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The AISB CEESA High School Speech and Debate team traveled to Baku, Azerbaijan to pursue medals and experiences on the 1st of February. When they came back, they brought trophies and unforgettable memories. In this article, I will be sharing my views and stories as well as those of other students who took part in this adventure.

Arriving in Baku, Azerbaijan

When we arrived, we couldn’t believe what we saw. The city seemed like a mix between New York and old Arabic history. The contrast between historical buildings, tall skyscrapers, and modern buildings/architecture was breathtaking.

Fellow student participant who was in the Speech and Debate team, Mominah I., says about Baku that, “The architecture was really nice and it was really advanced in comparison to what I expected it to be. It was really beautiful overall.”

We got to see more of what Baku had to offer during a one-hour trip from the airport to the school, and 15-year-old Cristina D. who found the city appealing says, “The city itself was really amazing and simply beautiful because of the really modern architecture.”

Photo Source: Waagner Biro

The city of Baku is stunning and offered us many unforgettable sights (including the airport itself). We can’t wait to go back next year to explore the different parts of the great city we didn’t have the chance to see.

Our Hosting Experience

When Matei V. (my roommate) and I got introduced to our hosts, we were filled with joy. Our host was a warm, kind, Indian family that put their best out for us in order to help in any way possible and make our experience nice, unique, while also comfortable.

An example of their kindness includes when I forgot my tie for the competition, and the dad of the host family provided one for me with no hesitation! They also ironed our shirts, gave us the Wi-Fi password, and took us out to see the city.

We stayed at home to rest on our first night at the house, but on the second day, we went out to the Old City, which contained many traditional Azerbaijani restaurants and souvenir stores.

On the third (and last) day, we went to the mall after eating at the best Chinese restaurant I have ever been to. The Chinese food was both sweet, but also sour and spicy, and the different spices melted in your mouth. It was almost as good as the food that the mom of the host family made. She is an amazing cook who prepared a vast amount of Indian dishes (which tasted exquisite) in such a short amount of time. She even went to lengths to make the food less spicy than usual in order to avoid stomach pain (or so she said).

A traditional Azeri home. Image source: michaeltotten.com.

That night at the house was also another adventure (as if the day wasn’t full of it already).  First, I woke up to the sound of the dad snoring (although I still am not sure whether he was the one snoring or the house dog Oli). I don’t understand how I could have heard it, as he was probably a few rooms away, but I did, and I heard it loudly.

Secondly, I had to wake up to go to the bathroom (because of the Indian food). And lastly, I was freezing. The heater didn’t work in my room, and instead of offering heat, it offered drops of water on the ground every few minutes. Every night in the house felt like a survival challenge that even Bear Grylls would have difficulty overcoming. Before going to sleep, I always had to gear up and prepare for whatever the darkness had in store for me that day. Every night’s equipment included: a warm wool sweater, 2 pairs of socks, and an extra blanket.

Mominah I. was also hosted by a different family and had a great hosting experience. She said, “My hosts were really sweet. The parents were UN advisors and I got to learn a lot from them and apparently they even traveled to many different countries like North Korea that was really interesting to listen to.”

The Speech and Debate Competition

The competition was interesting as well. At first, when performing my speech the first time in front of the judges at school, I felt like dying. My voice was shaking and my hands were trembling, but after a rush of adrenaline and getting into the speech, my emotions and all of the hard hours of practice took over and the rest of my speech flowed with ease. Although I felt like I performed well, the people I was up against were also very talented, and I had the opportunity to learn a lot from them.

Finalist Cristina D. says, “I was proud of my Oral Interpretation performance at the beginning of the competition, but after seeing other people perform at the beginning, I felt inspired to put more into the performance. I put my heart and soul into the remaining ones.”

Although Speech and Debate competitions require a lot of work and energy, it is definitely worth joining it. The experiences you go through and the different public speaking skills learned are valuable to know and will help you in the future.

“It [Speech and Debate] allows people to speak [publicly[ which is such an important skill and also teaches people about world issues and problems which is good to know,” says 3rd place debater Mominah I.

Photo Source: The International School of Azerbaijan

“[On recommending people to join Speech and Debate next year] Definitely. It was a lot of fun and I think that I have found one of my passions. I am glad I tried out for speech and debate. It is a lot of work, but if it is something you are passionate about, definitely join. It’s really fun,” continued Cristina D.

All of the three days in Azerbaijan consisted of a mix of emotions, interesting experiences, and many lessons learned. Thank you, Baku (and all you had to offer), for the great experience, and a huge thank you to Ms. Cristina Cuzuc and Ms. Meagan Matthews for making these few extraordinary days a reality.


Featured Image Source: Forbes.com