Where can you experience a scavenger hunt in the massive Dubai Mall, an evening trip on the Desert Pwaafari, a disco party "ball" in the tallest hotel in the world, and a talent show in front of 1,600 audience members? The 2013 World Scholar’s Cup Global Round in Dubai, of course! This was not your run-of-the-mill boring and conventional academic competition. Read on for a glimpse of the fun and excitement that was had.
You may be asking, "A Desert what?" “Pwaa” is the sound of a happy alpaca. Why alpacas? The alpaca is the mascot of the World Scholar’s Cup event, and is greatly loved by all the participants of the competition. Finger puppets, small furry alpacas, large furry alpacas – alpacas are everywhere in the events; they’re even given out as awards along with medals and trophies.
The World Scholar’s Cup was founded by Daniel Berdichevsky as an academic competition that allows students to celebrate learning and discover new strengths. From its first tournament in Korea in 2007, this event has grown to have tens of thousands of student participants in dozens of countries. Each year, there is a theme that the subject areas (History, Science, Art, Music, Current Affairs, Literature, and Special Area) are centered around.
Students are tested on their grasp of knowledge in these areas through four different team events: Team Debate, Collaborative Writing, Scholar’s Challenge, and Scholar’s Bowl. There are three rounds that each team of three must try to advance through: the Regional Round, the Global Round, and the Tournament of Champions at Yale University.
More than 1,500 students from over 30 countries, including international schools from Beijing (WAB, ISB, YCIS, Dulwich, etc.), attended this year’s World Scholar’s Cup Global Round hosted by the American University of Dubai from June 19-23.
Socializing was a big part of this event, and the World Scholar’s Cup wasted no time in mixing up students from all over the globe to spark new friendships and connections.
First was the scavenger hunt in the colossal Dubai Mall, chock-full of famous brands, sales, and the humongous indoor aquarium. Participants were put in teams of about 10 people, which were named after different countries. I was a proud member of Madagascar, along with nine other students from India, Taiwan, Czech Republic, China, Malaysia and the UAE. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Wait until you see the type of tasks we had to complete:
- “Find the most expensive item in the mall and its price will be the amount of points your team receives.”
- “Flash mob in the atrium.”
- “Eat a store decoration.”
- “Spray perfume at the store clerk.”
After inciting the wrath of store managers and having multiple doors slammed in our faces, we managed to complete quite a few tasks. However, we were unable to spare ourselves the embarrassment of “earthquaking” – or flailing our arms and falling to the ground in an imitation of an earthquake – in the middle of the mall atrium; shoppers and tourists took photos and videos of us.
The next day, after hours of grueling debates, wrist pain-inducing essays, and 100-question multiple choice challenges (admittedly, they weren’t that bad considering the rush of adrenaline that came with them), we changed out of our stifling suits into more comfortable gear in preparation for the hot and humid Desert Pwaafari.
The event was much more interesting than we thought. It took place in a large sandy valley surrounded by steep hills of soft sand. Descending down a flight of uneven stairs covered in sand, the first thing we heard was the shrill shriek of a girl sitting on a camel that had abruptly lurched up from its resting position.
The entire scene was quite nice and relaxing. There were the students laughing and yelping in surprise while riding camels, while others tumbled down from the top of the hills in a flurry of flying sand and dust. Supervisors and parents sat at tables in nicely set up tents over beautiful, floral red carpets.
In the middle of the clearing was a stage on which Arabic dancers performed that night. As the sun started going down, we grabbed plates and lined up at the buffet. Butter chicken and rice, lined with some salad and finishing with a small plate of fruits – the food was simply delectable.
As the sun all but disappeared below the horizon, the temperature and humidity dropped to comfortable levels, and the occasional zephyr prevented the air from becoming too still. Our forks started slowing down; a drowsiness and tranquility descended over the desert air.
This was only the beginning. In the following days, we participated in a Scholar’s Bowl (not for the faint-hearted), attended the Scholar’s Ball (music shook the walls), and experienced immense satisfaction and joy at the Awards Ceremony.
By the end, many students were happily exhausted with neckfuls of clanging medals and armfuls of “hardware” (or so one of the parents who came with us called them) and alpacas that reflected their exceptional performance at the various events.
Though more community-building than academic, the World Scholar’s Cup Global Round was a great experience for all the students who participated – and for those who didn’t, an event worth trying out.
photos by Freda Zhao
Freda Zhao is a beijingkids intern (of the month) currently studying at the Western Academy of Beijing. She is one year from graduating high school. Outside of school work, she enjoys reading, painting, and mimicking cat sounds in her backyard (to draw strays to her house and feed them).