I returned from Botswana recently where I was participating in the International Junior Science Olympiad. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I won’t soon forget.
The first thing that struck me when I was there was the heat. After 3 flights it wasn’t great to be stepping out an airplane door to a wall of heat that knocked the wind out of me. But I was too excited about the week ahead to care all that much about the heat. We took a bus to the hotel we were staying in and it was just a complete cultural shock to me. I wasn’t used to the type of living that they were accustomed to over there.
After the first day though I began to get used to the way things were over there. The heat became less stifling, the culture started to become more normal to me and I was ready to start the competition. The competition comprised three exams: a multiple choice exam, a theory exam and a practical exam. To be honest, I don’t remember much of what was on the exams because I didn’t really understand most of it. What I do remember is being completely lost in the theory exam, making educated guesses in the multiple choice test and being comfortable in the practical test.
Aside from the tests we were also taken on different trips throughout the week. We went on cultural tours of the area and went to 2 game reserves. At one point we went to a tribal settlement and got a tour of the village hall and got a talk about the history of the tribe. The game reserves were interesting as it gave us a chance to see terrain and animals which we are not used to. Another thing that struck me was how welcoming the people of Botswana were and how friendly the competitors and hosts were. I enjoyed the company of both my own team mates and the competitors from other countries, many of whom I am still in contact with.
All in all, I think it was a valuable experience that is definitely out of the ordinary. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to compete in another olympiad or go back to Botswana but I hope I get to do both again. I’d definitely encourage anyone who’s willing to work hard to strive for it as it is an unforgettable experience.z
Joe Gilbride (TY)