A little less than two years ago, I began to attend speaker’s training at the Glasgow University Union. At the beginning of my university career, I was yet to shed that shyness that had picked at my confidence since before my teenage years. On the face of it, debating seemed a strange choice for someone like me, one who couldn’t muster the bravado I had before then assumed was intrinsic to being a ‘debater’. Indeed, it took me almost a month before I could attend training without wandering around campus for half an hour to calm my nerves. Yet there was something that kept me there despite myself. Something in the community of intelligent and engaged people, in the pursuit of self-improvement and the drive to better oneself, and in the opportunities to travel and bond with like-minded people from around the country, and indeed the world.
Two years later, I run the same training I used to be so nervous about attending, and I am about to attend my third international competition, in which I will represent the Glasgow University Union. The European University Debating Championships – EUDC – is one of the most prestigious debating competitions worldwide, alongside it’s Asian and American equivalents, and the World University Debating Championships. The culmination of years of hard work and planning, the event brings together the most talented speakers from Europe and beyond for a week of high quality debate, and is one of the largest all student-run events in the world. EUDC shall take place this year in the city of Novi Sad, Serbia.
The Glasgow University Union has a proud tradition of success at international debating competitions, having won the World University Debating Championships an unprecedented five times, and reached the finals and semi-finals on numerous other occasions. Last year, Glasgow enjoyed immense success at EUDC, with GUU A winning the grand final. On top of this, GUU speaker Bethany Garry was named joint best speaker at the competition, the first woman to hold this title and the title of champion in the history of competition, and her partner, Owen Mooney, was named third best speaker. The GUU squad this year returns to the competition the defending champions, hopeful to continue this legacy of success.
Last year was my first EUDC, and I attended the competition as a judge. I had made it on to the squad by virtue of a policy run by the GUU through which at least one first year can go to EUDC every year. Watching my friends progress through the competition, and eventually winning, I realised just how much opportunity was there for the taking.
The union pays for our training and our travel, and by putting the work in, we too could achieve these feats. This year I am speaking at the competition, spurred on by this realisation to work as hard as I could to get here. I have two years of debating at Glasgow ahead of me, and I look forward to every minute of it. If you are about to begin first year and you are reading this, you have four. Make the most of it. Put the work in, and reap the rewards. Great things are possible for you. As for me, I hope to have the privilege of teaching you. So I’ll see you in September. 6PM in the GUU’s Bridie Library, every Tuesday.