IGS Alums: Five great themes

The Director of Advancement reflects on what he learnt from interviewing IGS Alums in 2022.

Paul Galea has spent the last 30 years getting to know IGS students, as their PDHPE or History teacher, as Head of After Care and Vacation Care, Director of Student Activities, or Deputy Head of High School.

In 2022, in his new role as Director of Advancement, Paul had the pleasure of sitting down with over 20 IGS Alumns to reminisce on their school days, find out what they are up to now and share their wisdom with our students, teachers and the wider IGS community, for his column A Few Minutes With Paul Galea (released weekly as part of the IGS InFocus newsletter).  

Paul Galea with Seamus Lee at the Athletics Carnival in the early 2000s. From the IGS archives.

“The Alums I interviewed ranged greatly in age and in what they did after they left IGS,” said Paul, who found it extremely interesting and also gratifying, that several happy commonalities emerged from the interviews.

“Not all the Alums had all the same stories, of course, but certain themes soon became apparent to me.” 

Here Paul reflects on five things he learnt from our IGS Alums in 2022: 

1. “Good people”: The first thing I noticed was that all these young people (well, young to me, I guess) were good people. They spoke articulately, sometimes with great passion, often with great wisdom and always with a pleasing humility about their post-IGS lives. They had well-developed social consciences, a concern for their fellow human beings, and a willingness to try to make the world a better place. In many ways, this was the most important thing I learnt. Teaching and looking after young people is an inexact science/art at the best of times. As members of a school community, we do the best we can but, to be honest, it is very difficult to know how “the finished product” will turn out.  In conducting these interviews with these former students from a wide variety of year groups, I was in the privileged position to see what type of person they had become after attending our school. Without exception, I felt that, as a school, we had “got it right” with the Alums I interviewed.

2. Varied journeys: The second thing that stood out to me was that nearly all of the interviewees had had long, varied and interesting journeys to arrive at where they were at. It seemed to me that many of them changed university courses, directions, jobs and careers often and that they regarded that journey as being extremely important to their development. This theme probably has great value to our Year 11 and 12 students as they face the HSC and life after school. That can be a difficult time for a lot of us and I think that knowing it is okay to not have a definite, detailed pathway would be comforting for many.

3. Travel broadens the mind: Another commonality was that many of the Alums found that travel overseas was hugely beneficial to them. Travel, combined with the learning of languages at IGS, gave them different perspectives, ideas and ideals. Most felt that living and/or travelling in other countries broadened their outlook and made them better people. Often they referred to being able to speak another language as one of their most important life skills.

4. Love for the IGS community: I was also happy but not surprised to hear that most of these former students recalled their time at IGS fondly. Not many recalled too much about specific lessons, but all loved the events and things outside the classroom that make IGS, well, IGS. International Day, ArtsFest, Swimming and Athletics Carnivals, Language Camps, Outdoor Education Camps, overnight and day excursions, musicals, plays, Clubs and Primary discos were all mentioned by more than one Alum.  It just reinforced the idea that a school is a community within itself, not just a series of lessons in classrooms.

5. Mutual respect: Speaking of classrooms, another theme that resonated was the relationship that students had with their teachers, especially as they got older. Many spoke of being treated as an equal, of being given guidance, respect and wisdom by their various teachers. Again, this was fantastic to hear as it affirms many of the deeply held values of the school. 

“I am hoping that my interviews in 2023 are as enjoyable, affirming and informative as they have been in 2022. I am certainly looking forward to conducting them!” said Paul.

Keep an eye out for new interviews in InFocus every Friday, in both podcast and transcript form.

To read or listen to all of Paul’s interviews click here.