just to simply enjoy being eighteen.
When I talk about my high school career, I talk about the clubs I told myself I’d never join but got talked into doing by my classmate. I mention going to his championship game that I made time for even though I had hours of homework waiting for me at home. I think about the special people who sat behind me in class who, when I’d turn around, would know exactly what math question I was stumped on or the people who’d force me to stop working on my biology lab just to come out to Carvel. I’d think back to the school year’s opening homecoming and how we all laughed about the sleepless nights that lay ahead of us. I’m grateful to have taken full IB because it taught me that it really is possible to do it all and actually be great at it all. It also gifted me with 27 incredible friends of whom I’ll never forget.
“But it was definitely the iced coffee we have to thank,” I said, after learning I’d been awarded the IB Diploma.
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