Society Spotlight: Aberystywth Debating Union

WE MET WITH  Priya Shah, the events secretary of the Debate Society, to talk about what they’ve got coming up this year:

So, to start off, how’s debating gone so far this year?
Wonderfully really; we’ve had a lot of interest thanks to the show debate at the beginning of the year and a lot of recurring new members.

How did Aberystwyth do in competitions last year?
We had a pretty great year: we had a team in the final of the Welsh Mace, and two in the final of the Swansea Open (one of whom won), as well as being some of the highest ranked speakers, and a team from Aber won the Welsh Mace. This year we have a team going to the World Universities Debating Championship in Greece, and a lot of competitions lined up this year.

What events have you got lined up?
Obviously November was RAG month, so all the societies must do a charity event; ours was a 50’s style tea dance that we called The High Society Tea Dance, which was on the 21st November in Buarth Hall. There was all sorts of events like tombolas and bake sales and we raffled of some early editions of classic books; think a ‘cute fete’ sort of vibe and you’ve got an idea of the vibe we were going for. Victory curls were mandatory.

How can students get involved in debate soc?
Just turn up to our Tuesday meetings. We meet at 6pm in C4, and if you want to continue, come talk to one of the committee (we’re very easy to find); all the admin stuff can be sorted out on the Tuesday, it couldn’t be easier.

Is there much training for those not really used to verbal sparring?
For some reason, people think everyone in debating has been speaking perfectly straight out of the cradle – it couldn’t be further from the truth. We have training every week, we have our very handy “Debating for Noobs” booklet, and we’ve started handing out crib sheets just to help with speech structuring. And to top it all off, even after all of that, if you’re still unsure of what the hell is going on, we run Thursday sessions at 6:30pm every two weeks.

What would you say to anyone interested but perhaps unsure of how they might do?
Give it a go. It’s the best and easiest way of getting involved, don’t worry about how you’re going to do, you can only get better. While some of our members are experienced debaters, most people have little or no experience, and want to get better.

What were your first experiences of debating?
Really really good, actually; I didn’t join at the beginning of my first year, but halfway through – around November, December time. Everyone was so friendly, and quite soon after I joined, there was a board game night which was a lot of fun, and basically gave me my confidence back – first year was a weird time, debating helped quite a bit.

What’s the best thing about debating?
The people, and I’m not just saying that to be cliché; debating is for everyone, and we’ve got a very diverse group of people who come every week who are fascinating to talk to.

What’s the most challenging or difficult thing?
Competitions are definitely challenging because you’re up against some really good teams, but there wouldn’t be any point in going to them if they were going to be easy.

In what ways do you think debating is rewarding to people?
The most important bit about debating is learning to think on your feet, in a structure which is incredibly useful for all walks of life. It’s also pretty useful for essays because of the way we teach you how to structure your thoughts.

How would sum up debating society in a tweet?
Debating: it’s arguably the best society!