Written by Erica MacDonald | Sophomore | Mount Saint Mary Academy
In the fall of my freshman year, I joined the Euro Challenge team. I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into, but former team members (my older sister included) told me it was a great experience. As with most things in my life, just because my sister enjoyed something, didn’t mean I would. In fact, I was rather clueless about the actual competition and whether I had any real interest in the Euro Area. I was somewhat intrigued, however, about why the competition made my sister so excited to read up on current events and discuss financial indicators at the dinner table. I decided I didn’t want to be left out of these dinner conversations, so I decided to join the team as a researcher so that I could as least hold my own when talk turned to the Euro and economics.
Fast forward to my sophomore year; it was clear that the Euro Challenge bug had bitten me. I finally understood why former Euro Challenge team members were so excited; learning about the Euro Area was actually fun in a strange sort of way. I was confident that my research role had given me the background to become a member of the presentation team. I took my role very seriously, and like a sponge, absorbed dozens of news articles, pamphlets, and webinars to become an expert on the economic situation in the Euro Area and the impact of aging demographics in Germany.
As the preliminary competition date approached, I remember thinking that I was well prepared. I know my presentation; I have the facts. I can cite the statistics and the most recent numbers on unemployment and GDP growth. But I also realized that the true measure of my knowledge would be tested during the ten-minute question and answer period. Although I was apprehensive, our team was able to answer the questions and we all breathed a sigh of relief once we were done. Regardless of the outcome, we felt we had done a good job.
We were thrilled when we heard that we advanced to the semi-finals. I think I can speak for the team when I say that we didn’t mind spending additional time preparing for the next round of the competition. We really came together as a team during those practice sessions. We became “experts” in different areas so that we could rely on one another when it came time to support our analysis and recommendations. Our team dynamic was stronger, and we were confident that we could answer the challenging questions that were likely to be asked during the semi-finals. As much as we were confident, we weren’t smug as we knew that all the other teams in the semifinal round would be well prepared.
I will always remember the day of the semi-finals and finals. When our team was announced as one of the finalists, I was incredulous, but knew that we had worked long and hard to get to this point. I was no longer nervous, but excited to be a member of one of the five teams who were given a final opportunity to bring home a trophy.
I was elated when our team claimed first place and extremely proud to bring home the trophy to our school. I was also extremely grateful for the scholarship money and our meetings with professionals from the European Union, International Monetary Fund, and the German and Greek embassies. I will never forget this incredible opportunity. Looking back, the competition taught me so much more than I could ever have learned in a text book, however. It gave me a deep understanding of EU member country economies, but more than that, the competition taught me the value of hard work, collaboration, and how to think about a problem for which there is no prescribed answer. I have never been so satisfied in anything else I have done and I know I will carry these lessons with me throughout my life. The Euro Challenge was a once in a lifetime experience.
This story is part of the #EUatSchool series, showcasing the wide array of EU educational programs, grants, and competitions open to Americans. From Erasmus+ to Euro Challenge to Kids Euro Festival, each week we’ll publish new stories written by the high schoolers, college students, researchers, and educators who have experienced and benefitted from these programs first-hand. Find new stories on Medium each week.
The Euro Challenge competition is an exciting educational opportunity for American high school students to learn about the European Union and the euro. Student teams select one member country of the “euro area” to examine an economic problem at the country level, and to identify policies for responding to that problem. Teams compete at the regional and national level, with the top five teams receiving scholarship awards. Learn more.