On the 14th of August, I shoved some pens, paper, and a Saltire into my already overstuffed suitcase, and hopped in to the same taxi I’ve been taking to debating competitions since I was in my first year of high school – my parent’s car. This competition however, was one unlike I ever attended as a school kid. I was being taken to the airport to fly solo to Poland where I would meet my team, and finally, after months of preparation, compete at the European University Debating Championships.
This summer the Go Abroad fund took me to the largest student conference in Europe, to debate and discuss everything from the playing of Wagner’s music in Israel, to the creation of a new international banking organisation for the BRICS nations. As a little Scottish fresher, I was one of the youngest competitors, and that made the competition all the more terrifying, but after a while, all the more amazing. When I debated at school it was my team versus another team who also had no idea what they were talking about, and so the quality of discussion could only be so high. At this university tournament, I was facing people who had master’s degrees in the study of the laws we were arguing to change and PHDs in the cultures of the places we were fighting to protect. From the minute I arrived I was in total awe of pretty much everyone around me, listening and learning to some of the most intelligent and knowledgeable university students in the world. And all of this made the outcome of the tournament for myself, and my amazing partner Tim, seem all the more surreal.
If you don’t debate some of the terminology can sound confusing, but in reality its pretty simple. Like many sports, the tournament begins with a couple of qualifying rounds, or out rounds. The best performing teams from this ‘break’ to the Octo’s, then the Quarters, etc. ‘Break night’, where the teams going though to the out rounds are revealed, as you can hide the results of the final few in rounds to keep suspense, is undoubtedly one of the most exciting evenings on the tournament calendar. This year the evening was held in a Warsaw nightclub, and hundreds of students descended on the venue to find out who had made it through. We drank, and danced, and had an incredible time. We had had some of the best debates of our time on the circuit during the out rounds, had stretched ourselves academically and emotionally, and we were ready to relax. And then the announcements began. Glasgow Uni broke as one of the top teams, and we waved that saltire and screamed in celebration of our friends and countrymen. And then, out of no where, they called our team name. We broke. We had one dream when we arrived in Poland, and we reached it. I have never felt so proud. We cheered for the Uni, and for Scotland, and cheered even louder when a team from St Andrews broke as well, and national pride hit us even harder.
This summer is one I will remember for a long time, and that is very much due to the incredible experience I had at EUDU 2016. It is an intense competitive environment which is made fun and interesting and so worth while by the amazing people who inhabit it.