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Students on the Middlebury College Debate Team explore Cape Town's Bo-Kaap District. From left are Amanda Werner ’21, Van Barth ’21, Nate Obbard ’21, Quinn Boyle ’21, and Charlotte Massey ’19.

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Post Card from Cape Town: Debate Team Competes in International Championship

January 8, 2019

Sophomore Amanda Werner, a member of the Middlebury College Debate Team, traveled with her fellow team members to Cape Town, South Africa, to take part in the World Universities Debating Championship from December 28 to January 4. According to the organization's website, the event is the largest debating competion in the world. Below, she shares some of her experiences there.

Cape Town, South Africa—It was 4 o'clock in the morning, and I was climbing a mountain. As I looked far below at the sparkling city of Cape Town, I realized that my companions and I were some of the only people awake at this hour to witness something truly magnificent: the sunrise.

When we reached the peak, I was blown away by the breathtaking view of the sun slowly peeking out from behind the mountains. It was at this moment that I felt incredibly lucky and grateful to be a member of Middlebury’s debate team. It was because of our interest in public speaking and critical thinking that four of my peers and I had the honor of representing Middlebury at the World Universities Debating Championship in Cape Town, South Africa, from December 28 to January 4.

Boasting hundreds of debaters from around the world, the tournament granted me the opportunity to interact with people of different countries, backgrounds, and beliefs. Our teams performed really well; Charlotte Massey ’19 and Nate Obbard ’21 were one point away from qualifying for the elimination rounds. The level of competition was the most challenging I had ever experienced, but the difficulties were far outweighed by the rewards: learning new techniques, engaging with new perspectives, and forming new relationships. I learned the rules of cricket, tasted new cuisine, and saw penguins on the beach.

Members of the Debate Team hike up Table Mountain in South Africa. From left are Quinn Boyle ’21, Nate Obbard ’21, and Amanda Werner ’21. 

On New Year’s Day, we rode the public train to Simonstown, a vibrant port city with sandy beaches. While riding the train, we befriended a man named James who worked in Simonstown; we were the first Americans that he had met. He gave us a tour of the city, ate lunch with us, and shared his background, and we did the same. We were touched by his generosity and hospitality, and I hope that he enjoyed spending time with us as much as we did with him.

The people, city, and natural wonder of Cape Town are one-of-a-kind, and I wish we could have stayed longer than a week. As I watched the sunrise on my last day in Cape Town and “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles played on loop in my head, I reflected on the amazing experience that I know I will forever remember.  


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