(Editor’s note: The author of this post, Erik Lima ’18, is an undecided major from Trenton, N.J. He is one of 10 students traveling to Colombia next week.)
Colgate’s Spanish Debate Team only formed a few years ago, yet its progress has been immense. Now, 10 members are headed to Colombia on July 20 for Latin America’s largest debate tournament, Campeonato Mundial Universitario de Debate en Espanol (CMUDE) 2015.
Coming from predominantly Spanish-speaking communities, many of our current team members desired an experience at Colgate to use their Spanish-language skills in a new and different way.
Originally established by just a couple of students, the Spanish Debate Team now allows Spanish-speaking students to debate controversial topics of world interest. Not only do we learn about current events through our involvement with the team, but we also learn about laws and different views that certain topics can bring to the table.
Knowing the level of competition that awaits us in Colombia, our team has dedicated this past year to intense training and meetings. CMUDE 2015 is Spanish-only, so we only speak Spanish during meetings and practices. As the Spanish language slightly differs across Latin America, having a diverse group of Spanish speakers on the team allows us to prepare words or phrases that are commonly used and understood.
CMUDE is based on the British Parliamentary style, and our debate practices are run under the same style and speech duration time. Having two weekly debate meetings can be very time consuming under a tight semester schedule, but our team has managed to work well and remain consistent throughout this past year.
One of our biggest challenges has been learning to handle complex debate topics quickly — particularly those on which we might have little background knowledge. Since debaters have only 15 minutes to prepare during the competition, we intentionally practiced under similar pressure, sharing talking points if some teammates didn’t understand the subject. We hope that this strategy will allow our team to remain concentrated, calm, and ready to take advantage of every minute we are given to prepare on debate day.
Although nerves are definitely setting in as the tournament nears, we hope to enjoy our time in Colombia and learn from some of the best debaters gathered at CMUDE.