HoWSC 16 | Julia Hlaing

As I reach the demise of my WSC career, I find myself reflecting on my experiences (and cringing in embarrassment) a lot of the time. Thirteen-year-old me had zero idea what was in store for her. Thirteen-year-old me and an old friend also had the inane idea of creating a meme page dedicated to it, because, at the time, there was a lack of WSC-related pages on Instagram (and also, who doesn’t like memes?).

As much as I cringe nowadays at the account, I’m very grateful I continued running it. Interacting with fellow scholars and befriending them later on through DMs was… an experience. From anecdotes about accidentally setting the curtains of their hotel rooms on fire, being locked in the wrong debate room, and falling asleep during the challenge to random (un)helpful tips and tricks (‘the key is to always be loud! it doesn’t matter what you’re saying, as long as you sound confident about it!’) to finessing debate, writing, and challenge, every interaction was unique. I realized that these scholars want you to do well, to have the best possible WSC experience you can have, and that feeling of having people other than your parents want the best for me felt initially weird. My schools were toxic and there was competition amongst everyone, and with friends, there was no helping/sharing when it came to schoolwork.

Even though WSC is a competition, I never felt the need to be competitive, and neither did my team. I mean, we wanted to win a few debates but that was probably about it. Our parents discouraged prioritizing anything else over schoolwork, and as a result, Quizlet (and feverishly reading WSC study guides for the first time on our flight to Sydney) was as far as studying went. Holding just one practice debate (which lasted 15 minutes because we wanted to eat noodles instead of practice) between regionals and globals (it was held the night before Triple Threat, look how dedicated we are!), I have no idea how my team managed to survive debate. Also, no one studied the science curriculum because we had thought someone else from the team had studied it. This we learned in a moment of horror when the science bit of the bowl started.

Looking back, we definitely could have put in more effort towards studying and practice, but we’d miss so many moments that made WSC for us. There would have been no moments where we’d squeeze each other’s hands after a debate and pretend we were calm and composed when we were shaking, moments where we eenie-minie-miny -mo’ed our way through bowl and laugh, either because we had gotten the answer right or wrong, moments where we’d lie down on the floor outside our debate room accepting our doom, moments where we’d go ‘it’s okay, you just need to breathe and state your points and maybe yell a bit’ 3 seconds before one of us goes up to speak - I would have missed so many moments that made WSC WSC.

Many key things set WSC apart from most academic competitions. Most competitions didn’t give out stuffed alpacas. Most competitions didn’t assemble giant chairs on convention center stages. Most competitions certainly didn’t play the soundtrack from Food Wars when it was time to give out awards. The spontaneity and the randomness of the program are what I love most about it. The program has taught me so much, that sometimes there’s just so much going on all at once and there’s no other choice but to go with the flow. Sometimes there’s just no evidence that supports your side of the debate and there’s no other choice but to…. exaggerate. Sometimes there’s just no more hair dye so there’s no other choice but to dye it again later because only half of your head is green. Sometimes the elevator door closes too early and there’s no choice but to stick your hand out to keep it open (one day!).

As I write this in a midst of a coup and pandemic (cries), I only wish I could experience it all again one last time before I graduate, but chances of that happening are diminishing every second, so the only thing I can say is that whether you’re here for the trophies or the alpacas or your college transcript, enjoy your WSC experience to the fullest.

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