Knowledge is incredibly empowering. That does not sound that unusual coming from an M&T. However, perhaps not as many would agree that knowledge with little practical purpose, like the names of famous seventeenth century Portuguese portraitists or high-energy subatomic particles, could possibly be invigorating or even interesting. As a participant in Quiz Bowl and similar academic trivia competitions since sixth grade, I have absolutely had a blast learning obscure facts and differentiating between October and November Revolutions. More importantly, Quiz Bowl has also provided me a community of like-minded friends and an opportunity for mentorship that I truly cherish.
It takes a certain personality to get along with a Quiz Bowler. Along with a passionate thirst for all things trivia and trivial, one needs to embrace a team culture. Quiz Bowl requires specialization between the major topic areas of history, science, literature, art, music, and pop culture (affectionately known as “trash” in Quiz Bowl circles.) Instead of relying on one super genius, performing well requires teams to know each member’s strengths and diverse abilities so that the person most likely to know buzzes in before someone else who is less knowledgeable and probably just randomly guessing. This builds strong relationships between the teammates and fosters a collaborative environment to learn a lot. Quiz Bowlers will also go to great lengths for a chance to compete together. This was especially evident in September, when I took a 4 AM train to the University of Maryland with a partner to play against other regional teams. Traversing the network of DC Metro, which had not started operating by the time our early morning train reached our destination, trudging half an hour in the crisp autumn air to actually reach the school, and coolly sipping smoothies in Union Station all contributed to a truly rewarding experience. Placing third while playing shorthanded was not too shabby either.
Camaraderie also motivates a strong sense of mentorship that I especially enjoy. Penn Quiz Bowl operates several tournaments, which for practical purposes are to help keep the team well funded. However, these tournaments also are a fantastic way to learn by reading questions to other teams, and also being able to give insight to other Quiz Bowlers interested in improving their play. This is most true during our high school tournament, which brings students from as far away as Virginia to compete. What the students know continually surprises me. Even more interesting is the keen interest they take in improving their play and more generally, the college experience. I find this chance to interact with motivated high schoolers curious about my own insights one of the most rewarding aspects of being a Quiz Bowler. Indeed, Quiz Bowl is not just knowing random facts. It’s a way of thinking and acting that bases itself in self-motivation, team commitment, and mentorship; those are pillars anyone can support.
Max is a current M&T freshman in the Class of 2016. He studies Materials Science Engineering within Penn Engineering and has yet to declare his concentration in the Wharton School. Max is also involved on campus with the Wharton Trading Group, Connaissance, and Latin Ballroom.