Tag: Australs

Tips for Best Travel, Probably

I have attended a lot of tournaments and conferences now, and learned a lot by making a lot of mistakes. Here are some indispensable tips for any kind of tournament, learned the hard way by yours truly.

1. Always take emergency chocolate.

You think it’ll be fine. You think there will be places to buy candy if you get cravings. You think you won’t really want it.

Well let me tell you right now, you are dead wrong. Have you ever been trapped in Kuala Lumpur about to cry because you want 70% Whittaker’s? No. You haven’t. And if you follow my advice, you will never have to.

2. Eat breakfast.

Even with the (insane) (terrifying) breakfasts we got in Japan) eating breakfast each day was a must. In KL, we had to get up before 7 in order to eat breakfast. Done.

If you’re at a tournament or conference, you’re representing your locality. It’s your duty to be on top of your game. And you’re not going to be on top of your game if you don’t eat breakfast.

Even if you’re not at a tournament or conference – not being on top of your game makes you sad, eat breakfast.

3. Choose your roommate wisely.

If you’re going to be sleeping in the same space as/sharing a shower with/stinking up a room with someone, you better make sure they are a true friend. Thankfully, I’ve always managed to hit the jackpot with my roommates, mostly entirely randomly. Don’t take this risk, some people are bad with personal space.

The flipside of this point is to be a good roommate. Stay chill, don’t clip your toenails on their bed, and just generally be a nice human.

4. Be friends with people you’re travelling with.

No matter how big or small your group, be friends with them. They’re really cool people and probably have a lot of the same interests as you. An optional sub-point here is Do Not Start Dating Or Otherwise Have Relations With The People You’re Travelling With While Travelling I Do Not Care If You Think You Are Both Adults It Gets Weird For You and Everyone.

5. Think Before You Kiss

All right now I recognize that not everyone else is as into the sweet make-outs as I am, and also that other people probably have standards, but this still needs to be said because oh man being sick is the worst:





Also just like, be sensible. I had the most awkward sex talk of my life at the IBO (age 16), because me and this australian boy were sweet on each other so our respective team coaches told us to Not Do Anything We Would Regret which literally took me like 15 minutes to get that they were telling us to not have unprotected sex.

(also ideally be aware of any professional effects this might have, I’d enjoy it if we lived in a sex-positive utopia, but we don’t, so keep an eye on that)

6. Take work, but be okay with not getting any of it done.

If get sick, it’s the best way to distract yourself from just lying in your hotel room going OH GOD I FEEL SO GROSS THIS IS THE WORST.

Take a trashy novel as well to cheer you up if you get sad.

7. Have fun.

It seems self-evident, but when you’re travelling (tournament/conferences especially) it’s really easy to forget that you need to chill out. Try your hardest, do your country/region/parents proud, but also remember that you’ve done pretty well and that you are allowed to not be stressed the entire time.

Relax. Don’t get wound up. Try to not get to the point where you want to stab someone. You’ll get back home to your bed and shower soon.


You Are All Already Winners.

When it comes to most amazing experiences of my life, the International Biology Olympiad is up there – and I’ve lived a pretty privileged life. I’ve seen the pyramids. I’ve seen glow-worms. I’ve been up the Eiffel tower. But there’s a difference between seeing things, and being completely awe-inspired by the world, and being somewhere full of people like you. It’s no secret that I was a massive nerd in high school, and the IBO was also full of people that were massive nerds in high school. It genuinely felt like I had found the people I should have known all my life. They are the largest branch of my extended family, no matter what happens.

New Zealand on stage at the Opening Ceremony
New Zealand on stage at the Opening Ceremony

At the opening ceremony, one of the speakers made particularly sure to remind us, time and again, that we were all already winners. It’s a sentiment that you don’t get very much, and I can genuinely say it was the first time I believed it.

That sentiment has become a large part of my daily life, and I remember it particularly when away on tournaments. It’s a very different sentiment to that you get at debating tournaments, where the competition is most definitely that – a lot of the time, when squads get stressed or upset by close debates or things they perceive as “failures”, I really want to sit them down and say:

But don’t you understand? Simply by being here, you’ve won. If you’re in O1, O2, O3, O4, if you’re here as an adjudicator, you’ve shown that you’re the best Otago has to offer. No matter what happens here, you made it here, and that in and of itself is a success.

Debating puts a lot of pressure on people, and either attracts or creates a lot of highly-strung high achievers that might not believe that their best is enough. I would probably be the first person to tell you that I’m not a great speaker – I’m decent, I’ve broken to semifinals in both the available amateur tournaments we have and then proceeded to flake horrendously – but that has never really mattered to me, because debating is always something I have done for the joy in it.

I want Otago to host Australs next year, simply so I can have a chance to tell these talented, well-spoken young men and women that they are all already winners, simply for being here. I hope that they will believe it, because too many people get inordinately down on themselves because they fail to measure up to some abstract idea of “good enough”.