Panthers of ISKL #143: The IASAS Debate & Forensics Delegates

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From March 1 – 5, 2023, 17 HS students headed to Taipei American School (TAS) for Season 2 of IASAS Culcon Debate & Forensics events! We discover as a team for each of the 5 events: Debate, Extemporaneous, Forensics, Original Interpretation and Original Oratory. We hear about their best moments, what they are most proud of and advice to future delegates!

A special congratulatory note to Vrinda G. (‘23) for Gold in Impromptu, Tillie VB. (‘26) for Silver in Original Oratory, Ellie C. (‘23) for Bronze in Oral Interpretation and  James C (‘23) for being a  finalist for  Extemporaneous.

Here is their story:

POISKL-Debate Forensics Team


(Words by Sana M. (‘24) )

Describe your most memorable moments as a team during the IASAS tournament.

We had many memorable moments throughout the tournament, and even before that, it helped us bond as a team and make the journey enjoyable. Still, some moments that stand out were surprisingly the bus ride to Singapore and back and the rest time between and after debates, especially on the second day (Friday). I expected the bus ride to be incredibly boring, but it was one of the highlights because we talked, played games, and stole other people’s snacks the entire time. I remember laughing so loudly that we woke people up from their sleep! That helped us become closer as a team, and in general, it was super fun. We played games from charades to spy fall, and the list continues. We also tried to prepare for some of our upcoming debates, but we couldn’t even focus for 10 minutes, and we would start chatting again.

The other memorable moment was during the breaks between debates and after on the tournament’s second day. I remember playing card games, complaining about how we didn’t like the last debate motion, and laughing so much together. This continued after our previous debate on Friday as we explored the school a bit more and became a part of “Friday night lights,” an event at the Singapore American School (SAS). Even though we kept getting lost, we had a great time eating food, meeting new people, and continuing to become closer as a team.

Overall, debate and this tournament helped us become more intimate as a team. Within my team, we have become better at understanding each other in debates, so I’m grateful for all the memorable moments.

As a team, what were you most proud of?

I am most proud of our progress because we have grown so much as a team from the start of the debate season to now. Looking back, I have no idea how I won a single debate because, in every meeting, we just kept improving and getting better, which goes for both teams. We got better at the debate from our style, case construction, confidence, and ability to come up with the most random hooks for our speech.

Regarding my team of 3, we have been doing debate for two years now, so as you can imagine, the growth is insane. I remember starting a debate and needing to learn how to make a simple speech, and our team needed to be more knowledgeable about preparing for motions. Since then, not only did we get into IASAS, but we have won debates and placed third at SEA forensics a while back.

Even though we didn’t win any medals at IASAS, it doesn’t change the fact that I’m immensely proud of the whole debate team, and I’m sure everyone else would say the same.

What advice would you give to other students who wish to participate in the IASAS Debate & Forensics (Debate) next academic year?

My advice would be to go for it and not be scared to try it out; debate can seem intimidating at first, but from personal experience, I can assure you that practice makes perfect. Even if you don’t get into IASAS on your first try, the number of skills you gain, develop and improve during the process is unmeasurable. You also get to meet and become closer to new people and your team.

Participating in debate and IASAS (Debate & Forensics) has been a part of some of my best memories in High School so far. The experience is worth it, so I urge you to consider debating next year.


(Words by James C. (‘23))

Describe your most memorable moments as a team during the IASAS tournament.

My most memorable moments for the Extemporaneous team would’ve been when we all debriefed after each preliminary round. We would meet in small meeting rooms in the library and discuss our speeches on what went well, what we improved on from the previous round, and what we could still improve on.

Motivating each other and talking about all our experiences together like that reminded me that though Extemporaneous is an individual speech event, we’re still a team, and those meetings helped us build the feeling that we’re part of something larger, that a victory for one of us is a victory for all.

This applies to the ISKL Debate & Forensics team as a whole as well. We might be split across five different speech events, but at the end of the day, we still supported each other with as much enthusiasm as our events. I could feel this most when we all found out who got into the finals, especially during the closing ceremony, where we cheered for each event equally, a moment I will never forget.

As a team, what were you most proud of?

The thing I’m most proud of is that we were all able to help support each other to reach our personal goals during this Debate & Forensics season. Since we were at different stages at the beginning (I’d never even done any public speaking before this!), we all had other things we wanted to achieve by doing it.

I just found crafting current events-related seven-minute speeches with only 30 minutes of preparation time exciting, especially considering the club I run where we discuss current events. Without Pulkit bringing his experience from doing Extemporaneous last year and Janusz’s humor uplifting our spirits, I would never have expected to be a finalist at IASAS! Seeing the great progress that Pulkit, Janusz, and I have made over the past two months and seeing our passion for achieving our goals will always be the thing I’m most proud of, and I know that Pulkit and Janusz can continue that spirit if they continue to do Extemporaneous next year.

