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What's Life Like as a Junior at BISB? Let's Find Out Together!

January 08, 2019

My name is Oscar, and I am a Junior at the British International School of Boston. I am blogging about the details of my experiences in my Junior and Senior years. Follow me on my journey of school trips and unique experiences, college applications, exams, and more.

  • Oscar Wang

January 2019

I moved to BISB from a public school in Singapore five years ago. My parents’ original plan was for me to finish Middle School at private school and then move on to a public school, but we decided to stay as I really liked BISB because of the sense of community that the school has, as well as the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), which provides many global opportunities.

I am a Prefect and an Admission Ambassador for the school. I enjoy these leadership positions because they promote a better environment for the school community and I do enjoy helping at different school events. My job as an Admissions Ambassador involves giving tours to new/visiting families during open houses. Prefects organize school events, host assembles, and act as liaisons between teachers and students.

I should begin by breaking down my courses of study as it is so different to the U.S. system. The four years of High School in BISB are divided into two 2-year courses, the first being the IGCSE, (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) which we complete in Grades 9 and 10. Over the two years, students will study 10 subjects: 8 compulsory and 2 electives. The compulsory subjects are: Maths, English Language, English Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, History, and Spanish or French. Elective options include: Visual Art, Drama, Music, Business Studies, Geography, Computer Science, and French or Spanish (as an additional foreign language). As part of the IGCSE, we are offered a wide variety of subject choices. Although challenging having to juggle all of the different topics, it has certainly prepared me well for the IBDP and helped me to make my subject choices more easily. For example, I did not enjoy Computer Science as much as I thought I would, and I found that my strengths lie in the Sciences.

At the end of our IGCSE course, we complete a 2-week work experience, applying to a company/organization to learn more about a particular field through hands-on learning. I went to a lab at the Evergrande Center for Immunologic Diseases at Harvard Medical School which was very interesting as I got some first-hand experience of what it’s like to work in an actual lab, and learned many things that I won’t learn in a classroom context. I absolutely loved my work experience as I got to know some Harvard Professors and learned a lot more about the field of immunology, which is also my topic of interest for college and higher education later on in life.

In Grades 11 and 12, we complete the 2-year IBDP during which we study 5 subjects, five of which are core. We must complete a course in Maths, English, Science, History, and either Spanish or French. We then elect our sixth subject. Three of the subjects are studied at higher level, and 3 at standard level. Outside of the 6 subjects, we also have 3 core elements that we must complete:

  • Extended Essay (EE), which is a 4,000-word essay done independently, incorporating self-directed research;
  • Creative, Activity and Service (CAS), which requires us to meet criteria in each of these areas;
  • Theory of Knowledge (TOK) class, which is kind of like a philosophy class focusing on how we know what we know. I really enjoy this class as it brings all of the subjects together and the class discussions are very interesting. This class certainly helped me to link the different aspects of knowledge together, and made me a better thinker.

I like the fact that we get to choose our subjects, and one of the reasons why I enjoy the IB Diploma Programme is that I do truly enjoy the subjects that I’m taking. The small class size makes a big difference. My biggest class has 12 students and my smallest has 7, so the amount of attention that I get in class definitely makes my learning easier. We also have 5 study periods a week, where we can work and get help from teachers.

We started the year with a a trip to Camp Becket in Western Massachusetts. All of the IBDP students go at the beginning of each academic year, and we do a bunch of different bonding activities such as high and low ropes, campfires, raft building, etc. It was nice bonding with some of my peers that I didn’t know so well before, and it was helpful to the new students as they were settling in to their new school, as it is an opportunity to know their peers and to initiate some friendships. The time away was a really fun and relaxing way to start a school year.

Life as an IBDP student has been great so far. The workload and the expectation from the teachers has increased from IGCSE, but it’s manageable and I still have quite a lot of free time outside of school work as I manage my time well. For example, I was on the varsity soccer team, and I also do fencing. In addition to that, I volunteer in a church every other Saturday. I also recently attended The Harvard Scientific Research Conference, which gave me a platform to learn more about scientific research and get to meet more people of my age with a similar interest. In the future, I hope to go into either academic research with a university or manage a research lab, so the work experience at Harvard and the research conference have provided me with an amazing insight into this field.

At this early stage of the course, we have already done so much with regard to college preparedness. The college counseling program is very supportive at BISB, with the college counselor and the teachers knowing the students on a personal level (because it’s a small school). We just had an informational session on the start of college application for my grade and our parents, so we know what and when we can expect things to happen.

I look forward to updating you on my progress as I continue through the IBDP course.