Story/Interview December 4, 2022
Aspiring young city planner kickstarts his goals with the online IB
Johnathan is the true meaning of an international student; he lives in Germany with his Parents, from the USA and Canada, and has family scattered across Canada, England and Australia. He likes to say he’s from both nowhere and everywhere! He’s embracing these international roots by undertaking the world’s first online International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) here at King’s InterHigh.
We were able to speak with Johnathan about how he plans to utilise his online IBDP studies to pursue his passion to become an international city planner and design better and more efficient surroundings to strengthen the world’s busiest hubs!
What are your hobbies and interests outside of school?
I am interested in so many things, including biking, video games, knitting, and creating geometric designs.
I’ve also launched a new Dungeons and Dragons group at school and love playing the guitar, harp, and the piano!
What was your experience like in mainstream education?
I’m very lucky as my parents have taken many measures to make sure I have had consistent education despite potential travel and upheaval.
My father is a military contractor, so I could have gone to department of defence schools across the country, but instead we decided I would go to one consistent school in Germany.
I loved my teachers, classmates and its connections with the community. However, I knew I wanted to make a change to broaden my horizons and decided to go for something completely different, which is really exciting!
What made you consider online education?
When the pandemic hit, I was worried about going to school as both my parents are at high risk of becoming ill if they were to get the virus. I didn’t want to increase that risk in any way, including being around others within a physical school environment, so I decided to take a look at alternative forms of schooling.
From this, I found out about online education and automatically thought it would be the perfect option for me!
What made you interested in the IB course?
I am really passionate about studying city planning at a Dutch university where they take the subject seriously. Like a lot of European institutions, the university I want to attend accepts the IB, so I thought this was the best next step to make my dreams a reality!
Did you have any concerns about joining the online IBDP before you started?
My two biggest concerns were the teachers, as I place so much importance on having knowledgeable, passionate and friendly teachers, and how seriously senior leaders regard the opinions and views of the student body. I’m really keen to make positive change wherever I go and it’s important to work with your peers and school leaders to achieve this!
Were these concerns overcome?
Yes! I have wonderful teachers and I get along incredibly well with almost all staff members to a degree I’ve never experienced before, and we’re only six weeks in!
Furthermore, the administration does seem to really care about the students. The head of the IB studies is also my English teacher, so they’re really invested. My concerns were really laid to rest.
What is your favourite part about the course so far?
My classmates! At King’s InterHigh, I have so much communication with my classmates. We have a WhatsApp group which acts as a central hub for all us students and through this, I can see everything students are doing and how much work they put into their studies and it’s really inspiring. This helps me perform at my best in my studies too.
This IB cohort connects on so many levels. As the IB attracts people from across the world, but who have a shared interest in so many things, we enjoy each other’s company, insights, and just listen thoughtfully to each other. It’s an excellent group to be part of.
I’m also really proud of my Dungeons and Dragons group, as I’m able to teach people something I’m passionate about.
What are your favourite subjects?
I utterly love French because my French teacher is absolutely fantastic. She is one of the kindest people I’ve ever met! She always asks how we are feeling and what she can do to help.
I also love English as the teacher is so enthusiastic and manages to get almost everyone involved at all times which is fantastic!
"This IB cohort connects on so many levels... It’s an excellent group to be part of."
Online IB student
What skills do you feel you are gaining since joining the programme?
My time management skills have really improved. Since starting the online IBDP I’ve been more productive than I’ve ever been before in my life! I’m also really enjoying everything I’m doing, yet I’m able to set aside some time leisure, which is perfect.
How does it feel to be amongst the first students to study the IBDP online?
King’s InterHigh work really hard to make sure we aren’t worried about the fact this course is new or we are the first to undertake it, so I feel relaxed and able to focus. For example, we were given the option to attend workshops over the summer so the transition from my previous school to the online IBDP seemed a natural transition, rather than something scary!
Is there a benefit to the IBDP being delivered online?
Oh yes, definitely! Firstly, the price is much lower than any other IB school, which means our cohort is really economically diverse, which is fantastic! It opens up education to so many people and I’m proud to be part of this.
Another advantage is the cohort is genuinely international, which is a good way to fulfil the IB promise of being an international qualification. Our cohort is filled with students from over 50 countries! We’re all studying from entirely different parts of the globe!
Do you feel this course represents the future of education?
I don’t necessarily feel this course would be right for all students and all educational settings, but I definitely feel it represents the future of the IB, as it enables the IB to fulfil its purpose of being genuinely international and giving students lots of options. The IB programme is not available everywhere so it’s wonderful students can now access this accreditation online. I think it would be a great world if more online options were available!
"Our cohort is filled with students from over 50 countries! We’re all studying from entirely different parts of the globe!"
Online IB student
What is your parents’ opinion of the IBDP and were they supportive of it being delivered online?
Yes and yes! My father is a military contractor, so I also had the option of going to a department of defence school, however this wasn’t as stable as King’s InterHigh. My mother is also very impressed with how international the cohort is! My parents are both very supportive and they love it.
Do you have any advice for new students thinking about applying for the online IB?
Compared to other programmes, the IB focuses a less on memorisation and a lot more on applying knowledge to different scenarios and explaining yourself. It helps you explain your thought process and showcase your methods. It also encourages you to give presentations, which is a great skill to develop!
Finally, for new students thinking of joining the online school in general, I find having a good mic and camera really helps! It’s important to be able to communicate with your classmates and teachers clearly and easily, especially if they had to wake up very early for school as they live in a different time zone!
What do you want to do after school – and how will the IB course help you achieve this?
I’m really lucky because I already know my career passion - I want to become a city planner! The Netherlands has amazing city planning and so I am hoping to attend the Bachelors of Built Environment in the Netherlands, which is a four-year course focusing on the design and legislation side of city planning, as opposed to architecture. Then, I hope to do a masters in Barcelona and Stockholm in Sustainable Urban Mobility Transitions.
My love for city planning began in 2017, when I watched a YouTube video of someone playing ‘Cities: Skylines’, where you ‘fix’ a city! I thought this looked really interesting and I invested so much time into it! As I started playing this game more and more, I noticed parallels between improvements made to cities in the game, and what would actually improve surroundings in real life. So, I started looking into city planning and what this career path would look like for me.
In 2019, my parents gave me lots of books on city planning for my Christmas present and I was absolutely enthralled. These books include ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’, ‘Walkable City Rules, and ‘Traffic’ - they were all fascinating! There is so much power in city planning as you can change spaces and people’s experiences. City planners are responsible for so much, including traffic, the success of businesses, carbon emissions, the vibrance of spaces and a place’s ability to attract visitors. However, we often overlook this power. I want to help change this.
The IB has already prepared me for this goal career as unfortunately, city planning is very political. I will need to explain clearly why my projects are important. I can already feel my presentation and articulation skills have been strengthened by IB as we give presentations regularly. This is really exciting as I can imagine myself becoming a better and better city planner!