By Mary Katherine DJ San Miguel, Aleeza Moira Tiongson, and Alyssa Santana Miriam College
Things don’t usually go the way you plan in a competition like the World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions (WSCToC). This is what our team, numbered 686, has come to realize looking back.
We initially journeyed to Hanoi, Vietnam for the Global Rounds—the competition before you qualify for the (WSCToC)—thinking that there would be scarier competitors, but it turned out to be the complete opposite. Our counterparts have become our friends. These things should not come as a surprise, however, because we truly live in an “Unlikely World,” which also happens to be the theme of this year’s completion.
An Unlikely World is what the WSC curriculum has incessantly reminded us over and over again. Countless unlikely things have happened to us ever since we joined this competition last November and found ourselves among 2,200 scholars coming from 50 countries. Nine other schools from the Philippines also competed.
Not your usual competition
Being able to compete at Yale University for the WSCToC was the unlikeliest of them all. It is not your usual competition. It does not simply measure 100 percent academic knowledge and not all topics are exactly taught in schools. We are judged based on our attitude, dedication, and independence as scholars—all three are acquired rather than taught.
Its very own website defines the competition as “something different than traditional academic competitions and conferences: a celebration of the joy of learning, a tournament as rewarding for the team that came in last.”
We knew that there were still innumerable things we had to improve on, one of it being debate, as we were beginners in this component. So we practiced. We had training sessions once or twice every week leading to the WSCToC, equipping ourselves constantly and from each session we learned. We continued to practice and review with each other every opportunity we got.
Time seemed to pass by really quickly. Before we knew it, we were standing in front of Yale University, taking in its beauty and, at the same time, comprehending the fact that we were about to compete in this very place where former US presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, journalist Anderson Cooper, author Tom Wolfe, actress Meryl Streep, and former US presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, to mention a few, graduated from.
Test of skill
We started off with the Scholar’s Challenge, a mind-boggling exam filled with a bunch of unusual questions that truly tested our knowledge on the curriculum. It definitely was a challenge, but despite its extreme difficulty, we still kept pushing through. After exercising our brains on the challenge, we moved on to collaborative writing.
Given six prompts to choose from, together as a team, we helped each other formulate three eloquent essays that would with hope get the notice of the judges. It was not an easy task given that we only had 45 minutes, but we were still able to make the most out of it. We then faced our most dreaded event of all—the Team Debate. Not only was it a huge challenge to debate on topics that were utterly “unlikely,” but it was also a task that required a huge load of confidence. How and where do pull out arguments for topics like “Children should be told lies if they were to grow up without trauma,” “Actuarial science should be taught to high school students,” and “It is the duty of the citizens to question the government.”
Looking back at our debates from previous regional and global rounds, we found it fulfilling that even if we did not win them all, we knew that our arguments were exceptionally better than before.
We then finally had the scholar’s bowl, where all the teams competed against each other in a quiz bee of some sort.
Questions are projected and in 15 seconds we needed to click the right answer using a remote. An example of the unlikely questions would be: “What would Doc Brown be least likely to advise young Anastacia?” or “Which of the following newspaper headlines would you most likely see if the New World Order came to pass?” Although we made some regrettable mistakes, we enjoyed going through every question together, as a team.
Academics aside, we were additionally given the chance to participate in several community events such as the Debate Showcase, the Scholar’s Ball, the Scholar’s Show, the Scholar’s Scavenge, and the Cultural Fair. These events gave us the opportunity to converse with people from all over the world, and to appreciate the many different cultures that made the event so beautifully diverse.
When the awarding ceremony began we could only hope and pray for the best. When we started to see our names appear one by one, we slowly felt the happiness and excitement that could only be a result of hard work. We got a total of 29 gold medals, 21 silver medals, and three trophies. It was unexpected but we felt euphoric just the same.
The team started to tear up when we were announced as the top ninth overall champion team, besting more than 300 Senior Division teams in the final rounds. This also meant we were the highest Filipino ranking team at the event (we are also proud that our counterparts at the Immaculate Conception Academy bagged top 10). We were named the top one team in Southeast Asia. We couldn’t believe how unlikely—yet how well—everything turned out to be.
Now that everything has sunk in, we feel a deep sense of pride and gratitude that we were given this honor to represent not only our school Miriam College, but our country as well.