DUBAI // There were screams and hugs from the returning pupils at Dubai International Academy, while the new arrivals went quietly to orientation with their parents.
At just after 7.20am, the corridors began to fill with nervous and excited schoolchildren. They crowded around a noticeboard with A4 pages listing their homerooms for the year.
Among them was Vijayendra Vittal, a Year 12 pupil from India, who said he was ready to "step up his game".
"I'm checking which class I'm in then going to my homeroom with friends," Vijayendra, 16, said. "The great thing about this school is its diversity and encouragement from teachers."
He hopes to study aeronautical engineering in India before getting a pilot's licence.
Malika Khamidova, a final-year pupil from Russia, said the first day was "usually this crazy".
"People are always excited and teachers are happy to see us," said Malika, 18. "I'm looking forward to seeing friends."
Poonam Bhojani, the director of the school, said it prided itself on an education that created leaders.
"First day back is always fun," Mrs Bhojani said. "We have a waiting list every year because the learning and teaching doesn't stop at academics."
The school, with 1,850 students of more than 80 nationalities, opened in 2005. It was the first in Dubai to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and was awarded an accreditation from the Council of International Schools this summer.
New students from KG1 to Year 13 began the day at orientation classes and parent-teacher sessions.
Mahfrin Wadia, from India, was among them. She said she chose the school because of the IB curriculum.
"I'm nervous but also excited. I only know one person," Mahfrin said.
Renu Murali, from India, accompanied her daughter to her first day.
"She is new, in Grade 11," Mrs Murali said. "I enrolled her because my son learnt to prepare for the real world here," Mrs Murali said.
Brian Cochrane, from Canada, is a Year 1 teacher who is also new to the school. Sitting in the middle of a colourful room on a bright red chair, Mr Cochrane said working with young children was rewarding because of their "enthusiasm for learning".
"I have 26 students from 17 nationalities and watching their growth is rewarding," he said. "Our first and second day will concentrate on hopes and dreams with the parents."
Tania Klesc, from Indonesia, said she was happy with the progress her sons, aged 17 and nine, had made.
"I've enrolled them since the beginning," Mrs Klesc said. "They're involved in activities outside the classroom, which is part of the IB programme. My eldest son wants to help maids seeking help at the Indonesian consulate to learn English."