Earlier this week, a team from Institute of Business Administration, Dhaka University (IBA-DU), competed in one of the most prestigious debate tournaments in the world, the HWS Round Robin organized by Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and were the first-ever team from Asia to reach the grand finals along with Harvard University, University of Cambridge and Yale University.
In a candid interview with SHOUT, Sajid Khandaker and Sourodip Paul -- team IBA-DU A -- shared their experience of becoming one of the best debating teams in the world.
First and foremost, congratulations on making it to the finals of HWS Round Robin 2020. A lot of us are not too familiar with HWS Round Robin; why is it so exclusive?
This is the league of champions in the debating world. It takes the top 16 teams who have either won a regional championship or are one of the top teams in the world who qualify through an application criteria. We qualified as Asian representatives for this year's round robin as we were the 11th ranked team at World University Debating Championship (WUDC) 2020.
Did you expect to come this far? What were your first thoughts when you realized that you had made history?
Our friends all over the world considered us one of the favourites to win the championship, so we were not surprised, to be honest. But it was a surprise to know that we were the first Asian team to make the finals because Asian debaters have consistently done well globally in the past five years or so.
This wasn't the first time your team made history. You were also the first Bangladeshi team to reach WUDC Open Quarterfinals and the list goes on. What would you say is the biggest reason for your continuous success?
In our case, it is the team chemistry. Both of us have different areas of expertise. Given our years of friendship, we are able to use our knowledge in a way that we complement each other and help each other grow. We make each other better debaters.
Sourodip, as a recent graduate, what impact has debating had in your professional career so far?
Debating is helping me a lot in my professional career as it did during my higher education. It gave me the ability to critically think and analyse scenarios and come up with solutions to complex problems. I was a management trainee at British American Tobacco and was able to ace my selections because I was a debater. I am currently pursuing a Masters in Economics at the Australian National University and debating has played a huge role in getting myself here.
If you could give one piece of advice to people aspiring to be like you, what would it be?
Sourodip: Have your own style of debating (or whatever extra-curricular activities you want to pursue). Follow the best but also make a place of your own and try to bring something new to the activity.
Sajid: For young Bangladeshis who know the world out there is not the easiest and that rich universities in the west will always have more funding and will also probably be better at speaking English because it is their first language, just have the confidence in yourself to overcome the hurdles because someday, sooner or later, you will achieve what you want.