HoWSC 14 | Maya Almoataz

So many people ask me “Why do you waste so much of your time studying for stuff that isn’t mandatory?” or “What is the point of competing if you just sit there and do tests?” Well, it’s so much more than that. The World Scholar’s Cup is more than just a competition, it’s an experience. An experience that anyone is blessed to have. You learn things in preparation, you gain friends in the journey, you collaborate with them and earn so much knowledge that serves you well. So saying it’s “just a meaningless competition” or “studying for it is boring” aren’t valid opinions. They could be, except most of the people who say these things, haven’t even tried it out. They haven’t felt that incredible feeling of joy when you’re walking to the stage, electrified by all the smiles and applause, waiting to get those medals placed on you like you’re a champion. They haven’t felt that excitement when you board a plane or first arrive in the country where your round is taking place. They haven’t felt the sorrow and dread everyone feels when leaving a place that holds so many life-changing memories. They haven’t felt the depression that everyone has when they’ve gotten back to their homes. And most importantly, they haven’t been able to tell people that they’ve had the best experience they ever could, because obviously, they haven’t.

My WSC journey started last season, in 2018, where I participated in all three rounds: regionals in Bahrain, globals in Kuala Lumpur, and the Tournament of Champions at Yale University in Connecticut. Though it could be difficult at times, the struggle of competing with people that I barely know, people that I never thought I’d work with, and cramming all the information that I possibly could into my head at the last minute for academic events, I ended up really enjoying myself and meeting lots of new friends I never thought I’d have, and that have significantly been a big part of my life since then.

In regionals, my team struggled to work together as we barely knew each other. We’d only been put in the same team because two of us had previous teammates that quit a few weeks before, and one was struggling to find teammates. We hardly worked together (or worked at all, to be frank) and we ended up not qualifying for globals. We were all sad, but I was so heavy-hearted when I discovered this because in the weeks before regionals, I wouldn’t stop watching and rewatching the videos from the WSC website and as a result, I became so enthusiastic and eager to compete with courage and strength so I would be able to attend as many rounds as I possibly could. And all this came crashing down on me when I found out we didn’t get qualified. I really felt as if this situation was unfair because I had worked harder than my teammates, and although I didn’t study a lot, I put so much effort into competing. I wrote to my teacher, and told him how I felt about this and when I found out that he had put me in a new team for globals, all my sadness went down the drain, and I was immensely thrilled!   

But sadly, even in my new team, cooperation was difficult, and we refused to study or work with each other. We didn’t know one another, I had just seen them around school sometimes. Both their teams didn’t want to go to globals and mine didn’t qualify, so we were all grateful to be in a new team, but that didn’t seem to help the fact that we needed to communicate and study in order to succeed. Although we didn’t know each other well, there was constant tension between us because for some reason, we highly disliked each other. By the time globals came, the only studying I’d done was on the plane, endlessly reading and trying so hard to memorize notes that weren’t even mine. We argued often, and the competition itself was extremely rocky. We wouldn’t talk or discuss anything, no basic structure or outlines were in place, everything to do with our team was just a huge mess. 

However, before the Tournament of Champions, my team and I managed to sort it out. We realized that we had no other choice but to study together, because we all wanted to thrive at the Tournament of Champions. We decided to put all our past and present differences aside, and actually try to do the best we could. We began to genuinely work together before and at the round, and our teamwork was much better than it had been at globals. All our hard work did pay off. Looking back at it, I’m so thankful for my teammates, and last season would not have been the same without them.

On the whole, WSC taught me that there’s more to success than just smarts: you need to be creative, to think outside the box, to collaborate well with others, and to shine light on your point of view that may be right in ways others aren’t. I’ve gained so many international friends through the program, people who I can turn to if I ever have any struggles in my life. It’s made me a more social, accepting, creative, and optimistic person, and helped me develop my debating and writing skills as well. 

I’ll be doing WSC this season, and I hope to go all the way to the Tournament of Champions again. This year, my goals are to work efficiently and happily with my team, to listen and discuss new ideas and improve my own by listening to feedback, and to meet and make as many amazing friends as possible! Most of all, I’ll treasure the memories I made last season even more as I get to create new ones. I’d like to thank my parents for supporting me more than anyone ever could, my teachers for helping me prepare and taking me through the journey with care and kindness, my friends, new and old, for being by my side and constantly reminding me that I am able to succeed, and lastly, the whole WSC community, for making memes and cheering me up all the time. Also, all the beyond awesome WSC staff that I’ve met and taken pictures with at every round! I love this community with all my heart and I’ll never forget all the memories I’ve made and the ones to come, because they mean the world to me.

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