One of the stars of the first ever DM Berlin championship back in 2015 was Julia Dannemann-Freitag who is now a regular judge for the competition. Debating Matters caught up with Julia this year to ask her about her first experience of debating and why she continues to stay involved:
DM: Julia, it’s great to catch up with you. Can you remind us when and how you first became involved with DM?
JDF: Yes, it was in 2015, when Debating Matters was running a pilot programme in Berlin. I only found out about it because I ran into a friend of mine on the way out of the school building one day and she asked me whether I wanted to come along to a “debating club” she had heard her English teacher tell the class about that needed another person to fill in for someone who had dropped out last minute.
DM: And what do you remember about that first competition? Do you remember the motion for instance?
JDF: Well, it was a lot smaller scale than the competition has been recently. There were only six schools participating and the debates were being held in two rooms. My motion was on whether performance enhancing drugs should be used in sports (the first time I was seriously asked to defend a position I didn’t believe in) and I know I was up first and really quite nervous because I still viscerally remember my hand shaking so hard that it was hard to read my speech to begin with. Thankfully that all fell away quite quickly though as I got into the flow of the debate and I got a chance to enjoy myself.
DM: It’s great when that happens, when you overcome your nerves, I think a lot of debaters will relate to that! Did you learn anything from the experience and did DM inspire you or make you think about things in a different way?
JDF: Debating Matters was my first real exposure to formal debating and as such I learnt quite a lot about formulating arguments effectively. For instance, how to research the topic of the motion, how to state my points in a concise way and how to see a topic from a perspective that isn’t mine. To get good at debating I also needed to learn not only how to tackle an opponent’s argument, but how to counter its strongest, best-stated form. All of these are skills that I’ve found rather important outside of debating too, as they improved my ability to effectively understand what others are saying and make me clearer when I respond.
DM: That’s really great to hear! And what are you up to these days?
JDF: My greatest interest is for the field of quantum gravity, which is why I’m now in my final year, studying for an MSc in physics with theoretical physics at Imperial College London.
DM: Wow, congratulations, that’s really impressive and an area of quantum physics we definitely need to understand more! We wish you luck in your final year. But before we let you get back to your studies, can you leave us with one final point on why you think debating is important?
JDF: Maybe “important” is too pompous a way to put it, but I certainly think that the skills that it teaches can be very useful. Beyond that, having to defend opinions that aren’t your own can make it easier to see other people’s perspectives in the future. However, my main reason for doing it has always been that I find it very fun.
DM: Thank you Julia, it’s been a pleasure catching up with you.
Julia is an MSci student at Imperial College London where she studies physics with a concentration in theoretical physics. Her interests lie primarily in quantum gravity, particularly discrete approaches. Her master’s project is on the spectral geometry of causal sets.
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