Richman Meto: How long were you in BSL?
Llona Kavege: I was at BSL for 2 years, between 2011 and 2013.
RM: Where did you study before you came to BSL?
LK: Before coming to BSL, I studied at the American International School of Lomé.
RM: What did you study for your IGCSEs and how did the experience at BSL compare with your previous school and the one you attended for IB?
LK: I love BSL! The American school in Lomé was smaller and back then not as organized but still a lot of fun. However, once at BSL I discovered what an authentic pre-collegiate experience should be. Teachers and staff here are committed to the individual growth and success of every student, courses are both interesting and challenging, projects, extracurricular activities, and school events enable students to step out of their comfort zone. For my IGCSE, I took Biology, Chemistry, Drama, French, Spanish, English, and Math.
Even if I left to complete IB in the US, BSL remains my true alma mater because it is the place that gave me the opportunities and served as a springboard for my successful completion of the IB diploma program and university journey.
RM: Was the BSL environment ideal for your growth as a student and as a person? What were some of the influencing factors?
LK: Absolutely! As I said before teachers and staff here are really committed to students and will strive to push them to succeed academically while also being available as mentors.
I think it’s also important to say that, at least in my time, BSL had high expectations for all students. What I mean by that is IGCSE and IB are particularly challenging programs; however, it’s not impossible to do well in them but it definitely takes some grit and tenacity to accomplish these goals. If you can successfully get through it all you are pretty much set for university and will have developed invaluable skills for a rewarding social and professional life. Cultural Diversity is also a huge element. When I was at BSL, I had friends from India, Nigeria, the UK, France, Rwanda, South Korea, and China to name a few. I still keep in touch with some of my old classmates. Along with that teachers came from and had taught all over the world. For example, I remember my former English and Drama teacher Mr. Stroughair was English but he had taught in so many countries, after BSL I think he went to South Korea. Such a wide range of nationalities and worldly experiences is bound to infuse into fascinating class discussions and is conducive to a holistic learning experience that fashions the global citizens that the IB diploma encourages. RM: What universities did you go to after IB.? Why those choices and what did you study?
LK: For my undergrad, I went to Barry University, in Miami Shores, Florida. I was awarded the prestigious Stamps Scholarship, from the Stamps Foundation so all my undergraduate studies, room, and board, were paid for and I even got a stipend and an enrichment fund on top of that.
I chose Barry because after leaving BSL and ending up in a large American high school, I realized one of the advantages of BSL was also its size, which was conducive to fostering a tight-knit community.
University in the US is a fantastic experience but size matters and I think it’s important to choose somewhere that fits your personality and goals. I value my academics and relationship with faculty therefore I wanted to go to a university just like BSL where the student-faculty ratio meant that I was more than just a number so I could really feel at home and flourish.
My university was also very involved in community service and engagement. I really enjoyed the integration of such values and ideals both in extracurricular activities and the classroom, with the aim of training student-leaders eager to serve others. Before I knew it four years flew by and I had graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Biology and a Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy. RM: What are some things that you have done to remain focused and consistent in your approach to studies? LK: I guess for me remaining focused on my studies has never been much of a problem because I’m one of the weird ones who genuinely love school. I love learning, discussing ideas, analyzing data, everything!
I think developing this attitude is key to success. For secondary school yes, there are topics that you might not enjoy as much as others, but there is something intrinsically valuable about knowledge and learning to appreciate that is a skill that will serve you all your life. Once in university, I think it becomes easier because you have more control over what you want to study, so as long as you are doing something you enjoy you’ll have fun with it. I admit that in undergrad pursuing two degrees at the same time probably gave me more nervous breakdowns than was ever necessary but I don’t regret it. Passion aside, distractions are a real issue, especially with the independence that comes with university. To tackle that saying no to procrastination and developing a disciplined work ethic will save you so that you can enjoy yourself while also remaining on top of all your deadlines and exams.
Ultimately, take some time and learn to know yourself. We each have different sleeping patterns, study habits, and learning abilities and in university, everyone is so different so learn from as many people as possible and create the best system for yourself. RM: I know you just finished your Master’s degree. Are you set in your mind about your career path?
LK: After undergrad, I needed a change and also a new challenge so I applied and got admitted for a post grad degree at King’s College in London. I chose to do a Master’s in bioethics because it is a field that marries my two passions: biology and philosophy. As for my career path, I know I’m definitely going to stay in bioethics. As for my career path, I know I’m definitely going to stay in bioethics. But for now, I’m working as a research assistant for Baylor College of Medicine in their Department of Bioethics. Once I get more exposure and expand my research horizons and interests, I plan to go back for a Ph.D. RM: What skills set did BSL help you obtain to steer you in that direction?
