After Participating in the 11th International Junior Forest Contest
Gyeongnam Science High School
First of all, I would like to thank those who gave me the opportunity to participate in this meaningful contest as a high-school student. I have had the chance to make a lot of international friends while participating in the 5 day program of the 11th International Junior Forest Contest. I would like to write about my personal impressions on each detail regarding the contest from now on.
1. Preparing for the Contest
Many of the previous participants wrote that they only started preparing for the presentation material a week before the contest. But my team and I had finished the thesis in both English and Korean already before the contest, because we entered the domestic competition with the same thesis. In my case I was in no rush, since I put in time to edit the English version of the thesis into the format requested by the organizing committee (e. g. font, text size, line-spacing, maximum 20 pages, etc.) and added the results and conclusions drawn by the additional experiments later on. However, being a student at a Science High School, I did have some trouble translating the Korean version of the thesis into English which took a lot of time.
I think that the abstract and the PowerPoint Presentation slides are also as important as the main thesis or maybe even more important. Since there were more than 30 teams competing in the contest, my impression was that the judges only had the time to read the abstract for each thesis and mainly gave scores based on the presentation of that day. My abstract was not perfect, but I hope the next year's participants could put in enough time and effort into the abstract and the presentation slides. For the judges to easily understand your presentation, I recommend using more visuals such as photos, tables, and graphs like I did. Please remember that only half of the judges use English and the rest of them use Russian. Moreover, most of the contestants had too many words in one slide and it was very difficult to understand what they were trying to say. I also noticed that the judges pay less attention, the longer your presentation gets. So my advice is to use fewer words in one slide, try to use more visuals, and finish your presentation in less than 10 minutes.
(2) Presents and Presentation outfit
As mentioned in the pre-meeting of the contest, preparing the Korean traditional costume, Hanbok, is a must. Most of the contestants wear their traditional clothing in the contest as well. I believe wearing a colorful Hanbok is a very good way to draw attention of the judges and other friends. I even had one judge mention how much he liked the Hanbok after his questioning over the presentation.
I also prepared some Korean traditional snacks like Korean rice crackers and pumpkin candy in a Korean traditional fortune bag as gifts. Even though I did not have enough time during the contest to distribute the gifts to other friends, I managed to hand them out on the day before the last day. I think preparing these little gifts will help you make friends and advertise Korea more easily.
2. Presentation at the International Contest
The contest provides simultaneous interpretation of English and Russian, but the interpretation didn't seem to be smooth enough for the people to understand. Therefore, listening to the English presentations were not a problem, but I had a hard time understanding the presentations made in Russian. In addition, the presentation materials were also in Russian which made it more difficult to understand.
I think the presentation itself is the most important criteria when it comes to earning scores for the contest. As a matter of fact, all of those who were rewarded at the end of the contest had good presentation skills along with a good pronunciation, a clear accent, and a loud voice which helped the judges and the audiences understand the contents of the presentation easily. But I think making clear answers to the questions are also as important as the presentation. In my case, I received the question in Russian that was translated into rough English through the receiver which made it difficult to understand. I panicked and did a poor job in answering the question. I was told that a lot of points may have been taken off because of the Q&A session, even though I did a great job in the main presentation. It is hard to predict the kind of questions you may be asked on the very day, but I think you should also be prepared for the unforeseen circumstances like this.
Moreover, the main theme of the presentation is also important. I presented on Pine Wilt Disease and the judge from Brazil was amazed that a high-school student like me had conducted a research on a difficult topic such as Pine Wilt Disease. I was also offered a handshake with compliments from one of the judges who happened to be a long-time professor at Moscow University. However, I was told by my own professor that my topic was not preferred by some judges, because it was too specific. If we actually take a look at the award winning topics they were mostly common themes in forestry such as land area changes in the mangrove forests, wood utilization and so on.
The entire contest was held at a hotel. The schedule includes listening to other presentations, participating in recreation programs, visiting tour sites in Russia, and making your own presentation. You should stay focused until the day of your presentation, but should relax and enjoy the rest of the schedule once you are finished.
The currency of Russia is rubles, equivalent to 30 KRW per ruble. Like I have said before, since most of the time you will be staying at the hotel, purchase the souvenirs when you have the chance to buy them! There is a souvenir shop at the airport, but it is much more expensive than the local shops.
Last of all, I would like to recommend you to explore the city when you have the time. Our group had some time left on the last day before our flight left for Korea, so we went out to see the Kremlin Palace and other places. I have heard rumors that next year's contest may be held elsewhere at a different time during the year. But whatever the case is, try to make the best out of it. Good luck to you all.