This year, I had the honour of representing Edinburgh for the second time at the European University Debating Championships, this year in Tallinn, Estonia. This was an honour I would have been unable to accept had it not been for the PGAF.
The experience started back in March when the Debates Union held trials to select teams for the Championships. Being part of the Debates Union is like being part of a family, so although tensions were high, the competition was friendly.
Having tried my best, but feeling disappointed in my performance, I wasn’t sure if I had done enough to receive a spot. I was absolutely stunned and delighted when they announced that my friend Noah and I would be going as a team.
As the thrill of selection wore off, the reality of the commitment settled in. Soon began the months of training. Twice a week from March until May, the various ‘Euros’ teams and other lovely members of the Debates Union, would do practice debates, covering every topic we could think of. Even when University came to the end, our preparation had to continue. We went to a practice tournament every weekend in June, travelling everywhere from Glasgow to Berlin. We started to see our work pay off at these tournaments, reaching the finals in Glasgow, and gaining several top-ten speaker positions.
Then came the main event. Two-hundred and fifteen teams, seven days, one city. The in-rounds of the Championships brought us mixed results, and the hours before the ‘break’ announcement to the out-rounds were filled with many moments of excitement, followed by immediate fear. We knew we were very close to the position we so wanted to be in, but we couldn’t know for sure if we had done it.
Unfortunately, when the break announcement came, we were disappointed. It was hard to discover we had not got the victory we had worked for. However, one of the other Edinburgh teams managed to get to the out-rounds, and I felt nothing but excitement for our wonderful friends. Seeing them give beautiful speeches in the quarter finals made me want to work harder and get better, so when I hopefully return to EUDC in the future I can make them as proud of me as I was proud of them. This competition taught me disappointment is not to be feared, it just feeds ambition.
Our friends from the Glasgow University Union were eventually declared the winners of the Championships. One of their speakers, Bethany, became the first woman to have ever won and be declared the best speaker in Europe. This was a beautiful moment to have witnessed at EUDC 2017. The representation of women in debating is still limited, but to see a Scottish woman prove that we are just as able to succeed in the activity as men, made me feel invincible. It feels like working hard for a potential future victory will be worth the effort, because it is no longer an impossible dream.
The Edinburgh Squad at EUDC 2017
Noah and I at EUDC