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Either by pure coincidence or fate, it just so happened that I would be writing this article today, on the 28th of October — the one-month anniversary of the IB Juniors CAS Retreat. On this very day a month ago, forty-one students were packing and readying themselves for (hopefully) the trip of a lifetime.

I was one of say forty-one students, and I remember that day vividly… almost like it was just thirty days back. That 28th, I recall, was spent frantically running around the house, panicking about the possibility of forgetting my toiletries or other necessities. It’s actually giving me anxiety just thinking about it. Thing is, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. We really need to stop putting off packing; one of these days it’ll really cost us.

Oh, well. What are you gonna do?

Moving on. I realize it might be a little late to be addressing something that happened almost a month ago, but I think the experience is worth writing about at least once. Hopefully, this’ll do it justice, and add to all the hype surrounding the CAS Retreat. Seriously, though, this trip is legendary; it deserves all the hype and exaggeration in the world. I’d gone through my former high school years on the receiving end of some crazy story-telling from that year’s juniors. In spite of that or maybe because of it, the CAS Retreat seemed a bit too romanticized to be that memorable. Too good to be true, essentially. Now, as I write, I can’t help but curse my stupidity. Those stories couldn’t have been products of an overactive imagination, or a mean spirit trying to rub their fun in the underlings’ faces.  They were all true. So very, very true.


It might be controversial to say but: if you are a sophomore and on the fence about IB, think of the retreat as a deciding factor. Now, this isn’t simply because it’s fun (though it really is!). Ever wonder why this trip takes place so early in the year? It’s not because IB work is overwhelming and new students need a break immediately. The time is actually quite strategic, if you think about it.


I’d first like to explain what some lose sight of easily: IB isn’t all about work and stress over the 1-7 grading scale, it’s two years of one’s life. 700 days — give or take. That’s 700 days spent taking the same classes you chose at the end of 10th grade. That’s 700 days spent looking at and learning from the same teachers heading those classes. That’s 700 days spent with the same classmates who joined IB with you all that time ago. Heavy stuff.


To some, I think I’ve just described prison. But, that’s why the CAS Retreat takes place so early on in the year. It’s there to help make your future IB life seem less bothersome in a manner unrivaled by encouragement from teachers/parents/ former students. Though it may be beautiful and sparkling and the holy Mecca for all your tumblr pics, you’re still in the middle of nowhere with only another forty people to keep you company. You’ll be left in close proximity with humans of whose existence you were barely aware- through the hikes, snorkeling trips, nightly reflections, community service projects, and optional night walks along the beach. All of it, you will do with people you might never have even approached before.


As such, you’ll have no other choice but to pick up on their habits and their likes and dislikes, slowly but surely getting more comfortable around them. Your past judgments- you know, the ones a teenager makes with absolutely no substantial evidence- will crumble when you start seeing the similarities between yourself and others. Your past ‘enemies’, or even your own friends, will start looking more three-dimensional, more real. The begrudging civility with which you handled others will evolve into more familiar and enthusiastic interaction.


Sooner or later, in those five days, you’ll discover that these people will be your family for the next two years — there through thick and thin because you all chose the IB route. You’ll understand that these smiling faces around you will be there to lend you a hand, to offer a comforting shoulder, to complain with you about an upcoming Paper 2. They’ll be there to join in your laughter and tears, joy and sadness. And, really, you’ll find that you won’t mind.


That is what the IB CAS Retreat is all about: showing you that no matter how intimidating and tough the next two years may seem, you’ll always have others there to support you.


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Snapshot from Aric Williams’ CAS Retreat Video


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Photo from my camera

By: Rita Fahmy