With contributions from Shu Ye ’18
More than 50 IB II students looking to gain an edge heading into their exams this spring traveled to Siena in the Tuscany region of Italy, where they stayed at the beautiful Certosa di Pontignano, a historic Carthusian monastery and church. Mornings were devoted to mindfulness seminars and mock exams, afternoons were used for IB Art History excursions and breakout sessions in the other subjects, and evening activities included cooking courses and a night out in Florence.
This first-time trip was organized by IB Coordinator Howard Stickley, who felt it was a big success.
“I was impressed by the seriousness with which the students approached the activities on the trip,” said Mr. Stickley, who has enjoyed a long and successful career at TASIS and also currently serves as the UK University Counselor. “It is always encouraging to hear students asking for more opportunities to study and seeing them forming their own independent study groups outside of the scheduled sessions.”
The strong academic focus on mock exams, review sessions run by IB teachers, and group study sessions resulted in a busy week in the Tuscan location that was ideal for a study retreat. Students found the trip to be immensely helpful.
“We understand now what subjects we have to work on,” said Zak Rahman ’17. “We know exactly what we need to do to get ready for the real exams.”
“I felt that the trip was especially useful for my preparation for the math and art history exams,” added Stark Zheng ’17. “We had math sessions each afternoon after the mock exams. For art history, we went to Florence. By immersing ourselves in Florence, the best city for studying art history, I felt inspired and gained some useful knowledge.”
The trips to Florence and the peaceful setting of the monastery helped students manage their stress during a hectic week that falls right in the middle of a very busy semester.
“The monastery we stayed at was perfect for what we had to do and was also very scenic, and there were a lot of places to go to relax afterward,” said Rahman. “It had a big, beautiful plantation in the backyard.”
“The setting was great,” added Zheng. “The dorm arrangement helped us communicate with each other when we had academic difficulties, and the scenery outside our rooms was beautiful. I found that I could concentrate better in that environment.”
Students recognized that it was also a busy week for the 12 adults on the trip and were grateful for their efforts.
“I want to give special thanks to [IB Biology Teacher] Ms. Crockett and to Mr. Stickley,” said Rahman. “Ms. Crockett was really tireless. She gave a 9:00 pm lecture for the HL students even though she does not teach HL. She volunteered to do that, and they were there until almost midnight. She is so dedicated, and I think she is a lovely, intelligent, and brilliant teacher. And Mr. Stickley is the one who made this all happen. I am unbelievably thankful to him, personally and on behalf of my grade. We are all very grateful for him.”
“Comments by students clearly showed that they saw the importance of mock exams in helping them improve their exam-taking technique and in gauging their current level of preparation,” he said. “Students often lose a number of points by making silly mistakes when taking exams, and after having experienced the mock exam week they should be able to avoid this.”
Students returned to campus with a full two months to focus on review before the May exam session. That review can now be informed and shaped by what they learned during their week away.
"I would be surprised if many students don’t pick up extra points, and this can make a big difference in the final outcome," said Mr. Stickley, who plans to make this IB trip an annual affair.
Maria Vittoria Conti ’17 provides a look at the IB trip. In addition, a gallery of photos can be found here.