The First Week of University as Told by an IB Student Living Abroad


I would like to start off with a moment of silence for anyone who did the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, or as I like to call it, the two-years-of-torture diploma. Let me just tell you that you’re not alone, and we are free from the IB program forever. It’s time to buckle down and get ready for the “real world”.

                                                                                                     Courtesy of

There are a few things I need to clear up before I delve into this whirlwind of a week. I went to an international school in Malaysia (where we actually speak English!) for eleven years. No, we didn’t live in huts; no, we didn’t ride elephants to school; yes, we did have internet; and no, I didn’t eat bugs. That being said, my school was tiny. You could walk across the entire campus in five minutes and everyone knew everyone. Class size would range from five people in a class to twenty people in a class and sometimes a few monkeys would join too. Just kidding, that was a trick. Did you really believe monkeys came into our classrooms? Kidding again, monkeys would often hang out in our hallways and rummage through our trash cans. Can you already tell how foreign Northeastern is to me already?

                                                                                                                  Courtesy of Giphy

I had this image in my head that university would be some kind of fantasy land where everything was sunshine and rainbows. Boston decided to welcome us with showers on the first day of classes. The rain ain’t got nothin’ on me, though. We’d have storms in Malaysia that brought trees to the ground. My problem was navigating the sea of people trying to get through Curry Student Center while also trying to be sly about looking up my classroom on Google Maps. I still don’t know the difference between Richards and Robinson Hall. Something that may be important to note: I’m 4’ 11” and am often mistaken as a current student’s sibling. I also happen to be extremely clumsy and tend to trip over volleyballs that frat boys throw across West Village. Not cute.

After finally stumbling into the class I was supposed to be in, I immediately got my laptop, planner, and notebook out ready to frantically write down as much as I could. To my IB horror, the only thing I had written by the end of class was “office hours 3:30-5:30pm”. WHAT!? After two years of cramming about how a genetic mutation in the UGT1A1 gene causes jaundice and writing a four thousand word essay on the ways that culture determines the treatment of women in “On Monday of Last Week” and “Jumping Monkey Hill” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and we don’t even LEARN in the first week of class!?

                                                                                                                    Courtesy of Gif-Finder

Feeling a little deflated after a full day of reading syllabi, I headed back to IV (I find it unnerving that my phone autocorrects it to IB…) to start my homework. But wait, what work? There’s no trigonometry, calculus, or statistics—my math homework is to write a statement in the form of symbols. It feels like I suffered (slept) through IB SL math for nothing.

Cynicism aside, I will say that they were right about one thing. IB really did prepare me for college, but not for the reasons I thought it would. I haven’t used a single piece of knowledge that I gained in my mentally and physically traumatic two years, but I sure am enjoying the luxury of having time to binge watch Jane the Virgin instead of binge reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. So I guess what I want to say is, thank you IB. Thank you for making my first week feel like pre-school.

                                                                                                                    Courtesy of Giphy