My experience in the IBO

 

 

City centre, Singapore

I was in the IBO twice representing Lithuania (a small country in Eastern Europe) in 2012 (Singapore) and 2013 (Switzerland) and I won two bronze medals.

Actually, it was the best experience I have ever had. Singapore was one of the first countries that I visited outside Europe and Switzerland was one of the first countries I visited in Europe. The best things about olympiads are that you get a fully paid holiday abroad, you ALWAYS meet people from all over the world and get acquainted with different and unique cultures and lastly you take the most unique exam papers in the entire world that are hard to solve even for experienced scientists.
 

Arrivals

Firstly, I will describe my experience from Singapore. We arrived here a few days before the official start so as to circumvent jet lag and also get acquainted with the country itself. For me, it was the first time coming to a country with tropical weather. The heat, the monsoon rains, the humidity were all so hard to bear with, however, flora and fauna made up for uncomfortable climate. Especially it was impressive to hear cicads singing in the middle of city centre. While discovering the city we visited famed retail stretch of Orchard Road cramped with chic shopping centres. It is not a Secret that Singaporeans are mad for shopping so it is mandatory to see what kind of stuff they buy. While walking around we found out that cars in Singapore are very expensive and thus public transport system is well developed. Singapore was the first country to introduce a variety of technologies to the system, for example, one of the world’s first Electronic Road Pricing systems. You just buy a card, put some money and enjoy amazing scenery through moving train window. 

Opening ceremony
Singapore

The 23rd IBO began with an outstanding performance of Singaporean and the opening ceremony was graced by the President of the Republic of Singapore. After that we discovered amazing cuisine of Singapore. We had an opportunity to taste food ranging from Malaysian stir-fry chicken to Indian curries Chinese noodles to Italian pasta. There is probably no national dish in this country because their cuisine is a mixture of cultures but the food is quite cheap and of good quality so there is no need for fancy restaurants or outstanding chefs to explore the authenticity and taste of a dish. One thing that I did not fell in love with was durians, famous stinky fruit which Singaporeans adore. It has such a bad smell that you can get a fine if you take durian to the public transport and the taste of it is like an onion. But, nevertheless, you must try it.

Singapore is a fine city.

 
The next day we had six-hour practical examination and the day after six-hour long theoretical exam. I really enjoyed working in lab but there was so little space so you had to be very careful not to ruin your workplace.
 

Theory exam

During the next days we had lots of excursions and social events. We visited Jurong Bird Park which is one of the most renowned bird sanctuaries with some of the largest free-flying aviaries in the world, we went to Singapore Zoo park which is among the most beautiful wildlife park settings in the world, where animals roam freely in open and naturalistic habitats. What is more, we enjoyed visiting Underwater World at Sentosa where we were engaged with majestic sharks and rays, exotic Sea Dragons, ethereal Sea Angels and living fossils like the Arapaima. Kite-making workshop brought students and mentors as well as organizers together to exchange their experiences, ideas and knowledge.

Practicals

 

Jurong Bird Park

I was really astounded by the hospitality of the country and by very kind and happy people of various races living together as one family.

Bern

The IBO 2013 in Bern was not that special to me because it took place in Europe. The same weather, the same food, quite the same culture. However, I had a great time meeting old and new friends with whom I get in touch even after so long time.

 

The opening ceremony was filled with authentic Swiss performances as well as sounds of different languages. Moreover, many students wore their national attire and it was fascinating to look at them. Lastly, it become a tradition for every country to bring some small gifts other participants, and, for example, one of my desk drawers is full of pencils, small Mongolian yurt, fans, and other cute things from the IBO.

At the government building

 

Opening ceremony

After our arrival, we were introduced to our team guide who was a local student. It was no surprise that she always warned us not to go anywhere as we were waiting to go to excursion but it is hard not to start a chat with fellows and wander around a bit.

During the olympiad in Bern, we stayed in hotel with all other participants, however, rooms were small, with no conditioning, we had two beds for three people and two blankets for the same three people so it was quite inconvenient.  
Mountains
During the first days we took a series of practical (lasting for six hours) and theoretical exams (lasting for the first time for seven hours) during the course of the competition. What was new in theoretical exam is that there were to papers, that is, we had multiple-choice questions on Samsung Galaxy Tabs. This was very state-of-the-art but there were MANY problems with tablets. Furthermore, digital media during one of the practical exam, Evolutionary Ethology, enable us to see how experiments are performed, to analyze the results and to draw scientific inferences.
St. Beatus Caves
During practical exam we were divided into four groups, one student per country in each, and were given bandages in different colors so we could not mix up (in Singapore we’ve got different color lab coats).

 

Evolutionary ethology practical
On the other days, we’ve got the opportunity to get to know each other and explore Switzerland.  We went on impressive excursions to Lake Thun with mind-blowing scenery, Mountain Niederhorn in Bernese Alps and the St. Beatus Caves. The sights were just breath-taking. Moreover, the tidiness of the city and weather and water was surprising.

 

IBO changed my life. So work hard and chase your dreams so that the upcoming IBO would change your life, too!

 

 

Cheers,

Martyna