When you decide to join the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, you imagine several things: hours upon hours of research for the extended essay, slaving over internal assessments all night and having little to no social life. You imagine a GPA no lower than 4.0, and a class rank between one and 30. You imagine getting accepted into Ivy Leagues and European universities. You imagine a crazy amount of hard work and toil, but deep down a secret feeling of accomplishment. Of course you imagine all of these things; you’re an IB student, and as the IB Coordinator Rebecca Murphy puts it, you’re “the best of the best.” And who would choose not to be the best of the best?
A little over four months ago I decided to quit the IB program. And over the course of these few months I’ve lost track of the amount of times other IB students have asked me why I chose to quit. I’ve already suffered through a year of it, why not just stick it out for another one?
Well, when you start IB, you think everything will work out for you. Everything has to work out for you. But sometimes, IB just isn’t for you. Maybe you don’t prefer to spend countless hours crying over your supposedly “easy” math homework, and maybe you don’t want to have crushing anxiety whenever your English teacher passes back a quiz. Maybe you’re just not cut out for it. Maybe you’re tired of feeling like you’re not good enough.
Simply put, I quit IB because I can’t do it anymore. I can’t handle the constant stress, the constant anxiety and losing sleep over school assignments that don’t really mean anything. I’m not wired to concentrate for hours each night on my pre-calc homework. I don’t read very well into the international literature we’re given to examine; I don’t catch a lot of the imagery and I just don’t get Shakespeare. I don’t understand why we’re supposed to fear these omniscient IB graders from Luxemburg and Botswana who are determined to give us ones and twos on our labs and tests.
Many people thrive in IB. Some people like competing with each other to get the highest test scores and biting at each other’s throats when the test results come out. Some people view it as an extended family, like an exclusive club that’s only for the best of the best. I know girls who live off the high of an all-nighter spent studying chemistry and guys who can spit out every detail of American history (including both continents). But that’s just not me.
I want to spend my free time learning instruments and writing stories and reading anthologies. I want to do something that I love, not something that causes me anxiety. I don’t want to spend the next year of my life feeling stress-nausea over a biology lab that some guy in Romania is going to judge. I don’t want to have to leave my fifth hour so that I can sob in the bathroom due to feeling overworked. Worrying what French university or prestigious collegiate program will accept me just isn’t how I want to spend my last year of school, and it’s how I wish I hadn’t already spent this past year. I want to live my life and do what I want with it. And honestly, IB doesn’t let me do that.
So many aspects of IB were awful for me. But I would be lying if I said it was an entirely worthless experience. I’ve made some of my best friends in IB. I’ve learned so much about different cultures and how to consider every side to an argument. I’ve learned how to work together on projects where no one knows what they’re doing, and how to speak in front of people. I’ve actually bettered myself as a person.
Next year I’m beyond excited to be taking two AP classes and more electives than I can even remember. Just thinking about crossing this finish line and making it to next year makes me want to sob. And for once it’s not out of stress, but out of sheer relief.