Bringing Empathy to Debate: Granada Students Win IES Abroad Debate Tournament

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IES Abroad
January 29, 2020

When you hear the word “debate” you may think “disagreement” or “right” and “wrong,” but debate can also inspire fresh ideas, empathy, and seeing familiar things through a new lens.

That’s what our Fall 2019 students recently experienced in our virtual International Empathetic Debate Tournament between IES Abroad Centers around the world.

Led by Barcelona Center Director, Cèsar Alegre Alsina, 28 students across 14 teams participated in the debate tournament. The students spanned our Centers in SalamancaDublinLondonNantesMilanRomeBarcelonaGranada, and Amsterdam!

After several rounds, the IES Abroad Granada team was declared the winner. Congratulations to:

  • Kaya Bothe (IES Abroad Granada, Academic Year 2019-20 | Brandeis University) 
  • Lily Irvin (IES Abroad Granada, Fall 2019 | Macalester College)

The first-ever debate took place in the Fall 2018 semester providing an opportunity for students across multiple Centers to meet other students who they may not have met otherwise, sharpen their critical thinking skills, and put their new global perspectives into practice. And the Fall 2019 tournament garnered a new name: The International Empathetic Debate.

But what exactly is an Empathetic Debate? IES Barcelona Center Director and Debate Coordinator, Cèsar Algere Alsina outlined why the debates emphasized empathy. “It is not only about having the winning argument, but also the ability to include the other team’s ideas into the final argumentation. It’s a true dialogue, where you actively listen and empathize with the other party.” This approach promoted finding inclusive solutions and collaboration to tackle real world problems while practicing active listening, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

“Through such initiatives, we can encourage and realize cross-program and cross-Center awareness and collaboration, and better support our students in engaging beyond their immediate environment while abroad.”
Stephen McMahon • Debate Judge and Faculty Member • IES Abroad Dublin

Debate topics were inspired by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs were chosen because they are a multidisciplinary continuum of items that should be addressed for sustainable development of humankind. Teams participated in multiple rounds of debate, and the Global Final was beween London and Granada on the topic, "Sustainable World: Reimaging Production and Distribution of Goods." Providence College students Madison Palmer and Tara Cooney represented IES Abroad London.

So, how exactly did our Granada winners prepare for the great debate? “Kaya and I spent a couple hours researching the topic before every debate, and then met up for an hour to write an outline of what we wanted to say. However, a lot of what we debated about was more on the fly, depending on what our opponents brought up,” says Lily Irvin. An open mind and a positive attitude are also crucial. “Originally I signed up for this debate just for fun, as a way to bond with a new friend in Granada,” says Kaya Bothe. And what better way to bond than through international bragging rights?

Debate Judge Stephen McMahon (IES Abroad Dublin) echoed the importance of the debates explaining, “Through such initiatives, we can encourage and realize cross-program and cross-Center awareness and collaboration, and better support our students in engaging beyond their immediate environment while abroad.”

Faculty and staff members from various IES Abroad Centers served as judges for the final round, and were impressed by the winners strategy and dedication. Associate Center Director Nicolas Stefanni (IES Abroad Nantes) stated that what set the Granada team apart was “a greater attention to details, the level of research, bringing figures and quotes to their presentation, but also the capacity to incorporate other students’ ideas in a productive way that takes into account several layers of realities and complexities.”

Even though the Granada team emerged victorious, it looks like we’re all winners here. In the words of judge Dr. Matteo Vagelli (IES Abroad Milan): “This kind of debating is the true driving force of positive change!”

Ready to have your world redefined by study abroad? Check out our complete list of programs. And be sure to follow all of our News and Announcements to stay up-to-date on what’s new with IES Abroad.

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