The week the world came together

       Bearing the flag of your country was one of the highest honours through time immemorial, for men both on and off the battlefield. In Western world, up until 18th century,the soldiers assigned to this duty were given the rank ensign.

In year 2014, throughout the week of 12-16 May, I was honoured to bear the blue and yellow insignia (Latin for flag) of my country at the International Public Speaking Competition in London, the United Kingdom. Of course, while I did not actually carry the flag around, I had the distinct honour to be the official representative of my country.

            It is not an easy task to summarize a week of experiences and put it down in writing. Even in several days after returning to Ukraine, the effect of the trip is still mesmerizing. But to cut a long story short: the competition itself was organized in heats where participants had to perform their prepared speeches, semi-finals where contestants performed impromptu speeches, and the final, again with the prepared speeches. In a total of six heats there were nine to ten contestants, out of which only three made it to the semi-finals. After giving it all I had and pushing my voice, that was gone the night before, to the limit, I did not make it out of my heat. I conceded to Ayla from Australia, Karl from Canada, and Mudit from India. No other heat had this many native speakers in it. Two of them, Ayla and Mudit, would go on to be in the final. I guess fate not always plays in your favor and may put a leg up for you every now and then. The loss was hard to take in. The first thirty, perhaps sixty minutes. But then, when I thought about the week that led up to this, that nasty feeling vanished. From Monday to late Friday I met people from every corner, every continent of the world. The amount of experience and emotions exchanged between us is immeasurable. We, the fifty participants from fifty countries - were THE WORLD, sharing laughs and stories, with no prejudice as to race, heritage, or gender. I suddenly realized how well people manage to get along with one another if there are no governments and society-imposed biases involved. What a feeling it is to suddenly realize that the group you’ve been talking to for the last half an hour is composed of delegates from India, Pakistan, China, Hong-Kong, and Japan!

Of course, we owe it all to the English-Speaking Union, the organizers that hosted us for the week. The program had everything you could possibly squeeze in a five-day span: workshops in public speaking, workshops in the Globe Theatre with Globe Education mentors, excursions to the Parliament and around London on a double decker, a trip to the famous London West End to seeThe Lion King Musical. And, of course – the competition itself. I was  also provided with plenty of tea, since I had lost my voice due to excessive socializing and many workshops. That helped me recover in time for the heats and got me the “Best tea drinker award”. I believe in England that comes close to the first overall place.

Every participant had national rounds hosted in their countries. The 2014 IPSC contest reached a total of 40 000 participants, and only 50 made it to London. In Ukraine, we owe it to the ESU Ukraine, based in Kirovograd State Pedagogical University, for organizing the domestic round and giving the winner the chance to prove himself at the international stage. The chair of the ESU Ukraine, Maragaryta Danilko, was actually a huge step ahead of her colleagues from other countries this year, organizing for me a weekend in Oxford, Oxfordshire. A lovely senior couple – Martin and Penny – took me in and hosted as their guest for two days. What they and their friends arranged for me and what we have done would make this article a novel, so I will simply say that I got to experience the true England. No metropolis is a good place to actually feel the country.  

What I would like to finish with, though, is that travelling and seeing new places is sure great, but the lessons learned from it are priceless. Throughout the week, and especially during the heats, I had to constantly push myself to the limit of my ‘best’, just to stay in the competition. Nothing motivates you as greatly, propels you more powerfully, as a great opposition and a good rivalry. Every single person in London was the best in his or her country. Every one of them had strengths that are my weaknesses and that I need to work on. They also committed mistakes that I now know to be alert for and will try to avoid.

 

It has truly been a life-shaping experience. Everything I’ve learned there I will put to work to stand out from the crowd in today’s overly-competitive world. The lessons I’ve learned, as well as people I’ve met, will be in my memory for a very, very long time. 

 

Vladyslav Danyleiko, IPSC 2014 participant, Ukraine