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Alumni Profile: From English Language Learner to University of Cambridge Student

In September 2013, Joao Pedro (JP) Borges Santos was a new student at the British International School of Boston. The high school junior spoke very little English, and wasn’t sure how he’d make it through his International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme classes.

  • JP Santos speaks at the British International School of Boston graduation in June 2015.

Just two years later, however, JP is facing a very different challenge this fall: navigating a move to England, where he’ll be attending the prestigious University of Cambridge to study philosophy.

“All of this is like a weird dream,” JP said this week. “This wasn’t ever part of my life plan.”

Studying at Cambridge, he said, was an idea that first came to him while he was a student in his native Brazil.

When he moved with his family to Boston in 2013 and started studying at BISB, he entered the school’s IB Diploma Programme. It was during a Theory of Knowledge course required in the program, JP said, that he realized he wanted to study philosophy.

“Once I decided to study philosophy [Cambridge] was the place to go,” he said.

Earning a spot at the prestigious institution, he knew, was not going to be easy. He spent his two years at BISB improving his English skills, and quickly became a top student. Last year, as a Year 13 student at the school, he was named Head Boy.

He earned a conditional acceptance to the University of Cambridge in the winter of 2015, and worked for weeks to study for the IB Diploma Programme exams that would determine his placement at the university.

In July, he got his IB results. Not only had he earned a score high enough to guarantee his acceptance to Cambridge, he had earned the highest marks in the school.

“It was crazy, the whole process went by so fast from the time I moved here to where I am now,” he said.

Now, JP is spending the next few weeks preparing to leave for university. He’s already signed up for the university’s debate league, and hopes to get involved in other student activities and volunteer opportunities.

He hopes his philosophy studies will lead him toward a career in academics, but said he’s also interested in one day studying business or law.

No matter where his future leads, JP said he’s confident he is prepared to face the challenges life brings, thanks to his education in the IB Diploma Programme at BISB.

“The best thing was that it taught me how to organize myself,” he said. “When I arrived in Boston I had no idea how to do this. That was one of the biggest benefits.”

Congratulations to JP and all our other Class of 2015 graduates as they head off to college this fall. Click here to learn more about where our graduates are attending university.

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