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“Ah, you are one of those students who knows something about everything.” Why the IB is light years ahead of the rest…
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“Ah, you are one of those students who knows something about everything.”

Professor. University of Oxford. Speaking with Markus Baurmgartner.

We live in a time where borders are no longer geographical restrictors, but political tools; where a journey abroad is no longer an expedition, but a journey home. This is especially true if you live, work or have grown up in Dubai. It’s also the essence of life as an international student.

An Austrian citizen born and raised in Dubai and now studying in the UK, I spent all my school years in the UAE, attending primary at GEMS Wellington International School, before moving to GEMS World Academy – Dubai for secondary. I graduated in 2020, and am currently studying Engineering at the University of Oxford, where in my first-year exams, I finished with a Distinction and now hold the status of Exhibitioner.

At school, I was a proud member of the International Baccalaureate (IB) community, having completed the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and Diploma Programme (DP). It is a pride that I feel to this day. In my first few weeks at Oxford, I recall talking to one of my professors, who, in response to finding out that I attended an IB school, immediately remarked: “Ah, you are one of those students who knows something about everything.”

This might sound like an odd thing to say, but while my time in Standard Level Economics at school may not even dare to compare to the complexity and depth of content you learn in Economics at university, the truth is I find myself constantly reminded that my Oxford professor is right.

That’s because the holistic approach that the IB employs in its curriculum allowed me to pursue my academic, and predominantly scientific, passions without requiring me to sacrifice any participation or enrichment in the humanities, social sciences, languages or business. There is good reason why the IB chose to employ this method beyond simply allowing students to acquire a broader perspective and insight into the world. Each academic discipline requires a very specific set of skills, and the beauty of the IB is that you do not have to choose one at the expense of another. Whether it is doing research on housing, presenting to my peers, or debating with a stranger on the road, I am using a uniquely broad skillset provided to me by the IB.

It is commonly acknowledged that moving countries is not easy. I only realised the truth of this when I moved to the UK and faced the challenge of beginning a new life, adapting to a new culture and society, and managing my own finances, cooking, cleaning and laundry. There is only one piece of advice I can offer to any students about to embark on a similar journey: planning is essential. Organising your week and balancing social life, study-time, classes and extracurriculars can be treated in the same way you’d approach planning your Internal Assessment deadlines, for example, your Extended Essay meetings and your CAS (creativity, activity, service) work. Among the many skills the IB teaches you, time management and the ability to work hard will be your most treasured.

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Photograph of Markus Baumgartner at the University of Oxford where he studies Engineering following his graduation in the IB Diploma from GEMS World Academy in Dubai

When I was growing up, and even late into my school life, I never thought that I would have the opportunity to study at a university of the calibre of Oxford. In fact, it wasn’t until one of my teachers encouraged me to submit an application that I considered it a possibility; before then, I hadn’t even thought about applying to the UK. Yet the beauty of having gone to a school where I was exposed to more cultures and nationalities than I knew existed is that the world feels like an open playground.

Markus Baumgartner Snapchat map showing global friendships following his study of the IB at GEMS World Academy in Dubai

Funnily enough, one of my go-to parlour tricks is opening social media platform Snapchat, which has a map function on which friends can share their location with each other, and then showing my peers that I have friends on six continents and in several dozen countries. While that’s just a bit of fun, it’s also allowed me, and everyone I went to school with, to feel at home anywhere, to always have a friend nearby when in need, and to be more aware and accepting of the world.

Even as I move on in life, complete university and enter the workplace, I will be able to look back at my time at school and studying the IB, and view my school years as the first part of a road that helped to propel me into my future.

Graduation photo of Markus_Baumgartner on leaving his IB studies at GEMS World Academy in Dubai for the heady climbs of the University of Oxford to study Engineering.

As the UAE continues to grow, more and more students will live a life similar to the one I’ve had, experiencing similar things.

But that upbringing will never be less unique.

In a way, the IB is light years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of internationality, but as borders become ever smaller obstacles to cultural understanding, the IB student lifestyle will consolidate its place as the gold standard.

© SchoolsCompared.com and GEMS Education. 2022. All rights of the author reserved.

 

Notes for students and parents

More on studying the IB at GEMS World Academy can be found here.

More on Early Years education at GEMS Wellington International School can be found here. 

Click here for our independent review for parents of GEMS World Academy.

Click here for our independent review for parents of GEMS Wellington International School. 

Discover here more information on studying Engineering at the University of Oxford.

About The Author
Markus Baumgartner
Markus Baumgartner is an Austrian citizen born and raised in Dubai. As of 2022, Mr Baumgartner is studying in the UK having spent his school years in the UAE, attending primary at GEMS Wellington International School, before moving to GEMS World Academy – Dubai for secondary. Mr Baumgartner graduated GEMS World Academy in Dubai in 2020 to study Engineering at the University of Oxford. In his first-year exams, he secured a Distinction. Following this achievement, he received the award of Exhibitioner.

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