Imagine some of the most esteemed institutions of our country. You’re probably thinking the monarchy, military, royal courts and many more, but undoubtedly your list should contain the pillars of international education - Oxford and Cambridge. Lofty and unreachable for so many, it made it only more surreal when I was given the chance to look inside its decadent halls. The Cambridge Debating Finals. Well, not quite. It was the second round, semi-finals and then the ultimate event itself: the crown jewel of being the best national debater, 2024. Equally lofty and unreachable. But nevertheless, my partner and I were determined to make the most of the opportunity provided to us, and see how high we could climb the argumentative ladder. 


The most abrupt surprise when first entering was the melting pot of accents from all over the world - American, Canadian, Australian, Irish, Scottish and definitely many more that we didn’t have the pleasure of hearing in a face-to-face conversation. Truly, breadth was the name of the day, in age, nationality and demeanor. Then we were too soon whisked away, to be led to the first round, witnessing grandeur and history etched into every spiral staircase, vast oak door and timeless college shields; for a second, we were nearly distracted from our jittering nerves. Perhaps too distracted, as the first round was utterly crushing.


A mixture of nervous energy, shoddy technique and impressive opponents placed us firmly in fourth place. Out of four. The next round didn’t go much better - fourth. But finally lady luck smiled on us, and for the final two rounds we came in first place, much to the gratitude of our parents suffering from our degrading mood. Unfortunately, it was still not enough to eke out a spot in the semi-finals, and so we wandered the scenic town until the grand finale at 10pm.


To say the bar broached the atmosphere would be an understatement. Watching the finals exposed my partner and I to an entirely different quality of debating that we had never seen, and was clearly the product of many years of hard work. The experience ultimately turned out to be a rallying call for the improvement of our own skill, and a dip of the toe into an institution that was the goal of so many globally - a very exhausting weekend!