Editor Note: Zhou Jin is a journalist here at the Peking University Office of International Relations News Team. In this column, she shares her experience of being part of the debating team of her faculty and the challenges of being a student debater.
The most important decision
After a long, painful thought process during the whole winter vacation, I have made the most important decision which may cast a long influence on my four-year-life as an undergraduate or, to my whole life. That is to stay in the debating team in my faculty and improve my debating level till I can match our Peking University’s Debating Association. For the first time in my life, the word “stay” has given me a sense of assurance, as I have decided for myself to be a debater.
Reminded of the memories of debating in my first semester, the experience cannot be defined simply by the sweat or hardship. I was confused when I could not clarify a definition or when I could not propose a standard to compare the advantages and disadvantages of an issue, My energy was sapped when I need to discuss with my teammates till three in the morning, and still need to wake up before seven for morning classes I am stressed when I need to “fight” using my mouth with seniors who seem to be much more talented than me, I am felt helpless when I cannot answer my schoolmate what I have achieved during this painful and tedious process of preparing for competition. I could not even answer a very simple question: What is debating?
On numerous occasions, I have thought of giving up, but when I reflected upon debating, I managed to come up with a vague definition: debating is something which makes you have to stay up all-nights to prepare, but you just cannot stop loving it.
With this new feeling, I stayed, I want to debate. As a freshman, I wanted to explore this new field just like a baby who have just came to the world, I need to give a clear and personal definition of debate, I hope to get better understanding of the whole process of debating.
PKU Varsity Debate Tournament
Every spring semester, PKU Debate Association holds the most popular Debating Competition in the school — the PKU Varsity Debate Tournament. This spring semester is no exception.
After half a year of preparation, our faculty team grew larger, with about seven students in my grade staying on in our team. Our seniors have said that we will fail to qualify. However, it seems that luck is on our side this year. Till now we have achieved three rounds of victories and have earned the ticket to the semi-final competition. It is the best result we have ever achieved since the team was established. Although some of us thought of leaving because they felt that they could not debate at all, and one even lost his voice that left him unable to speak. Once, an excellent debater in our team needs to quit due to a liver operation. We were really worried because it seems that nobody could take over his role at that time, however, with collaborative work, we finally made it. No matter how disadvantaged we were, we did not give up, but kept encouraging each other. It is the unity of the whole team that makes us who we are today.
An impressive conversation between me and my senior
All debaters cherish the camaraderie among the team, the debate circle.
In our team, we have experienced debaters and newcomers, and the experienced debaters always felt obliged to help the freshmen improve their skills. For this reason, our seniors could also be considered as our mentors.
The day after we won the third round of PKU Varsity Debate Tournament, I had a conservation with one of my “mentor”, who I admired and appreciated very much. The words he said to me touched my heart.
“What do you love most about debate?” I supposed that his answer would be about the improvement of critical thinking and logical ability, or the friendship between him and his friends, but he said, “Debating is persuading. I love the reaction of the judges and the audience when I am trying to persuade them and communicate with them, either the looks in their eyes or some subtle actions reflected by their body gestures. Thus, after you have debated for several years, you have seen different propositions, different opinions and you need to find a way to accept them and explain it to others, and you will find yourself to be more lenient towards others.” This point is so thought-provoking that I have savored it for a whole day.
As a veteran in debate circle in PKU, he also shared with me some ideas about debating to all the debaters. He said, debating leave a positive influence on every debater. First, the propositions can widen the range of thinking. We think beyond our own profession, but from humanities to astronomy, from media communication to economic issues. The entire phenomenon happening in our life will be discussed during a debate. Secondly, the competition provides us with pressure. The desire of winning makes us think deeper and deeper. We have to make a point that cannot be easily defeated by others. So during this process, we reflect upon our own ideas, avoid any weak points and then make up our arguments. Last but not least, debating improves our language ability. We started speaking in short sentences during the fierce competition. In the long term, our communication ability will improve.
When talking about the-tournament, he thought there was a trend in PKU: There used to be traditional strong teams that always win. But now, every school have the possibility to win. The advantages of the traditional teams are disappearing and the strength of each faculty is reaching a balance. It signifies that the culture of debating is developing in PKU. Everybody in PKU can realize their dreams of debating, and showcase their talent on the platform. The tournament is appealing to more students in PKU.
KFC as our meeting room!
I know you are curious about my title and feel a little surprised by it. But that is truth. Every week you can see students debaters crowded around a table at the KFC right outside the school gates to discuss about our propositions. When we do not have spaces for training and discussion at night, the KFC becomes our classroom. Although the space is narrow, the environment is noisy, and the air is filled with the smell of food and drinks, we no doubt attained great progression in the fast food restaurant. We can still use our brain to think calmly and motivate our spirit. It is difficult but we are able to make do with whatever we have.
So what is debate? Why we love debate? Is it worthwhile? I am unable to explain the details to you in brief words but I am fortunate enough to experience debate and I have years ahead of me to continue debating.
Maybe debate seems to be weird in others’ minds. To me, however, it is something I continue to have passion in.
Written By Zhou Jin