Students from St Leonard's Catholic School in Durham represented the region at the European Youth Parliament Debating Championships in Durham, read a guest blog from one of the students here.
As the train left Durham on Thursday 11th September we weren't sure quite what we were letting ourselves in for: nine excited, but apprehensive, Year 13 students from St Leonard's Catholic School looking forward to the challenges that lay in wait in taking part in the National Finals of the European Youth Parliament Debating Competition in Liverpool. Having qualified for the Nationals by winning the regional event which took place at the Town Hall in Durham earlier in the year, we had been given a taste of debating. But that was a one day event, a fast food snack compared to the four day banquet that Liverpool was offering.
After settling into Liverpool Hope's Creative Campus (a beautiful spot offering student accommodation that we all decided would be exactly what we wanted next year),we decided to head for food and take the opportunity to explore Liverpool and see what it had to offer. All of us were hungry and, with no evening meal on the agenda later on at the uni (the four day schedule is tightly packed to cram as much discussion time in as possible), the collective decision was to indulge in the all you can eat buffet. We felt it boded well for the endurance required to research, write resolutions for and then debate nine different issues affecting Europe, that we managed to get our money's worth and find room for the ice cream 'dream factory'! Afterward we found a small oasis of grass in the midst of Liverpool One on which we basked in the sunshine and discuss each individual's topic to be covered in the coming days.
With 14 school taking part we did feel anxious that we would be lost in the crowds, but as the induction began, the sense of apprehension quickly faded. After introductions we participated in some warm up activities and then we split up into our separate committees. Team building exercises such as puzzle games and group problem solving helped us to relax and get to know our fellow delegates. Eagerly anticipating the next day's activities, focusing on preparations for the debates, we returned to our rooms for some well earned rest.
With debates ranging from protecting freedom of speech and democracy as far right parties gain popularity to whether Turkey should be allowed to enter the EU, we were required to read and research material before the event and enjoyed discussing the relevant problems and how we could solve these problems. After the first day we were all happy with the committees we had joined and are now looking forward to a weekend of arguing!
A big thank you goes to Durham City Smiles, Lloyds Bank and Jude Kirton-Darling our local MEP, who have all supported the trip enabling us to have such a fantastic experience, as well as to TransPennine Express who offered free travel to us.