Students compete in Germany, gain valuable world experience

photo courtesy of  Ball State Debate Team
Dakota Wappes, speaking as the Prime Minister, motions to reject his opponent’s Point of Information during a preliminary round. The team participated at the World Universities Debating Championship in Berlin. PHOTO PROVIDED BY BALL STATE DEBATE TEAM
photo courtesy of Ball State Debate Team Dakota Wappes, speaking as the Prime Minister, motions to reject his opponent’s Point of Information during a preliminary round. The team participated at the World Universities Debating Championship in Berlin. PHOTO PROVIDED BY BALL STATE DEBATE TEAM

Instead of watching the ball drop at Times Square on New Years Eve, sophomore communications and political science major Dakota Wappes watched fireworks from a huge festival on Germany’s Brandenburg bridge.

Wappes and six other Ball State students traveled to Berlin over Winter Break for the World Universities Debating Championship to compete against 82 countries.

The two debating students, Wappes and Caitlin Bartnik, beat 33 percent of the teams at the tournament.

Dylan Paul, who was a judge for the competition, got promoted from being a regular judge on a panel to a chair judge, who leads the panel and explains results to the debaters.

This far exceeded assistant director of debate and faculty adviser Nicole Johnson’s hope for the team, which was to beat 25 percent of the teams.

“Ultimately my expectations for this tournament was nothing more than to provide students with an experience unlike anything they’ve ever had.” Johnson said. “Not only did we do that, we also performed well.”

The debaters were chosen from a multidisciplinary group of students in a nine credit hour immersive project through a process of submitting an application and interviewing.

Although only three students competed, seven students accompanied them as “observers” of the competition.

Bringing more of the group helped calm nerves and provide a sense of security for Wappes.

“The only time I had been out of the country was Niagara Falls, and I don’t think that really counts,” Wappes said, “But I was never really homesick or anything. I think it was because I got to know everyone for a semester. I was with people I trusted.”

Still, the competition was a culture shock and at times overwhelming, Wappes said.

“Seeing all of those people in the same place, competing and speaking the same language was really cool. It was definitely a neat educational experience,” she said.

After watching her students increase their skills in a different debate style called “British parliamentary style,” it was satisfying for Johnson to see the students practice networking and becoming accustomed with intercultural relations.

“We are approaching a global economy that looks different than any one we’ve seen, one that looks far more diverse than most of us have experienced,” said Johnson. “Now is the time not only to represent Ball State, but we are also representing the community of Muncie, we are representing the Midwest and we are also representing the United States of America. “

Now that they have had a taste of success at an international competition, the team hopes to continue to have an international presence.

“We were on a world stage … Competing with the best of the best, and we’re talking about the most intelligent, articulate thinkers in the world.” Johnson said. “And we held our own.” 

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