iGeo Belgrade 2017


This year, we represented New Zealand in the 14th International Geography Olympiad which was held in Belgrade, Serbia. The Team consisted of Libby Inwood, KeriKeri High School, Sarah Hyne, Otumoetai College, Yan Hao Tay, Burnside High School and Jonty Wispinski, King’s High School. Our Team Leaders were Simon Cushen from King’s High School and Anna Wilson from Wellington East Girls’ College. The competition ran from the 2 - 8 of August and included teams from 42 other countries. We were accommodated in a boarding hostel of a High School in central Belgrade, while the heatwave ‘lucifer’ was sweeping through Europe. We got to stay with all of the other competitors and ate our meals in the cafeteria, experiencing authentic Serbian food. One of our favourites we ate was Ćevapi, which are similar to meatballs and served in a pita bread. 


For the opening ceremony we were taken by bus to the Belgrade Town Hall. We heard speeches from iGeo directors and officials and saw each team cross the stage. We heard from Serbia’s most famous Geographer, Jovan Cvijić (well an actor playing him) about Serbia’s geography, culture and location at a global scale. 


The first assessment was the written response test, which is a very different sort of exam we are used to here in New Zealand. There were six different topics with a range of short answers to respond to. Although it was very different to what we are used to here, it was a different kind of testing which was quite enjoyable. Questions were on soil degradation, high tides and weather forecasting. Such topics were an eye opener to the different types of geography focussed on in different parts of the world. 


The field work test was spread over two days - Day 1 was spent out in the field, in 40 degree heat. We spent the day gathering data and drawing a transect map of a recreational forest area in Belgrade. We were also told to collect data on the leaf types which we were told could be used the next day for the field work test. This collection of data was divided into 3 parts. The second day of the field work test took place at the University where we had to write proposals and evaluations for the land-use plans for this recreational area. 

The last test we faced over in Serbia was the multimedia test, which consisted of about 40 multi choice questions. This test was probably the most different type of testing when comparing it to New Zealand’s testing, however it was the most fun. This exam was done on computers and you could flick through the questions at your own pace, most of the questions were based around what you could see in the picture or what a graph was showing. The content also was very different to what we learn here in New Zealand. There were topics like what has shaped the use of this land?, and from which country does this photo come from? 


The cultural night and poster nights were designed to promote the sharing of cultures and traditions; and what each of our countries had to offer with respect to youth tourism. For the cultural night we shared the tale of Maui fishing up New Zealand - a cultural and somewhat geographically-related myth. The poster presentation was set up so that each of the team members could both present their own poster and go visit other countries’ posters. The theme was of youth tourism, and our poster was designed as a map of New Zealand with annotated postcards, displaying pictures and short descriptions about each of the 10 locations which we had selected around New Zealand, which we felt were most appealing to youth. 


During the trip and competition we went on numerous excursions, around Belgrade and outside of the city's immediate vicinity. This included an open aired bus tour around the city. We were able to observe the lively nature of the city from majestic skyscrapers and modern architecture, to run down and damaged buildings from wars past all within close proximity to each other. We also visited Novi Sad, Serbia’s second largest city, where we visited an orthodox church, local bakeries, market places and toured around the central streets. 


On our final night in Belgrade, the closing ceremony took place. There was a number of speeches from the organisers and local dignitaries. Every country was then individually asked to come up to the stage and receive their certificates. This would have been one of the most proudest moments for the New Zealand Team, holding up our flag and showing the world who we are. This was followed by the medal ceremony. Unfortunately this year New Zealand did not win any medals, however needless to say everyone in the team performed outstandingly well, all finishing convincingly strong at a global level. Following the closing ceremony, a local band from Belgrade performed to everyone, we were able to dance and say our goodbyes to many of our new friends we made during the competition. 


Besides the tests and cultural related activities, we had plenty of time to spend with participants from other countries. iGeo was not only a competition testing our geographic ability, but it was a trip where we each made many new friends and whom we had a very good time with over the course of the iGeo experience. 


Our impressions of Serbia would be just how hospitable Serbian locals are and how this reflects the true nature of their culture. All volunteers at the iGeo were all keen to get to know us and many were very interested to know more about New Zealand. Serbians were passionate about their culture and history and keen to inform us more about what their country was about. Belgrade’s architecture was very eye opening. 


As a team we would like to say a big thank you to the Royal Society of New Zealand for their support of our team. Also to LOWER for their sponsorship of our team uniforms. We would also like to thank all of our Geography Teachers and the groups in our local communities who helped us with fundraising.