LK: BSL definitely nurtured my curious nature and provided me with the opportunity to explore different avenues. I developed a strong work ethic which tremendously served me during IB and university. RM: What were some of the challenges you have faced in your studies and how did you overcome them?
LK: Well, there’s a lot that can be unpacked here. Again, distractions abound so being disciplined is very important. University is a big step up from secondary school and while the independence that comes with it may feel good at first it can rapidly subside into loneliness and stress. I dealt with that by having a strong support system of friends and mentors who share my values, encouraged me, and held me accountable to the goals and aims I had set for myself.
Also, for my first year and a half, I focused a lot on my studies and being book smart, but later on, I realized that time in university is an extremely pivotal point in one’s coming of age journey. As such it’s important to build not just a great CV/resume with top grades. Also, for my first year and a half, I focused a lot on my studies and being book smart, but later on I realized that time in university is an extremely pivotal point in one’s coming of age journey. RM: Do you have any achievements from BSL and university that you are proud of? LK: University wise, I’m really proud and eternally grateful to the Stamps Foundation for my scholarship. It’s been such a blessing and has enabled me to join a cohort of incredible students and leaders, learn from them, and be provided with the tools to succeed. While in university, I participated in biomedical research, presented my work at several conferences nation-wide and my project is actually getting published in a paper this year! I was also captain of my ethics bowl team and we placed 3rd at the national championship in 2017. Last but not least, I even got to intern at the National University of Singapore Centre for Biomedical Ethics. It was a life-changing experience, I made tons of friends and it solidified my choice to pursue bioethics. As for BSL, I’m honestly really grateful for all the experiences I had here. I’m really proud of my student of the year award in 2012, it was my first year at BSL and I really was not expecting it. Years later coming back and being remembered by faculty and staff both for my academic record and exploits in the theatre was also very humbling and I am really happy I have been able to leave a mark in the school. I hope I can continue to inspire other students both directly and indirectly to tap into their brilliance and actualize their full potential. RM: Looking back now, would you have approached your studies differently, changed anything? Any regrets, mistakes you wish you could correct, turn back the hands of time?
LK: Nope, absolutely none! I think because of the exposure and education I got from my secondary education, I was ready to face anything in university and eager to try out everything. My IB experience was incredibly difficult, but I am so grateful for it because it was the ultimate preparation for university.
That’s not to say my life has been all sunshine and daisies. I definitely had some ups and downs during university, and some really really deep downs but I genuinely don’t regret anything. Yes, there are things I could have done better, and if I could turn back the hands of time I probably would do a lot of things not necessarily differently but maybe in a different order.
But at the end of the day it’s all about your mindset, things come and go in life, everyone will face some difficult moments, but it’s up to you to decide how you let external conditions dictate how you feel, think, and will in turn act. If you study what you enjoy, are mindful about your decisions, and hold yourself accountable for your actions, then your mistakes are also your best learning experiences. Simply put the problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude towards the problem. That’s why in hindsight I’m just as grateful for the stress, the tears, and my darkest hours because they shaped and have led me to where I am today. RM: How did you know what you wanted to study?
LK: I didn’t exactly know, as in I wasn’t set on a definite goal when applying in year 13. I’m more the type to value the journey over the mere destination, so I initially picked Biology, as a major because I knew it was something I really enjoyed studying and I was good at it in IB. Being at BSL definitely taught me to pursue my passions, and the advantage of University in the US is the flexibility and ability to explore these many different avenues.
That’s how I ended up discovering Philosophy (TOK is important!) and adding it as a second degree. I was also that science student who took art history and theology classes for the pure fun of it or to ‘feed my soul’ as l like to say. The point is there are so many great classes available at University. You don’t have to know what you want to study, and even if you know don’t let it stop you from exploring the different options. University isn’t just about training for a career it’s about growth and you can’t know for sure until you try. RM: Any advice for IGCSE and IB students who are unsure about which direction they would want to take in life? What should they be doing now?
LK: I think I partly answered this in the previous question. I want to emphasize that not knowing what you are going to study at 16 or 18 is absolutely fine. Most people change their minds anyway, and you have a whole life ahead of you. I know parents and even teachers sometimes can be really pushy and it makes it all so stressful. Honestly, I wish someone had told me 5 or even 7 years ago “don’t worry you are going to be fine.” Yes, it’s easier said than done but you are all going to be fine, if you give yourself the time, put in the work, and allow yourself to step out of your comfort zone and explore the multitude of ideas and opportunities that the world has to offer.
The 21st century is not an easy time for anyone in our generation, our societies are going through a meaningful crisis and now more than ever taking the time to reflect within oneself and find what truly interests you, and drives you is more important than how much you can make or how to make your relatives happy.
I’m a firm believer that if you cannot find a path that suits you, then blaze your own trail, it’s your life so make it as fun and memorable as you possibly can. Long story short, live out the BSL motto: Endeavour is all.