Top 50 in de beers english olympiad

BY Heather Wilkinson

The De Beers English Olympiad was an insightful and enjoyable experience that exposed me to many new and different writing styles and gothic novels. It expanded my knowledge of literature and language and taught me how to delve deeper into the true meaning behind the writer’s words.
The theme for this year’s English Olympiad was titled The Darkness in Man’s Heart. This thought provoking theme was devised by Riebeek College’s very own talented English teacher, Mrs Peltason. Mrs Peltason’s obvious passion for this topic really excited me and sparked a fire within me to make her proud.
Each candidate received two books to learn from: a study guide and an excerpts and stories book. The books we were being tested on included: Frankenstein, Hop-Frog, The Turn of the Screw, Heart of Darkness and This Book Betrays my Brother. All were very interesting and unusual books. I feverishly read through the excerpts and stories book and aggressively underlined and tagged each important sentence. However, I did not feel prepared enough by just reading the excerpts. So I sourced as many of the books as I could and proceeded to read each one. I was also very fortunate to be able to find the movie of The Turn of the Screw, the book which I found the most difficult to understand.
There were also many workshops to attend before the Olympiad. These workshops really tested our mental capacity and stretched our understanding of the stories we had read. Our brains were fried after the in depth discussions with Mrs Shelver and the other candidates, but we left with a deeper understanding of how the examiners wanted us to approach and answer questions.
We were also very fortunate to attend the Shakespeare in the park performance of The Tempest. It was a magnificent experience to see Shakespeare brought to life before your eyes.
The exam was both enjoyable and terrifying. We all stood outside Mrs Peltason’s classroom, books in hand, and frantically questioned each other on the different stories. When we timidly entered the classroom we were greeted enthusiastically by Mrs Peltason’s smiling face, lollipops and muffins. Mrs Peltason told us the treats were to help the creative juices flow. In the exam we were given a few choices of essay questions pertaining to the books we had read. I chose the essay on the book The Turn of the Screw, despite my initial confusion as to the meaning of this book I eventually found my own interpretation of this intriguingly complex novel. However, by the time I had finished writing the essay I was convinced I had failed and upon handing in my exam to Mrs Peltason I told her I would have to write the Olympiad again next year and redeem myself.
A few months later I went to Mrs Peltason to enter the oratory competition. After entering my name and oral topic she asked me if I had been checking the De Beers English Olympiad website during the exams to see the results. I admitted I had not had the time to do so. She then told me my name was in the Top 50. I couldn’t believe it. My smile was beaming from ear to ear, but I had to ask her, “Are you sure ma’am?” She simply smiled and replied, “Yes, I am sure.” I hurried back to class, happiness as evident on my face as a neon billboard. I was still in a state of shock, I was still in disbelief of the wonderful news.
When my achievement was announced in the assembly on the last day of school I was bursting with happiness. The school was cheering for me and the teachers were congratulating me. I am still in disbelief and will probably continue to be until I see the results in black and white with my own eyes.
My future plans are still a bit eclectic. I have always had a passion for the English language. I was also fortunate enough to learn both the Spanish and French languages during my time overseas and I therefore have a passion for languages in general. However, I am also very passionate about Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Geography. This makes choosing future degrees to study quite difficult. I am extremely humbled and thankful to receive the scholarship for the first year’s tuition to Rhodes University.
I would highly recommend that learners take part in the De Beers English Olympiad. It is a wonderful experience and you are given the chance to expand your knowledge of the English language. Bookworms like myself will especially enjoy the new reading material available to them. It is really just a lovely, educational experience. However, you can’t just read the excerpts and stories book the night before you write. You have to start early and take your time to fully comprehend the meaning behind the stories and explore every avenue of questioning. The Study Guide is especially helpful as it allows you to start thinking the way the examiners want you to think and answer questions from a deeper perspective. If you have the time I suggest reading the books as well, not just the excerpts, this allows you to gain a better understanding of the book as a whole.
I would like to thank Mrs Peltason for tracking my name down and giving me the opportunity to write the De Beers English Olympiad. Mrs Shelver for stretching our understanding and simply breaking our brains during the Olympiad workshops. My English teacher, Mrs Potgieter, for all her support and helpful comments as to how I can improve my writing and language. Mrs Gerber for allowing me to practice my writing skills by writing articles for the Media Committee and the fantastic Riebeek College website.
At school I am involved in the Media committee, the Dance committee, the Interact committee and the First Aid committee. I enjoy assisting Mrs Ellie at Sunday school, reading, hiking and languages.
My interest in the English language stems from my mom. My mom has always instilled a love of reading within me and this love of reading just blossomed into my current love of the English language. I was fortunate to be able to visit the home of William Shakespeare during my time overseas in England. Being able to physically see the history come alive around me further sparked my love of the language. When I was thirteen years old my poem was published in a book of anthology in England and this instilled in me a confidence in myself and my use of the English language.
My life philosophy is: you reap what you sow. This means the work you put in is what you will receive. Therefore I always strive to do my best in whatever task I undertake and work hard and diligently to achieve my goals. This work ethic was instilled in me by my parents and has moulded me into the person I am today.

 July 01, 2016
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