An Experience of Trial and Error (a.k.a. Science Olympiad)

Hi internet people! It’s been a while since I last posted, but I’m excited to be writing again. A lot of things have happened recently, one of the two biggest ones being my experiment in joining TOSKA (Tim Olimpiade Sains Kharisma Bangsa). In this post I’ll share with you my experience studying geography for the science olympiad, in the point of view of a science-major Indonesian student, and what it all amounted to. 🙂

The idea to join the school’s team began in 10th grade, because of a push from my dad after he saw the photos hanging on the school corridor of past medalists. At that time though, I didn’t know which subject to pursue because they all looked equally terrifying. 😀 In the end, I chose chemistry. Why? I have no idea. Maybe I was just following my two classmates.

The first time I tried, I failed. I failed because I gave up. After only taking the selection test and attending one self-study session with Kak Nadiya, I had this horrible feeling in my gut that chemistry and I had no chemistry. Obviously, I followed my gut. So, that year I quit TOSKA and tried my fate at Indonesian Science Project Olympiad (ISPO). What the result of that was is another story for another time.

Days passed, which turned into months and seasons (rainy and dry, even though it’s indistinguishable now because, you know, climate change), until finally, a year had gone by. The school year had ended and a new one approached.

It was with the enthusiasm that comes with all new things (even a new school year) that I chose to give TOSKA another try. That time, I knew I would pick geography, because of a few reasons:

  1. Whether I win or lose the olympiad, geographical knowledge is handy to have.
  2. It is the most interesting subject since it’s not taught at my science-oriented school.
  3. I would be able to read the news more comprehensively.
  4. Geography covers a wide range of topics, from geology, economy, demographics, history, culture, climatology, to general knowledge.

Now. On with the story.

At Kharisma Bangsa, there’s a unique system that is undergone by students preparing for the science olympiad. Kharisma Bangsa is a part of Ikatan Bilingual Boarding School, the name for all once-Turkish-affiliated schools in Indonesia. It used to be called Pasiad. Anyways, each year, each of these schools sends their science olympiad students to one of the schools in IBBS for an olympiad camp. Usually, there are three camps in a year, the first and final one lasting for a month while the second camp for a week.

In the camps lasting a month, you’re sent to one of the schools to study your subject of choice. And only that. With me, it was a different case, however. Perhaps because it’s hard to find a geography teacher. So, I only attended two camps, the general camp (the week-long camp) and a two-week camp. The first one was in December, during the school break, while the second one was in January.

What’s a general camp? How’s it different from the regular camp? Well, in the general camp, all olympiad students from all the subjects attend the camp at one of the schools. Last year, in December 2017, the camp was held at SMA Pribadi in Bandung. I remember the wistfulness of my heart as I traveled there and remembered the debate competition I once joined at SMA Penabur with my friends. Once again, Bandung welcomed with open arms, its air crisp and clear, the streets lined with Dutch houses from the colonial times. Once again, I was there to learn.

That week, I finally got to experience what my friends had during 10th grade–the intense studying needed in order to successfully pass each daily test, and the marvel I found at learning all those new things. Truthfully, I found everything so interesting. I was the only girl in a class of 11 people (I think?), but that was okay too. We were taught by Kak Clint, Kak Thalia, and Kak Adell. My eyes were opened because I realized that up to that point, I hadn’t been studying hard enough.

We were indoctrinated that the world is round, not flat. We were shown the marvel of the weather and habitats and the people inside them. We memorized maps. We estimated population growth. We learned the history of agriculture. We discussed the problems with cities, overpopulation, pollution, and so on.

All in all, it was actually fun. The second camp I joined, in Semesta, Semarang, was more or less the same. Except that time, the tutor was Kak Aji and Kak Izza, and I wasn’t the only girl. There was Harum from Pribadi Bandung, Amalia from SMA Banua in South Kalimantan, and Gista and Annisa from Semesta. Most of my friends from the first camp were also there.

Oh, while I was attending the camp in Semarang, I also participated in OLGENAS (Olimpiade Geografi Nasional) in Jogja with Kak Amel, my upperclassman at Kharisma Bangsa who got a medal in OSN Geography. Thankfully, the competition went well, more or less. My favorite part was when we had a field test, in which we traveled to Pantai Cemara Sewu. For that test, you have to walk around while answering questions related to that place. For example, while sitting at the seashore we had to analyze what type of a beach it was, how it was formed, how piles of sand could influence the effects of a tsunami, the types of plants growing there, the type of soil the beach had, and so on. Sitting in the shade of trees we also had to find out how to best develop the beach as a tourist destination.

One other extremely memorable event that happened at Semarang was a surprise my friends planned for me and Gara’s birthday. The schemer of it all was Eva, whose name has already appeared in this blog. 😉 In reality, I had expected it all along, since she didn’t wish me a happy birthday in the morning, and I knew for certain that she hadn’t forgotten. However, I didn’t expect she would coordinate it so perfectly, and include everyone at that camp in the surprise. So there were three subjects at that camp–geography, geology, and astronomy. All three classes joined in.

The story went like this: Towards the end of class, Kak Aji started to tease me by asking me to go to the front of the class to teach. Then he pretended to get mad when I stubbornly refused. Finally, I gave in and half-heartedly retaught everything. Suddenly, the door opened and dozens of people streamed in, carrying two cakes and singing Happy Birthday. Not long after that, another surprise for Gara ensued! Shocked, he knelt to the ground from his chair and turned red. 😀 As of now, I’m still smiling as I remember that day. Eva, Bila, Lintang, Dinda, and friends, if you’re reading this, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. ❤

We parted with sad goodbyes and the task of catching up with missed schoolwork looming before us.

On February 28th, OSK (Olimpiade Sains Kota) came. I felt utterly unprepared, even though I’d missed half a semester preparing for it. The result wasn’t satisfactory; I got ranking 9 in Tangerang Selatan.

However, joining TOSKA to delve into geography was an experience I’ll never forget, and one which I’m grateful for. This time, I don’t think I lost in the technical sense. It’s just a fact that there are people more deserving to continue to the province level, perhaps because they’ve studied more, or prayed harder than I did.

If you’re in the process of studying for a contest, like I was, then please keep up the good work! No matter whether we win or lose, the fact that we’re brave enough to try makes us one step ahead than those who’re inhibited by their fears. Keep pushing yourself to do your best, and don’t you dare give up. 🙂

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