The World Scholar’s Cup was a catalyst of change for my life. It all started in 2015, when my school’s first ever delegation to the WSC came back from the regionals with so many medals. Intrigued by the prospect of such lucrative achievements, I had decided: I wanted in.
But I would eventually find that this change that was brought about by the experience of the WSC was about more than medals, more than an excuse to get out of class to train with like-minded individuals, yet more than even the experience of the WSC itself – it was about growth.
I’m not particularly proud of my first-ever stint in the WSC. In debate, I had mostly been riding on the coattails of my considerably more experienced and skilled teammates. I couldn’t even answer half of the questions in the Scholar’s Challenge as I had done little more than brush upon the syllabus. Yet, the entire concept of the WSC fascinated me – the idea that a competition that cultivated and assessed academic prowess could be filled with so much fun “filler” activities (that some would consider as “nonsense”); not to mention the immensely amusing yet oddly inspiring scene of an entire hall of scholars from different walks of life yelling in alpaca-speak and waving alpaca plushes in the air. It was almost too good to be true. I was soon to learn the true cost of almost-paradise. Reality ensued; I would miss the 2016 Global Round due to financial and safety concerns, but I vowed to come back with a vengeance.
And come back I did. Forming a new team, I ended up qualifying for the 2017 Global Round among the top 50 teams, and even then it was not enough. My school would only allow 7 teams to go, and my team was not included. Nevertheless, a miracle happened, although it may not be right to put it that way. A good friend of mine, whose team was eligible to go, had to pull out due to certain reasons. I was to take his place in our delegation to the Hanoi Round.
This round was the one that had the most significant impact on me. I got to make countless unbelievably awkward attempts at socializing and made several friends beyond my small existing social circle. It even led to me eventually becoming a fan of Ed Sheeran (thanks to Burch). I have many fond memories of the Hanoi Round, the foremost of which is the smile plastered on Daniel Berdichevsky’s face for almost the entire week. In fact, he wasn’t just smiling – he was beaming. I had never before seen the face of a man so happy, so excited and so proud of something and I never have again. Even more memorable was Burch’s entire schtick. He really was at top form in this round, bringing energy and excitement to this diverse community of scholars all throughout the event. Everything about this round was nothing short of magical.
Nonetheless, something was missing; and it was the memory of standing in the middle of a crowded room full of people having fun together yet feeling lonelier and more isolated than ever that was the impetus to the realization that I wasn’t being true to myself. It was this realization that would later set me on a path to finding myself.
After graduating high school, I decided to prepare in advance for my third and final year of participation. Unlike my previous years, I went all out in studying the syllabus as soon as it was released, and after consulting some of my friends who are excellent debaters (namely Rodger Nyioh and Cyril Joachim, props to them), my team was equipped with something that I did not have before: strategy.
After several back-and-forths, I ended up with the same teammates as the previous Regional Round, and unlike in the previous round, we compiled our own notes with reference to other sources instead of straight-up reading from a single source, which proved to be very effective. Due to a plethora of other commitments, we ended up only having one practice round of debate, one day before the 2018 Penang Regional. In spite of this, we managed to get outstanding results. I was utterly shocked at the number of medals I had managed to receive. Ultimately, however, I have learned many valuable lessons from my experiences. I realized that it was, in fact, possible for me to learn something entirely new as long as I had the passion to endure the trials. I learned how to “properly” debate, and how to properly learn. The WSC reignited my passion for learning, and the skills I have gained will no doubt be of great help to me in my future endeavours.
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