What advice would you give to other students who wish to participate in the IASAS Debate & Forensics (Extemporaneous) next academic year?

The best advice for Extemporaneous speaking is to be up-to-date on all headline news. Extemporaneous is a current events-based speech competition; knowing about current events before you walk into the speech preparation room is crucial because it gives context to the evidence you need to cite in your Extemporaneous speech. It prevents you from wasting a decent chunk of your precious 30 minutes of preparation time informing yourself on the topic you’re given. Having in-depth knowledge of current events beforehand is also essential because you become more confident and more articulate when you’re well-informed about the issue you’re giving a speech about.

As for IASAS Debate & Forensics as a whole, my best piece of advice is to enjoy the whole process. It’s easy to get swept up in the competitive nature of Debate & Forensics (you get ranked after every round), but a large part of IASAS is the fun of meeting new people and making friends across schools.

So overall, don’t take yourself too seriously, maintain a healthy level of competition, and get out there and have fun!


(Words by Vrinda G. (‘23))

Describe your most memorable moments as a team during the IASAS tournament.

Every second of IASAS felt unforgettable… but if I had to throw out some highlights, they’d have to center around the community. Throughout the tournament, we started getting to know each other as a whole ISKL delegation. The impromptu team was already quite close because we’d spent a lot of time practicing together, but it was refreshing to bond with the forensics community.

Everyone showed up to support each other automatically since it’s always nice to have familiar faces in an audience. We spent time together between rounds, playing games, helping each other practice and deal with nerves; our shared experiences with the other schools also helped bring us all together. Of course, the community is so much more than just the delegates.

As a team, what were you most proud of?

We were all thrilled to even be at IASAS, to begin with. We’re immensely proud of being able to go out and perform in the event we love, especially with all the practice and learning behind the scenes.

Impromptu can be nerve-wracking, and the fact that we all went out there despite our fears and doubts is a testament to our growth as speakers.

What advice would you give to other students who wish to participate

Do it. Whether it’s another Forensics event or Impromptu especially, do it despite the fear and the doubt. Even though you might not be good at it right off the bat— I know I certainly wasn’t. And despite the fact it might feel like the event itself is out to get you. However you end up performing— whether you make IASAS or not— if you stick with it just a little more than you’re comfortable doing, I guarantee you’ll learn more than just how to speak.

The greatest gift this event gave me was faith in myself because Impromptu is about confidence and self-efficacy and how well you can speak. So even if you’re the tiniest bit curious, do it because you won’t regret trying.

Original Interpretation (OI)

(Words by Ellie C. (‘23))

Describe your most memorable moments as a team during the IASAS tournament.

Small moments defined this year’s Original Interpretation (OI) team. I remember my teammate Nidhi and I eating lozenges while practicing our speech, hoping we wouldn’t cough when performing. I remember exchanging excerpts with Jeongseo for fun and falling apart when I tried to read the female voice in his excerpt.

While it’s easy to say the most memorable moment was coming together in the finals and seeing one of us win a medal, I remember our morning sessions in the practice room the most. When we’re all nervous but excited, running over our lines as we bounce on the balls of our feet or shake out our limbs. When Ms. Sahari tells us to have fun, and we tell each other we’re just here for the vibes and whichever way our rounds go, we’re proud of each other for making it this far.

As a team, what were you most proud of?

It’s safe to say we’re all proud of being able to go to IASAS. The experience we had in Singapore, interacting with so many other talented public speakers, was indeed an experience you only get during IASAS.

Of course, I must pay attention to all the hard work we put into our pieces. Although the rest of the Debate and Forensics community might file OI away as the “easiest” event, much hard work still goes into it. We all stretched our vocal cords in directions they probably shouldn’t have stretched.

For my teammates, who didn’t have a theater background, I was incredibly proud of how they stepped outside their comfort zones to voice spoiled middle-aged women or Hollywood actresses. It was truly unique seeing how we all grew after each performance and became more comfortable speaking through the voices of multiple other characters.

What advice would you give to other students who wish to participate in IASAS Debate & Forensics Oral Interpretation (OI) next academic year?

Out of all the Forensics events, many people would say OI is the “easiest” or “less stressful.” While they’re not wrong, people often overlook a lot of heart and passion that goes into OI. Yes, try out for OI if you’re looking for a Forensics event that’s a little more “beginner-friendly,” but also understand OI is an event where you imbue simple written words with magic.

The piece I chose was from the most influential book in my life, and when I performed it during the finals, I truly felt myself giving life and spirit to these characters that had transformed my life. I think genuinely resonating with your chosen piece and feeling confident in your ability to tell its story is the best advice I can give.

Original Oratory (OO)

(Words by Ellie C. (‘23))

Describe your most memorable moments as a team during the IASAS tournament.

