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Harrow Shanghai Pupils Debate at Yale in the World Scholar’s Cup

February, 2018
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In November 2017, six Harrow International School Shanghai pupils travelled to Yale to take part in the World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions, competing against scholars from around the world in the four-day event.

The World Scholar’s Cup was celebrating its tenth anniversary and there were well over a thousand participants in the Junior division alone, who had travelled from every corner of the globe, having qualified through regional and global rounds for the most prestigious WSC event, the Tournament of Champions.

The event began with an opening ceremony and an address from the renowned American poet, Rita Mae Reese. Annie Xu (Year 9) was one of the few pupils who were fortunate to be picked to ask Rita Mae Reese a question. “What three words best describe your poetry?” she asked. Ms Reese thought for a while, saying “What a great question,” before answering, “short, evocative and surprising.” The opening formalities were followed by a delicious Thanksgiving Lunch and then it was on to the Scavenger Hunt, which took the pupils all over Yale following clues and gave them a chance to team up with delegates from other schools and make some new friends.

The first day finished with dinner with Yale undergraduates in Ezra Stiles College. It said a lot for the Yale students that they were prepared to give up their time in this way, but the talks were very much two-way and gave the pupils an invaluable insight into what it’s like to live and study at a university with the pedigree of Yale. This is a pedigree which includes five presidents, as recent as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton (wife Hilary too), and an astonishing succession of Hollywood stars, such as Meryl Streep, Paul Newman, Henry Winkler, Vincent Price, Sigourney Weaver, Jodie Foster, Edward Norton and Sam Waterston, not forgetting movie directors, Elia Kazan, George Roy Hill and Oliver Stone.

Over the following two days, the Harrow pupils competed in the four competition areas - the Scholar’s Challenge, The Scholar’s Bowl, the creative writing team task and the all-important debates. The two teams had practised as much as they could for these over the preceding days, honing their debate style, but there was only so much preparation they could do as the actual debate motions were revealed just fifteen minutes before the debates. The Harrow teams more than held their own against most of the finest debating schools from around the globe, winning five of their six debates. It was a credit to their many qualities, teamwork and sheer determination to do so well.

In the presentation ceremony, Harrow’s pupils won an impressive number of gold and silver medals in all areas of the competition, scoring particularly highly in the debating and the Scholar’s Bowl. All six pupils, Emmer Wang, Judy Jiang, Rebekah Hunt, Ben Cook, Annie Xu and Brightly Shen, did the school proud.

Rita Mae Reese was so impressed with Harrow that she has agreed to visit the school in the next few months and talk about how those three words, in answering Annie Xu’s question, have influenced the content and mood of her poetry. Even better she will do her workshops in the Simon Armitage Library, a fellow poet she greatly admires.

In every sense Harrow’s experiences at the World Scholar’s Cup showed what a small world it is and how a Harrow education can make it even smaller, providing opportunities for all to further their studies in unexpected and unique ways.


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