There are moments so well-spent, that they never fade away from the attic of one’s memories. Such was the experience of IJSO 2017 at the Netherlands. Ten days of learning, observing, analysing and entertainment, all combined together made each moment worth spending.
International Junior Science Olympiad (IJSO) is an annual gathering of 300 under-15 students from 50 member countries. Each year 6 students from Pakistan are selected to participate in the contest that aims to test practical knowledge in the fields of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy through written exams and practical experiments.
14th International Junior Science Olympiad was held in the Netherlands from 3rd to 12th December 2017. Major sponsors of the event were government of the Netherlands, Radboud University (Nijmegen), and the HAN Institute.
I was one of the six lucky students who had the honor to represent Pakistan at an international event. Holding the flag and wearing green blazers was a moment of pride for all of us.
Here is a brief note on the event and the happenings which I am excited to share at the 1st Anniversary of the IJSO:
Day 1: Arrival
We reached Amsterdam after boarding a 12-hour long flight from Benazir International Airport Islamabad. I departed with mixed feelings of anticipation and anxiousness since it was my first time ever on a plane. The journey was no less than an adventure for me.
We were received by the organizers at the Schiphol International Airport, Amsterdam. They took us to the hotel Papendal which became our new home for the next ten days. The hotel was in Arnhem, a city which is on one-hour drive from Amsterdam.
At the hotel, we met other participants and were also introduced to our mentor Jwalant Yagniks who was going to accompany us during our stay in Arnhem. He was an Indian student from Radboud University. I found him an amazing person with a kind heart. We made many adventurous memories together.
Day 2: Opening Ceremony
“You are the future!” These were the opening words of the Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers’ speech at the ceremony. He shared his experiences of performing experiments at the International Space Station.
Director Secondary Education from the Dutch Ministry, President IJSO and CEO Xylem also addressed the opening ceremony of IJSO 2017. Xylem Water Prize was awarded to Team India after winning an online video-making competition.
The ceremony concluded with a small lunch. It was also a time to bid farewell to our mobile phones for the following few days.
Our day ended with a tour to Duiven, a town in eastern Netherlands. It is famous for its beautiful landscape and large river basins. During the tour, we were briefed about the Dutch government’s strategies to conserve water and achieve environmental sustainability. The tour was in line with the IJSO theme “Water and Sustainability” for the year 2017.
Day 3: MCQ’s Test & Tour to Deltares
And finally, the day of our first test had come. The test was taken at Radbound University. The question paper was a perfect combination of questions that could gauge the intellectual ability of the contestants in true sense.
After the exam, there was a tour to the Deltares institute. It is an independent institute for research in the field of water and subsurface. There, we came to know about different water-solving techniques and practically saw the wastewater treatment process.
In fact, Netherlands treats and recycles 99% of all the waste material. Even some of the sidewalks are built of the recycled material. I found this really AMAZING!
Day 4: A Day at Groenewald School
The Pakistani team spent a whole day at a local Dutch School. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and they also gave us a tour of the school. We met the Santa and got presents from him. Afterwards, we had an awesome experience of attending a drama class with other students. We also sat in one the classes and discussed each other’s cultures, traditions, and the schooling system. We had lunch with the school staff and left the place with a heavy heart.
Day 5: Theoretical Test, Excursion, Meet & Greet
The theoretical test consisted of 30 questions from Biology, Physics and Chemistry. All the questions were related to the theme of the event: Water and Sustainability. After the exam, we visited different water boards of Dordrecht city and were briefed about Dutch government’s strategies on water conservation and sustainability.
Day 6: Snow!!
It was the first snow of December and that was the highlight of the day. We were having breakfast when the first snowflakes started to hit the ground. Everyone cheered in unison; “Hey look, there’s snow!” and that’s when the real fun started. We toured the city in snow, made a snowman, and indulged in a snow-ball fight. It was an exhilarating experience.
Later that night, they took us for a pan-cake party at a traditional Dutch place. Dutch pan-cakes are actually very delicious and I still cherish the taste in my mouth.
Day 7: Experiment Test and Cultural Night
For this final test, we were split into teams of 3. The 3-hour long practical exam required us to conduct an experiment in each field. This was the most enjoyable test. We left the laboratory with happy faces, excited to celebrate the cultural night that evening.
We were dressed into our beautiful traditional dresses and also entertained the audience with a cultural performance.
Day 8: Tour to Amsterdam and NEMO
It was Sunday and we had planned a tour of Amsterdam, the capital city of the Netherlands. We took a boat tour and saw historical buildings and romantic bridges. Afterwards, we visited NEMO Science Museum where one can practically experience science and technology. Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers also conducted a 2-hour long session with us and we loved listening to his adventures to the space.
Day 9: Closing Ceremony and A Farewell Party
At the closing ceremony, I was presented with a Bronze Medal for scoring high in all three exams. The feeling of being on the stage holding a green flag is indescribable. The other contestants were also presented with medals and certificates.
The ten-day international event concluded with a farewell party. We took pictures, shared souvenirs, asked for autographs, and exchanged our contacts. At that time, each moment was precious and we tried to enjoy it to our best.
Day 10: Departure
“To meet, to greet, and then to depart is the saddest tale of human heart,” -Shakespeare.
Departures are never easy. The 10 days we spent together had been amazing and no one really wanted to leave. The Hotel Papendal had become our second home where we made beautiful memories together. We were a family now and it was truly arduous to say adieu to each other. We hugged, we laughed, we wept and finally bid farewell to the place with heavy hearts and teary eyes.
You can be a part of IJSO 2019 at Qatar this year, stay tuned to the official website of Pakistan Science Foundation.
By Tuaseen Kalsoom She is an ambitious 16 years old girl from Chakwal; a book-worm, science enthusiast, speaker and a passionate writer. She is a Bronze Medalist at IJSO 2017 from Pakistan and winner of many national awards in science and writing.