The first moment that comes to mind is an unlikely one. It was the moment Mrs. Woodward, our coach, approached us all with the final’s results. I didn’t make it, but I wasn’t too disappointed because Ms. Woodward turned to Owen with a gigantic smile and told him, “You made it!” Tillie and I were so proud of him, and we all celebrated and hugged each other.

But there was a twist coming that we would never have expected. As we were handed the adjudication sheets for our previous round, Mrs. Woodward showed us the list of delegates that made the finals for all the events. Owen and I looked over it as Tillie shuffled through her adjudication sheets. “Wait,” Owen said, pointing at the last number in the OO Finals list. “That’s not my number.” Mrs. Woodward and I did a double-take. “That’s an ISKL number, though.” We could tell because the three digits added up to 16, ISKL’s number. I double-checked my number. No, it wasn’t mine.

As if in a cinematic slow-mo shot, we slowly turned towards Tillie – it was her number. The moment it registered was like a firecracker had gone off! We all started cheering and congratulating Tillie, surprise giving way to sheer elation. I hugged her in jubilation as she stared at Mrs. Woodward, dumbfounded. For a few seconds, Tillie stared blankly at her number on the finals sheet, unable to comprehend that she had made it into the finals. It was incredible that Tillie would be in the IASAS finals in her freshman year! And perhaps even more impressive and memorable was when her name was called out for second place in Original Oratory 2023, ever since the default male and the fact that women are 47% more likely to die in a car crash have been common words circulating amongst the Debate and Forensics group.

Although Owen and I were close to making the finals and might have complained a bit about the unfair judging, it all fell away once Tillie made it to the finals. We were there to support her and to see ISKL make its mark in the OO event, and this moment showed the strength of the bonds between us. Between writing, editing, and delivering speeches repeatedly, it was this moment of supporting each other and celebrating our accomplishments. We all just came together as a true OO team!

One more minor but memorable moment was when Owen came up to me right before our third round and said, “We’re all going to place.” And I grinned at him, responding, “Yeah. We will get first, second, and third in OO.” Owen replied, “It’ll be a clean sweep in OO for ISKL.” Laughing, we sauntered to Tillie and proudly proclaimed, “Tillie, we’re all going to place for OO. The three of us. It’ll only be ISKL on that stage during the awards ceremony for OO.” Tillie set down her phone and threw her hands up confidently.

“Of course. Yes. It must simply happen.” We went on for a few more minutes, bragging about placing first, second, and third, and eventually dissolved into laughter. Our conversation ended with a sage comment about being there “for the vibes” and not caring if we placed. Because in the end, we all felt the energy of being there with so many other talented speakers, which was unlike anything else we’d ever experienced. Some of the speeches I heard might have changed parts of my life.

It was all “for the vibes,” – I can’t tell you precisely what that means, but it’s become the Debate and Forensics catchphrase, and it’s apt. But, of course, in our little OO bubble, Tillie, Owen, and I still definitely placed first, second, and third.

As a team, what were you most proud of?

Because of the nature of OO, in which our speeches were 65% of the score, we were proud of the speeches we had written. We all chose topics we were impassioned about and wholly unique to ourselves.

Tillie spoke about the default male and how the world is structured for men. Owen talked about absurdism and being absurd in a world of conundrums. I spoke about the meaning of life and living in a world full of metaphorical dragons.

In the end, we were there to spread messages we believed in, and no matter if we placed them or not, we were all incredibly proud of the speeches we took to IASAS and the passion and heart with which we delivered them.

What advice would you give to other students who wish to participate in the IASAS Debate & Forensics (Original Oratory) next academic year?

OO is the event that gives you the most freedom. Even though in OI, you are free to choose whatever piece you’d like, it is still pre-written for you, and for all other events, there is an unseen prompt or motion that you will have to improvise for. Thus, OO is the event where you can let your ideas run wild.

Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, get up close and personal, and explore niches you never thought you’d investigate again. I ended up writing fourteen drafts for my OO speech, and the one I took to IASAS was written literally a few days before I would deliver it in Singapore. It was a hectic experience but one I would repeat because OO is about discovering your passion and what you think the world needs to hear from you.

Sometimes, you’ll know exactly what that is, like Owen, who had his whole speech down about a month and a half before IASAS. Sometimes, you’ll be a little more like Tillie, who knew her main idea but heavily edited her structure and writing to ensure it came across in the best way possible. And sometimes, you’ll be like me, magically whipping up new speeches every so often. But what we all have in common is that we took the time to figure out what we wanted to say to the world, and the speeches we took to IASAS ended up being ones we were all extraordinarily proud of. To the point where we were jokingly questioning our judges’ rankings – because our speeches were just that amazing!

Do you know of any student, teacher, parent, or staff who always have an anecdote to tell, love to share some insights into their passions and interest, or simply is a Panther through and through? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions here.

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