During our second week of school, on August 17 and 18, the Grade 11s of 2017-18 went to the Gold Coast for our IB Retreat. Although it only lasted two days, I feel as if the retreat allowed me to smoothly transition into the Diploma Programme while learning about myself and the world around me, as well as allowing me to bond and make good memories with my friends – a great balance between work and play.
A slightly more minor aspect of the retreat that I particularly enjoyed was the fact that the roommates were randomly assigned. Prior to the retreat, I grew rather nervous from the suspense and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to be with my friends or those I normally hang out with. However, it turned out to be a pleasant experience, as my roommates were actually friends that I had no classes with, allowing me to further bond with them and make up for the lack of common classes.
At the same time, something else that I enjoyed but definitely had a more profound impact on me was the Poverty Simulation at Crossroads, which was challenging in a positive way. The whole grade was split into ‘family units’ and for every 10 minute session, we had to continuously make and sell paper bags made from newspaper and ‘glue’ (flour mixed with water) in order to pay our fees and stay alive, occasionally giving up personal belongings or ‘selling’ ourselves. Although it was merely a simulation, I was able to experience the rush, determination and desperation that actual people in poverty may feel. I was extremely overwhelmed by the focus and dedication that I exhibited during each 10 minute round, making paper bags without rest and not caring about anything else around me. As a result of the simulation, I was able to realise how fortunate I was with my current social and economic situation – even when we were working hard and worrying about paper bags, we all knew deep down inside that it was simply just a game, something that would be over in a while; and once it ended, we would return to our air-conditioned hotel, with enough food to eat and a comfortable bed to sleep in. These were thoughts that did not come up often in my mind, and hence were thoughts that I greatly appreciated and acknowledged. Going back to the idea of poverty, I became aware of the severity and immense scale of it around the world, and I was taught that literally anyone could make a difference, no matter how small they think they might be. These issues are happening in our world right now, yet not many individuals are taking action to do something about it.
From the remix sessions held by the teachers, special guest and alumni on the second day, I believe that I was able to find out more about myself and my future path. Many of the remix sessions were based around self discovery, whether it be about ourselves right now or in the future, allowing myself to get a grasp of how I see myself and how I could potentially continue to grow in the near future.
Overall, I found that the IB Retreat was a great experience, giving me the opportunity to discover myself, explore previously unknown topics and spend quality time with my friends. In fact, I found that the retreat was a little short and wanted it to be a little longer.