As I log into this Zoom meeting I see the young smiling faces of 14 juniors chosen to be part of IE University’s Junior Advisory Board (JAB) Programme 2021 Edition. I think back to how I felt when I was in their position, three whole years ago, and suddenly feelings of excitement come rushing back.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the JAB Programme, IE invites 14 high school juniors from around the world to the university to be involved in a week of activities, at the end of which they give a presentation to the IE Executive Committee. Every year the programme is set around a different topic, this year’s was the impact of technology on the global economy. Each of these candidates are also granted a scholarship if they choose to pursue their higher education at IE. I was a part of the programme in 2018 and was able to interact with this year’s cohort (via Zoom) and learn more about their experience of the programme.
I think the most surprising thing that I heard from this year’s participants was that even though the whole programme was online, all of them felt as though they were able to connect to one another.
“I think that all the JABbers this year understand that the situation of digital interaction and we all are trying to interact through social media, learning about each other’s cultures and interests.”
A big part of the JAB Programme is definitely in the connections one is able to make, so for this year’s participants to still have been able to feel connected is truly amazing. In my experience, of the 14 JABbers half of us ended up attending IE and are still in close contact. I would have never imagined that the friends I made two years prior to university could become such a big part of my university life, but I’m so grateful that they have.
I think it is also worth mentioning that with this being the second installment of JAB in an online format, it is also clear that IE was able to help facilitate the connections between students in any way possible. In this year’s programme they place the students into small groups based on their time zones so that they could get to know each other better and work closely on specific aspects of their final presentation.
Another big aspect of this programme is the international environment that students are exposed to. As students at IE know, the university has a 75% international student population and many of our professors come from around the world and have had experience in a variety of countries. This is definitely an aspect that makes IE unique as a university and creates an open-minded and culturally diverse environment. This year fourteen JAB participants represented twelve countries allowing for a variety of perspectives and experiences to be shared.
“Something I will remember from all of this experience is how refreshing it is to meet new people with different backgrounds and with different perspectives. Most of us, for our first years of life, spend our lives in the same place and don’t really realize how big the world is.”
-Juan Manuel Lequerica, 2021 JAB Member from Colombia
Getting a taste of university life is of course another element, and arguably the biggest element of the programme. In normal circumstances spending a week visiting a university will not accurately reflect a true university experience and being online even less so, but IE has done everything they could to involve these students in the IE community. Not only were they able to interact with IE professors but also with IE students to get an insider’s scoop of what life at IE is actually like. The uncertainty of what the future holds for many highschoolers due to the current state of the world can be scary at times (at least that’s what I have been told) as their university experience may still be affected by COVID-19. IE’s effort to represent a university experience online is truly commendable, and for many of the participants it gave them a sense of relief over what the future could possibly look like.
“Before this experience I was feeling anxious and nervous about the possibility of applying abroad and starting from scratch. I can now say that I’m more at ease with starting my university experience and I find it very exciting!”
“This experience has opened my eyes to the immense possibilities that university offers and shown me what I value most in a university environment.”
Even though I was a part of this programme many moons ago I still share many of the same feelings of that members of this year’s cohort experience. Firstly the disbelief of being chosen for such an incredible opportunity, even three years later I am still amazed that I was given the possibility to give input into my future educational experience. Additionally, the feeling that the world is truly your oyster, as JAB was only the first taste of what the future of my educational career would hold but made me realise the many possibilities that it could hold. Although there are many things that separate me from this years intake of JABbers, namely our striking different experiences of high school and the JAB Programme due to COVID-19, I have no doubt that they will still be able to make the most of the opportunities IE has given them, whether they choose to pursue their higher education here or not.