In recent years there is a fierce debate about the state of the European economy. Many European nations are dealing with constant threats of recession and bankruptcy. I am pleased to announce that this year a team of Urbana High School (UHS) peers (myself included) shared our perspective on the European economy on a national stage at the national Euro-Challenge Competition. This event was sponsored by the European Union (EU) delegation to the U.S., Moody’s Investors Service, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York City amongst others.
The premise of the competition is engaging. Each team creates a 15-minute speech on the state of the EU economy. Furthermore, each team picks a specific country and topic for further analysis in order to create potential solutions. Our team decided to tackle Spain and its notorious issue of persistently high unemployment. It was mid-January when we started working seriously on the competition.
At first, we were a little lost. This was UHS’s first year participating in the challenge. The competition was fierce to say the least; more than 100 schools from 15 states participated. After hours of diligent research we were able to slowly carve out our speech. To keep our presentation interesting, we decided to rebrand ourselves and pretend we were holding a real policy meeting. I chose to represent Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank (ECB). Katherine Li depicted Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Akhil Kapoor portrayed Albert Rivera of the Spanish Cuidados political party and Jinghan Sun characterized Luis de Guindos, Spanish Minister of Finance.
For the preliminary round in early March we submitted a video of our speech, which made the top 25 semi-finalist teams. The next stage of the competition took place in New York City. We steadily redesigned our speech and continued to refine it. The 15-minute time limit was brutal. We also started preparing for the much dreaded Q&A session that would occur after our speech, where the judges could ask us anything related to the EU economy and our speech.
On April 29, the day before Nationals, we took a bus to New York City. Anxiously, we practiced until late into the night. In the morning, we briskly walked to the site of the semi-final round where our humble team of four presented the speech in front of the judges in a conference room. Judges included ambassadors from the EU delegation to the U.S., and the United Nations as well as economist from the New York Federal Reserve Bank and the IMF. The questions were tricky — but we all saw our hours of intense study came to fruition. The Q&A was more like an open discussion with the judges rather than the aggressive interrogation that I had expected. We left that room feeling relieved but nervous about what was to come.
After a few hours, when all the teams were seated in the New York Federal Reserve’s Press Hall, one delegate from the EU slowly announced the top five schools that would compete in the final round at the Federal Reserve. After three schools were called, I lost hope and grudgingly started to accept our defeat. Yet the moment when the “ur” sound was made for Urbana, we leapt out in victory.
The final round was a blur of economic theory, political stances and adrenalin. When the results came in, Urbana proudly stood second in the nation, only outdone by the defending champions, Princeton High of New Jersey.
The experience was spectacular. We all learned an incredible amount and the $5,000 scholarship didn’t hurt either. Sincere thanks go out to our economics and European history teacher Nathan Kachur who really sparked my interest in economics in the first place. Katherine, Akhil, and Jinghan were also the best team mates I could have wanted.
My one regret is that I will be unable to participate next year as the competition is only for underclassmen. Yet this means that the team is open, so if you have any interest, consider signing up for next year. For more information visit http://www.euro-challenge.org/wordpress/
Editors Note: Rishub Nahar is a sophomore at Urbana High School.