Laura Cosgrave and Tianyiwa Xie, members of team Ireland at the European Girls Mathematical Olympiad 2018 have started a Science blog by, and largely for, girls. Their first entries, which can be viewed here , make a promising blend of insightful thought and intense feeling.
Here we present a moving excerpt of the upcoming entry by Tianyiwa about her experience at the International Mathematical Olympiad 2018 in Romania.
IMO 2018, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.10th of July. Second day of competition
So this morning… While walking into the big arena… I had a eerie feeling that something BBBIIIGGG will happen...We arrived at the arena at 8 o’clock, as yesterday. Less nervous I walked around the arena chatting to friends. I spent loads of time finding everybody from my team (turns out everybody was at the table of the New Zealand team). I also managed to find my friend from Iran, friend from Ecuador, and friend from China. Apparently it wasn’t only me, everybody was much more relaxed than yesterday. A contestant was doing push-ups on the floor and his team members were around him counting...About 40 minutes to the exam start, I went to the bathroom and even before I re-entered the hall, I could hear roars of applause coming from the arena. Not wanting to miss anything, I speed walked back and this is what I found (source: 2018 Cluj-Napoca facebook page; it’s actually fun to find everybody on the team in the picture---everybody’s there!)
Of course I was shocked to find that a lot of my friends are lying down as if they are just having a relaxing day off in the warm sun on a Hawaiian beach. And the next thing that I know, I was lying down with them on the concrete floor, facing the bright fluorescent light. It really helps with the butterflies in my stomach. But the next thing that happened made the butterflies flutter even quicker. The committee apparently thought it was a good idea to put on climatic music on the second day of contest, so the arena began filling with dramatic Start War type of music. The music is really tempting for something big to happen, maybe it’s just me and my butterflies, but I thought I could even feel the tension building up inside the room. After a while, everybody started getting up... and started taking a stroll around the hall. I mean, why not? A stroll is very healthy, particularly in an international exam hall with several hundred people including child prodigies and possibly future Field medal winners from all across the world. Soon everybody was in a parade, pulling their friends and motioning to the volunteers to join in. When the atmosphere has built to this extent it is impossible not to start running, so everybody started to jog. Frankly, the speed was quite fast and I was panting and sweating after just a couple of lapses. (Were the people leading this a maths prodigy AND sports champions?) But I felt not at all tired, I felt exhilarated, running alongside my friends, old and new, running in the stream of brilliant minds from all across the world. After a while, everybody was getting a bit tired and had to stop for a while. Just when the parade seemed to be ending, a boy in a yellow shirt picked up the flag of IMO from the row of flags at the side of the room and started sprinting with the flag flying behind him. Soon, the flags of different countries joined in. (Proud to say, our country was one of the first to join in thanks to the participation spirit of our teammates! Although, one funny thing was that at first, we grabbed the Indian flag instead of the Irish one because...in all honesty they do look a lot alike while hanging down.) The teammates of each country started grabbing their flag and running with it, and soon the entire scene seemed far too surreal. My vision was soon filled with the moving colour and the moving stream of people waving their flags, and I can’t pick up all the information that’s flowing around me all at once. Almost as if I’m travelling the world, almost as if I’m joining in a global community.
We change posts in leading the flag whenever one is too tired in sprinting. And have I mentioned the music? We moved to the back the room after a while, and raised the flags over our heads and gathered them together. We raised them on tiptoes, trying to reach as high as we can. Viewed from below, the flags are shining under the light of the big arena, the flag of IMO being held among them. We hugged our friends, shaked the hands of strangers and right here the young people not even 18 years old from all around the world are connected through one single event. It is maths and knowledge that surpassed the boundaries of countries and brought all these people together under one roof. We finally put the flags back where they belong and then slowly sat down. It’s 10 minutes to exam. The music slowly died down. But I was still panting and heaving from excitement, and I felt a strong surge of confidence as I looked at the folder with my challenge inside. I turned around, and smiled to the Indian contestant sitting to my left to whom I have never talked to before, and said:”Good luck!”... One of my teammates later joked that this might be the closest we have ever came to world peace…