Whether you have exams coming up or about to just start the IB, you’ll always need inspiration. Who better to inspire you to go forth with IB excitement than Marina Catena? Marina is the Director of the United Nations World Food Programme in France, and Lieutenant of the Italian Army. She studied for her IB Diploma at UWC Duino in 1985-87. Lanterna spoke to her recently to see whether she had any words of encouragement to offer the IB students who are about to sit their exams worldwide.

Lieutenant Marina Catena as Blue Helmet in Lebanon peacekeeping operation (2007)

Lanterna: Hi Marina! Do you have any tips about how to stay positive through tough exams?

Marina: My first tip is a very practical one: sleep and eat properly! Sleep well, and sleep a lot: this is something that I know many students don’t do! Also ensure that you are eating correctly. I remember arriving at the end of my diploma and feeling exhausted, so I really think you need to make sure that you are getting the vitamins you need to stay in good shape physically. When you do the IB, you are still young and maybe don’t yet appreciate the importance of this. If I were to sit my diploma again now, I would definitely prioritise food and sleep to help myself prepare. It’s so simple, but it is really critical! You will reach the end of your diploma having lived some of the most amazing years of your life, but also probably feeling quite emotionally fragile. You need to give yourself a way to stay strong both physically and mentally.

My next tip is to give the IB your full concentration in the final months, because your exams are very important! When I was studying for my diploma in Italy, I remember feeling that the style of the exams was very different to what I had experienced before at school. You are probably not fully accustomed yet, even though you will have sat mocks, because the IB exams are unique; they really do require your full attention and concentration. This is a critical period in your life, and you have to remember what you’re up against – don’t underestimate the enemy! Don’t be scared, just be realistic! You will have a great time when you finish your diploma, and will have had a great time up until now, but when it comes to exam season, you have to give it your all. If you approach revision right, then the exams will be easy. Just make sure that you give yourself all of the right cards in your hand!

Marina Catena speaking at TEDx LUISS 2015

Lanterna: How has doing the IB helped you since graduation?

Marina: I’m sure that the experience I had when I sat my exams in 1987 is a bit different to how it is for students today! That said, since doing the IB I have lived quite an adventurous life and faced many challenges: being in the military, being a diplomat in the UN. But to this day, I still look back on my IB exams as a difficult experience that helped me to learn a lot.

When you study the IB, you are very young, and you are faced with a type of exam that you have never encountered before, so to get through the diploma successfully is a big achievement. When I was studying within the Italian system, we all spoke the same language and were only being compared to one another. But as an IB student, you are part of a global community! It is special and important to be compared with students worldwide, with all of you speaking the same language and working towards the same goal. This is just what real life is like – it is good to hold yourself to the same standards as everyone else.

Lanterna: Do you have any final words of encouragement to offer IB students worldwide?

Marina: These IB exams really will open so many doors for you. While you may be feeling sad that your school career is coming to a close, in reality, your time at school will never leave you! The experience you have had is unique and will stay with you forever. The IB is the key to your future, especially in today’s world. 20 years ago, doing the diploma was still great, but as IB students we felt like ‘the different ones’, the ‘white flies’, the ‘extra-terrestrials’! Things are different now: the IB is the passport to your future. It gives you the skills to be able to go ahead and find a job wherever in the world you like. The IB experience is a winning one!


Inspiring enough for you?! On behalf of everyone here at Lanterna Education, GOOD LUCK! You’ve got this!

A big thank you for Marina for speaking to us. You can learn more about the incredible work she does here.

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