Judging the World University Debating Championship in Mexico: Edmond Stewart

In 2017 my Christmas lasted for approximately 40 hours. That was because I was flying on a budget long haul flight from Sydney to Mexico City Juarez International Airport, via Dallas Fort Worth. As one of my friends recently pointed out, “You’ve only got 82 Christmases in your life1, you’ve already enjoyed 21 of them why the hell would you waste your 22nd”.

That’s a good question; the answer is that I was travelling to the World University Debating Championship which is the largest English-speaking debating competition in the world. It’s been held since 1981, bringing over 400 teams (of 2 university students) from around 90 countries together. Teams argue with each other over topics or policies even though ironically, as students, these issues are largely out of our control. Nonetheless, it is a great platform to practice debating skills and meet people from around the world.

WUDC is a peer judged tournament, where judges artificially situate themselves as an “average reasonable person”, despite the fact that no reasonable person would spend thousands of dollars to argue with other university students about the relative merits of whether we should “limit the amount of time that a museum can display a given piece of art to 3 months out of every 10 year period”. I was attending as a one of those judges meaning that I had the hard task of assessing all the different arguments.

As much as the tournament itself was intellectually stimulating, the real reason hundreds of debaters travel half way around the world is the travel. Going into Mexico, I’m ashamed to admit that my view of the country was coloured a little too much by movies like Sicario, I was worried about my own personal security. I’m happy to report back that my views were broadly baseless; Mexico is culturally rich, diverse and exciting. Mexico City and the other countries I travelled to (Guatemala and Belize) were full of welcoming people willing to show another gringo a bit of their culture.

For the amazing people, stunning sights and amazing food I’d be more than willing to pay the price of 40 bleary eyed hours in the purgatory of international flights again.


  1. Of course, my friend being a huge nerd, was directly quoting the 2015 ABS life expectancy for Men.

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