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MIT student blogger Shuli J. '22

Quizbowl adventuring by Shuli J. '22, MEng '23

knowledge is (*) power !

When I brought up at a blogger meeting that I was thinking about writing a blog post about quizbowl, somebody said, “What’s quizbowl?” So of course I had to say, “Now I’m definitely writing a blog post about quizbowl.” (In fact, there may be more in the future!)

If you already know what quizbowl is, you can probably skip this intro paragraph and go straight to the ~personal experience~, but basically, the whole big concept of quizbowl is that you form teams of 4-5 people, and two teams sit in a room and listen to questions, and you hit a buzzer when you know the answer. If you’re right, you get points; if you’re wrong, no one else on your team can answer and the other team gets to hear the rest of the question. Quizbowl at the high school level comes in a lot of different formats, and people have some strong opinions about what’s good and what’s bad; at the college level, there’s mostly so-called “good” quizbowl which has a few specific characteristics. High school quizbowl in Canada is focused on our own Canadian format, called Reach for the Top, so I didn’t (and still don’t, I guess) have a lot of experience with this other kind.

I went to an MIT Quizbowl team practice at CPW and had a ton of fun, so I was super excited to start practice for real this year. Once or twice a week, a bunch of us take over a classroom, read through old packets of questions, and try not to make really dumb negs.01 A neg is when you buzz in early but then get the answer wrong. The best (aka worst) ones tend to become quizbowl history. One of my favorite things about MIT so far is that you can show up to pretty much any event or meeting and find some truly awesome people; that holds true for quizbowl, which is one of the reasons I like it so much :)

Last Saturday,02 Oof actually two Saturdays ago now, whoops I went to my first college quizbowl tournament!!! It was the aptly-named Early Fall Tournament at Yale. I was really, really nervous for several days before — not because of the tournament, but because I was the driver! We split up into three cars of people, and then each driver rented a car and drove two hours to New Haven on the morning of and two hours back the same night. This was a lot of firsts for me: first time driving on a long trip, first time driving in Boston, first time picking up my own rental car. I had those nightmares you get before a big event, where I screw up picking up the car except I did pick up the car except now I’m crashing the car…

I owe a super-big thank you to every one of my friends who listened to me talk about it, to the club prez who walked me through the whole thing very patiently, and to my friend Maddie ’22 who actually came with me to pick it up!!! It was, uh, not an unharrowing experience. We had to figure out how to drive the car (harder than you’d think), navigate out of the garage (ditto), and drive and park in rush hour Boston traffic (exactly as hard as you’d think). But eventually (as in, way later than it should have been), we and the car did make it back to MIT unscathed.

This success made me feel a lot better about the drive next morning (which is to say that I switched to being nervous about waking up in time). I dragged myself out of bed before dawn, walked over to where I’d parked the car, and…. accidentally opened the hood while trying to open the trunk. Ten minutes later, hood closed; ten minutes after that, trunk opened. And we were off!

The drive was actually a lot better than I thought it would be, perhaps because the road was deserted at 6.30 in the morning. We mostly just cruised along the highway quietly, and soon we were in New Haven :0 Yale is very pretty, although very different from MIT. Here’s a bunch of pics I took at 8 am:

(Note: the inside of the entire building I was in looked like that, all wood paneling and a bit of dark gothic metal; admittedly, I didn’t go into any other buildings. The library, which is that rectangle building with the square marble sections, is so cool — it’s a rare book library, so instead of having real windows that could damage the books, they have these super-thin marble slices that let in filtered sunlight!)

The tournament itself was super fun!!!!!! I settled very comfortably into my niche of getting a bunch of questions about Classical history, and also some about poetry and Judaism, and was reminded all over again how much I like these things. For lunch, we went to, wait for it:

A restaurant that only sells chicken nuggets. I know, I can hear you gasping from here. And they were not McDonald’s chicken nuggets, my friends — i.e., they were actually good.

After lunch (…or, like, a long while after lunch, because the tournament ran realllll late) was rebracketing for playoffs; my team, MIT C, ended up right in the middle of the pack, which I’m very happy with considering my relative lack of experience. I am not allowed to tell you all the incredibly funny things people said about questions at this tournament, because other people are still going to play it later! So all I can say is, uh, they were really funny, and if I told you them you’d definitely be laughing right now. Also, there were some questions that were hard, but then I knew the answer! I know: so impressive.

After a suuuuuuper long wait for tiebreaker games, we went out for dinner and got delicious Greek food (while experiencing the very real sketchiness of New Haven at night), and then it was the drive home!

With my drive there completed, my biggest fear had shifted from crashing on the way to quizbowl to crashing on the way back. However, I ingested caffeine with dinner and connected my phone to the car’s speakers, and we blasted Taylor Swift and Maroon 5 and Lorde and Hamilton all the way home.

To be honest? It was amazing. I’ve never had that feeling before, of driving down a highway with the flow of traffic, zooming along03 I only looked up the mi to km conversion after the drive and boy, was I shocked at how fast I had been going. with people you like, after a fun and interesting day, playing your favorite music and singing along real loud. It felt like… it felt like adulthood, I guess, but an aspect of it I didn’t anticipate: I can choose what I want to do, take myself there, and do it in my own style.

And it rocked :D

  1. A neg is when you buzz in early but then get the answer wrong. The best (aka worst) ones tend to become quizbowl history. back to text
  2. Oof actually two Saturdays ago now, whoops back to text
  3. I only looked up the mi to km conversion after the drive and boy, was I shocked at how fast I had been going. back to text