I was so surprised when TBS selected me for this competition (It was a math competition with four primary students representing each British International School in Asia). Sometimes it felt like a distant dream. But I am glad I participated, because it was a great experience.
We left for China on Wednesday, March 9th, 2016. That day, me and my teammates couldn’t think about anything else. We had a late night flight so we came home from school and went to the airport at 8:15pm. At dinnertime, I started to feel kind of tired, but when we arrived at the airport, excitement pushed away my exhaustion. At last the time came to leave and we said goodbye to our parents. We were on our way to China!
I went with three of my friends, Meghana, Shivanshi and Nabodita, and two teachers, Ms Swift and Ms Manandhar. When we came to the airport, we seemed to speed through the lines. Our teacher told us to bring carry-on bags only. In no time at all, we boarded the plane to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia! After the four-hour flight, we arrived at the airport. We were all very tired (it was still night time) and we soon made our way to our next gate. Finally we boarded our plane and flew to Guangzhou, China!
When we arrived in China, we started seeing other teams of four. Before going, I was completely confident, but seeing the other teams made me a little bit nervous. The FOBISIA staff picked up all the teams that had arrived around the same time and we drove to the hotel in a big bus. We couldn’t wait for the first day of the competition!
We had arrived on Thursday afternoon and the competition started on Friday so we had until dinnertime to do whatever we wanted. We showered and changed, then we played in one of our two rooms. We didn’t have many things to do, but we had fun just hanging out. We didn’t have as much free time as we thought we would.
An hour or two later, Ms Swift called us down to dinner. The hotel was very fancy and it served extravagant buffet dinners. I am a vegetarian and unfortunately, in China, they eat a lot of meat. Everything I could see was non vegetarian! Soon, I found a few things to eat. But then, I walked around the entire dining area and I found so many more things like bread, fruits, salad and even ice cream. Soon, we went to our rooms and fell asleep as fast as we could (we knew we had to wake up early the next morning).
On Friday morning, we woke up, excited for the first day of the competition. After a good breakfast, five big buses took all the participants and their teachers to the hosting school. I couldn’t believe that we had enough people to fill five buses! The school that hosted the competition was The British School of Guangzhou. We were in a huge room with one table per team. There were a few announcements at the beginning, but before we knew it the competition had started.
The first activities were noncompetitive, logic puzzles where we worked with other teams. I think it was meant for us to make friends with other students but some weren’t that friendly. The first competitive part of the competition was the team assessment. My team had practiced very hard for this so we were quite confident. There were much fewer questions than we anticipated. We went through the questions and solved most of them. We thought we did quite well.
After a short break, we moved on to mental math. We had a challenge to square a double-digit number in our heads in less than two minutes! We were given a method at the beginning and we had 30 minutes to practice with our team. Then, a teacher came to our table and asked each of us two questions which we had two minutes to solve. We didn’t think we did very well, but we did learn a new technique to square numbers! In some of the activities that we didn’t do so well in, I was the only one with a positive attitude afterwards. I didn’t think that being negative was the right thing to do.
Soon, we had a tessellation investigation where we could just relax and enjoy doing art. We created our own geometrical patterns and shapes. I thought that was a very good activity at the end of the long day.
Later, all the teams went to a barbecue dinner. It was okay but the weather in Guangzhou was completely cloudy and freezing (we didn’t see the sun the whole time). Then we went on a nighttime cruise around the city of Guangzhou. The cruise was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip. It was amazing! I couldn’t believe how many buildings were fully lit up. The Canton Tower, a skyscraper, was lit up the best. It kept changing colors – red, green, blue and even rainbow. On the cruise, we ate snacks, explored the levels of the boat, and went up to the terrace. We even had a photo taken of us and put on a key chain! When we went back downstairs, the face changing show started. A dancer wore a mask and every time she swiped her face or turned around, her mask changed! It was kind of like a magic show. There were a few more performances and soon, we had to leave. We bused back to our hotel and went to sleep, very tired.
The next morning, we woke up still a bit sleepy. We got ready, had breakfast and went to the school. Our first activity was an orienteering challenge. We were given a quick lesson on protractors, rulers and compasses and we had to orient ourselves around the school. It was a competition of which team can complete the circuit first. We were sitting at the back during the lesson, so we didn’t fully understand how to score points. Soon we found ourselves running around the school completely confused! Afterwards, I somehow found it kind of fun, unlike my teammates.
Next, we did the individual assessment. This would not add any points to our team score so we were against everyone in the room! I had practiced a lot for this test so I was very confident. I practiced with last year’s 30 minute test, which had 15 questions worth one point each. This test lasted an hour and had 30 questions, each worth 1, 3 or 5 points. In the end I thought I did very well. When it finished, everyone was completely exhausted. Luckily we had a long lunch break and we were treated with pizza! It was so delicious and I don’t think they could have chosen a better time for it.
Later on, we did the most challenging mathematical activity I had ever done. We had a map of a race track and we answered geometrical questions about it. It seemed simple, but the arithmetic was very complicated. We had to multiply 5-digit numbers by 6-digit numbers, divide numbers with several decimals and things like that. At the end of the entire competition we found out that this challenge was meant for GCSE students. The surprising thing is that those students were allowed to use a calculator!
Fortunately, we had a break. The next part was the engineering challenge! I thought this activity was the most enjoyable. We built a marble track taking up the space of only one A4 size paper. There was no height restriction. We had five pieces of paper, scotch tape and a pair of scissors. Our design involved a spiral paper track around a rolled paper pole. We had a time limit of 1 hour and unfortunately we didn’t complete our track. When the time was up, a teacher came and timed the number of seconds that the marble ran on the track. Our time was 3.2 seconds and the winning team’s time was 11 seconds! At the end, we walked around and looked at all the teams’ designs. It was interesting how many different techniques there are to build a track. Finally, the competition finished and the award ceremony was coming up. Everyone was excited to find out which team won!
The award ceremony was held in a big hall in the hotel. When the competition director made the announcements, everyone was silent. There was so much suspense! Our team didn’t get any awards, but we weren’t disappointed (three out of thirty teams received awards). I didn’t expect an award in the first place. Then, dancers performed the traditional Chinese lion dance. Each lion had two people and they danced all around the stage. Towards the end, they did some really cool acrobatics which was fun to watch. But the whole time, I was enjoying my vanilla ice cream (my favorite!).
At the end, my teammates and I talked with the organizer and he asked us which activity was the most challenging. I felt the engineering activity was the most challenging and doable. The race track activity’s arithmetic was the hardest but not doable within the time limit. When things are too challenging and not really doable, you don’t feel like doing the challenge anymore.
The competition was very fun and I’m glad I participated. I was so excited to go back home. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. The airplane journey was smooth and I bought a few souvenirs at the airport. When I think about it, I still can’t believe what I accomplished, but it felt really good to be back home.