Ruth Donaliya Mwangase completed the Diploma Programme (DP) at Sussex Coast College in Hastings. She then went on to complete her BA in economics at Jacobs University and a MSc in business administration at the Hamburg School of Business Administration.
In all honesty, when I got admitted into the DP, I did not have the faintest idea of the rigorous nature of the curriculum. Of course I knew the basics of what the programme entailed and also the general outcome, but I really had no idea how the whole experience would change me as a person. In 2009, I was awarded a scholarship to study the IB in England after achieving top scores from a sample 35 students selected from all over my country based on academic merit. I had been told that I was going to receive arguably the best education any student my age could fathom. Hearing that was a blur to me and I did not fully grasp the significance of this opportunity. I had always had big dreams and aspirations as a child, but when it came down to it, I came from a low-income family of four children in Zambia, one of the world's poorest countries. Sometimes dreams and aspirations were just that—they lacked the freedoms and capabilities to actually hatch.
One of my favourite experiences about sitting in an DP course lecture was the diversity of perspectives exuded by the students. Initially, I was just amazed to be sitting next to people from countries that I had never even heard of before. But eventually, I realized how interacting with these students was helping me grow both academically and socially.
Theory of knowledge classes were always my favourite. The class never seemed to agree on anything because students from each culture seemed to have a different perspective about almost any topic we could discuss. In one instance, we attempted to acknowledge all perspectives and agree that there is no absolute truth but even that lecture ended up having a million perspectives. The same was the case for literature in English classes—it was always amazing to hear the different interpretations that various students shared. The IB was the first time I had shared a classroom with students that did not come from the same neighbourhood as I did, let alone the same country! This unique experience opened my eyes to a world I had never known before; I became drawn to global issues, and this exposure gave me the extra drive to succeed and create an impact in the world.
"Initially, I was just amazed to be sitting next to people from countries that I had never even heard of before. But eventually, I realized how interacting with these students was helping me grow both academically and socially."
The DP is by far the most rigorous educational curriculum I have experienced to date. Having to complete creativity, activity, service (CAS) activities in addition to six subjects was the best time management wake-up call I ever got. There never seemed to be enough hours in a day to get everything done but somehow, tasks always got done and made me ready to take on even bigger challenges. The variety of the groups from which I could select my IB subjects also ensured that I was well-prepared to excel in any major I decided to pursue at university.
After completing the IB, I remember being very confused about what major to follow in university because the IB had shown me that I had great capabilities in not only social sciences but also natural sciences—I ended up studying global economics with a minor in psychology and a couple of marine biotechnology and IT modules showing up on my graduation transcript. I value my transdisciplinary education even more because I know that this is an opportunity I would have not been able to enjoy had I not been exposed to different disciplines during the IB. Many of the problems facing the world today require transdisciplinary solutions—having a well-rounded curriculum shaped me into a better problem solver and more often than not, I find myself smiling when I find a solution to a real-life problem by borrowing from other disciplines of knowledge.