By Lindsay Cogan, Grade 11

It has been a dream of mine for several years to compete at World's Independent Debate & Public Speaking Championships under the Canadian flag. Being able to do so in my home country was a very special experience. I represented Canada from April 11–17 at World's in Toronto.

Selection for this challenging competition requires participants from Canada to compete in several qualifying tournaments. In my case, I attended and successfully competed in four different competitions to claim my delegation as a competitor from Canada. There were 106 participants from 11 countries, all with a common goal and an immeasurable support system of friends, families, loving parents, and dedicated coaches like Mrs. Balcaen.

Although many of us came from different continents and had never met each other prior to the championships, the understanding of the work ethic it takes to qualify for World's is universal. Due to this common understanding of one another, we all developed strong friendships by the end of the week of intense competition. Interacting with my peers from around the world provided me with the kind of cultural exposure that one tries to achieve in school, but is not always successful in learning in a classroom.

While, of course, we were at World's to compete, World's is also an event that can be used to explore the city and country where the competition takes place. My favourite planned activity was our outing to Niagara Falls and the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake where many were introduced to the best fudge one can ever find! We also enjoyed a breathtaking view of Toronto while conversing during dinner at the top of the CN Tower. I was privileged to hear Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada, address the competitors and coaches at this memorable tournament. Had it not been for the enemy of time, I would have been the next speaker to pose a question to the Honourable Minister during a question and answer period, directly asking how other nations were responding to Canada's recently imposed carbon tax.

At World's, every competitor participated in four categories, including impromptu speaking, debate, interpretive reading, and either persuasive speaking or after dinner speaking. Canadians won 3/5 categories and filled 12 top 20 speaker positions. I am very humbled to have been part of such a bright and articulate group of young people. Although I didn't present in any of the finals, I finished 18th overall in the world. World's is a truly unique experience that I will remember for the rest of my life with great pride in myself and my fellow Canadian delegates for doing our country proud!

I hope to be back at World's next year in Shanghai!
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