Debating : seizing an opportunity that lead to so many more

I came to HKUST in September 2010 with few expectations so I was pleasantly surprised to see the vast array of non-academic opportunities offered here. As a shy freshman, I randomly decided to try out for the HKUST English Debate Team. With a stroke of luck, I was welcomed in to the team along with 10 other freshmen. Honestly though, I initially felt a little clueless as to what I was doing amongst this discreet group of highly knowledgeable and passionate speakers.

It may sound cliché but in the span of a year, debating has taken me to new places both literally and metaphorically. The highlight of my journey so far was getting the opportunity to debate at World University Debating Championships held in Manila from December 27 to January 4. This annual tournament brings together 400 teams from across all continents to compete together for 9 days at one place and at one time. The trip was one big rollercoaster ride but it reinforced what I have come to love about debating: the stress of coming up with innovative arguments, the thrills of receiving a good motion, the disappointment of consecutive losses overshadowed by the satisfaction gained when you make an excellent unopposed argument and win. The experience was immensely fulfilling because I got to interact with an international community of like-minded people and listen to their perspectives on issues that principally affect all of us no matter where we are from.

People often describe debating as a competitive skill-based sport or as a stationary activity synonymous with arguing. But over the year, under the guidance of our knowledgeable team captains, I have come to appreciate the essence and multi-dimensional aspects of debating. It is the art of using knowledge to construct arguments with a precarious balance of rationality, analytical and critical thinking. It is about challenging ourselves to look at world issues from different perspectives. On a team level, it is about cooperation, trust and listening carefully. Personally, I have become more open-minded, tolerant and coherent in my thought analyses but most importantly, reading about world affairs/history for debating has inspired me to be aware of the plight of people beyond my immediate environment. The next step is to change the world, but change begins with knowledge and passion. This is how debating has evolved into a way of life.

If I hadn’t faced my fears to turn up for the team recruitment interview, I probably wouldn’t have discovered my passion for international relations. I wouldn’t have discovered the capability to confidently stand on an international platform and speak aloud a 7-minute speech prepared in only 15 minutes or that I would get meet new people and places because of it. If there is one thing I have learnt through this experience, it is to seize the opportunities offered even if you doubt your capability/outcome because you never know how many more come along your way because of that one decision you made to take a chance!

Debating - seizing an opportunity that lead to so many more
A warm reception at the airport in Manila

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Our packed daily schedules

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Beautiful architecture of the host university – De La Salle University

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Waiting patiently for the team draws

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The HKUST contingent at the Opening Dinner

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Tired but happy after completing debating 9 rounds for 3 consecutive days!

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Done with debating, now it’s time to celebrate the New Year

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Watching the semi-finals. Look at the diversity of teams!

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The stage for the grand final!

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And the Grand Final Motion is…

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New friends!

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The massive draw room! Over 800 debaters waiting for motion announcement.