Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Bad Day for Stage Fright, A Good Day for International Development

Posted by Libby Koolik

I am not the most comfortable person speaking in front of a crowd, so I was pretty nervous going up to participate in the debate today.

A little background: Yesterday, Annie asked me if I would be one of the MIT kids to lead today's debate over whether or not a sustainable solution to water security actually exists.  The debate involved the collaboration between MIT and NMMU (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University) students.

Here's how it went down.

First, we met up in the hotel bar at about 10PM last night.  The MIT kids discussed our personal views on the issue and tried to see if we could pick sides.  By some stroke of luck, we actually fell three and three on the issue, so it was super easy to split up.  Later, the six representatives from NMMU showed up and we started a super riveting discussion on the future of water security, particularly in South Africa.

The discussion was so captivating.  It was really interesting to hear the perspectives of the NMMU students on things that I - as a naïve American freshman - had never even considered.  They made me really think about a lot of issues that I didn't even know existed.  It also was really riveting because we were constantly incorporating the inspirational activities that we did that day.  Particularly, we discussed the elementary school and Missionvale (which hopefully another Terrablogger is going to write about).  The students we worked with were all masters and higher degree seekers, and they all had personal experiences with the water crisis here in South Africa.

The next morning, we met up really early to solidify our teams and get some good team opinions set in stone.  My group bonded really well because we totally allowed ourselves to get off-topic and I was able to see some crazy similarities between me and the NMMU kids.  By the end, we were all on a first-name basis, making inside jokes, and having an incredible time.

Finally, it was debate time.  Cue the butterflies.  I actually felt sick to my stomach! Luckily, my team was so awesome that they all cheered me on and made me feel comfortable.

And thus began the debate.

The debate was not what we had prepared for.  We had prepared to defend why we believed that a sustainable solution existed, but we were actually supposed to just answer any question on sustainable development that the facilitator and the audience could come up with.

We had to be super quick on our feet, and our group totally was. We got 120 seconds after each question to come up with the best answer we could.  Our team was so good!! When my turn came to talk, one of my NMMU friends shoved a microphone in my hands and pushed me forward to talk.  Oh boy...!!

All in all - despite the horrible nerves - the debate was a ton of fun.  I really enjoyed every aspect of it - from hanging out with the NMMU kids to coming up with stressful responses to joking around on stage when no one was looking.

I'm so glad that I had this opportunity! I can't wait to reach out to my new NMMU friends as soon as I'm back in the states! (Shout out if you're reading this!!)

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