One student. One graduate. Two enriching journeys that set them on paths to success. At the British International School Ho Chi Minh City, the leading International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) school in Vietnam, every Sixth Form student is nurtured to hone the skills and knowledge needed to become inquisitive, knowledgeable and caring future leaders.
The IBDP is a highly-regarded qualification which is universally recognised at high-ranking universities around the world. BIS HCMC senior students, aged 16 to 18, design their own curriculum by selecting a balanced pathway from a broad range of subjects related to their personal interests.
They are guided by world-class teachers to help them secure the very best grades and a place at their first-choice university. A dedicated College and University and Guidance Department offers advice, resources and events so that every student is supported in order to make the right decisions for their individual needs and aspirations. It’s an ecosystem typical of Nord Anglia schools — going above and beyond to uniquely equip students for university and beyond.
Holly Van Zwanenberg came to BIS at the tender age of nine. Having grown up in England, and coming from an all-girls Catholic school, the transition process was far from what she expected. Vietnam had everything her home country had, but of course, starting a new life at a new school is never easy.
She remembers analysing class registers, hoping to find names similar to hers, fearful she might mispronounce some. Today, when the sixth former walks in a classroom, names and backgrounds are the least of her concerns. ‘’Both BIS and the IB have prepared me for life,’’ she says. ‘’I now have a broader perspective on the world.’’
Soon, Holly and her friends will begin a three-week long examination series. She’s looking forward to her final term as there will be plenty of time to interact with her peers in-between papers. Once completed, she’s planning on taking a graduation trip around Vietnam with her classmates.
While there is a lot to look forward to, there’s also a lot she will miss about her time in school. Some of her BIS HCMC highlights include a trip to the Philippines with Project AWARE, where she got her PADI Open Water Diving Certification, swam with turtles, and witnessed a volcano eruption; celebrating birthdays multiple times a week with cake in the sixth form common room; and the lifelong connections she has forged with her teachers –– who have always kept their doors open to her.
Holly remembers the relationships she built with her teachers quickly evolving once she began her IBDP journey. Now, she considers her Year 13 tutor, Ms. Deleporte, a close friend. “She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I often find myself going to her classroom after school, where we would chat for hours,’’ she reminisces.
A school is the sum of the relationships within it- and it is these relationships, characterised by support and challenge that shape the journey of every student at BIS HCMC.
So close to the finish line, Holly balances leadership with exam revision for her Higher Level subjects of English Literature A, Biology, and History; as well as the Standard Level subjects of Geography, French B, and Maths AI.
Outside the classroom, her responsibility revolves around the wellbeing of fellow students. As Prefect and Head Student, she helps counsellors create a positive and uplifting environment — study, work and relaxation are deftly balanced. The energetic student is also working on a wellbeing website that provides wellbeing guidance and resources to the BIS HCMC community.
When it comes to student organisations, Holly is most involved in the Student First Aid team –– teaching the basics to her younger peers and fellow Sixth Form classmates, as well as managing the First Aid tents on sports day alongside school nurses. Having joined the team in Year 8, she has grown to thoroughly enjoy it, and it was the close relationships she formed with the nurses that encouraged her to work her way up to leading the student team.
With plans to study law at university later this year, she’s confident she will be able to thrive, thanks to her BIS HCMC experience. The key contributing factor? Early exposure to a global mindset.
“I’m in a position where I can understand things to a better extent than someone who hasn’t grown up exposed to the international mindset that the IB at BIS provide,” she shares. Thanks to this exposure, Holly plans on pursuing medical law or human rights law in the future.
For Holly, currently one of four head students — the school’s most senior student role, the road to university continues with UCAS personal statements to write and admission interviews to prepare for. She spent the beginning of Year 13 getting to know the IBDP curriculum better, taking on exams, and preparing for university life. Having completed the IGCSE curriculum in Year 11 and gaining a solid foundation in Year 12, Holly was ready for the rigours of her final year. She had completed IBDP Core subjects such as the EE (Extended Essay) in geography and CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service). The latter is an essential IBDP element which challenges students to show initiative, demonstrate perseverance and develop skills such as collaboration, problem solving and decision making.
Holly can depend on the support of her teachers every step of the way. They explicitly teach evidence-based learning and revision strategies, and use research in cognitive psychology and education to shape the ways that students study. They ensure students like Holly evolve into confident, well-prepared and independent learners.
“Not every kid is given the chance to develop interests apart from the core subjects they learn in school,” he says. “We had six main subjects, CAS, the EE, and more – all of which prepared me above and beyond for university life.”
When Adwaith Nair first arrived at BIS HCMC as a Year 6 student, what he saw was a multinational campus. In his hometown in India, almost every student was local, but here, international flags covered hallways, and students hailed from every country that could come to mind.
International exposure was a plus, but it was co-curricular activities that helped Adwaith determine his future path. In Sixth Form, he took part in badminton, volleyball, started a handball club, was selected for the Prefect team and served as subject ambassador for economics. Adwaith even took part in F1 in Schools –– a programme that aims to change the perception of STEM, by creating a vibrant learning environment that develops an informed view on careers in engineering, Formula 1, science, marketing and technology.
In IBDP, Adwaith got to learn microeconomics, macroeconomics, and international economics. For his EE, he wrote a 4,000-word research paper on how Vietnam deals with the negative externalities of tobacco consumption. Today, an Erasmus University Rotterdam student, he confidently credits BIS HCMC for equipping him with the skill-set to adapt seamlessly. In the future, he plans to learn more about financial economics, acquire a Master’s Degree and launch a startup.