Jope Volavola Tarai was so eloquent a speaker, mesmerising the audience and his opposition that he won the Best Debater Award at the 3rd Europa Shield Debate Competition. This was held at the University of the South Pacific on Tuesday earlier this week.
Tarai, 24, is the captain of the USP 1 debate team that took on debate teams from the Fiji National University and other teams from USP as well.
With maternal links to Waikete Village in Nakelo, Tailevu, Tarai was not only an eloquent debater as he articulated his point of view very well, he also displayed a well-balanced tone and showed a lot of maturity.
"The award was not for me alone. It was for the USP team."
"I don't want to sound too proud but I really felt honoured and humbled because I know all of our debaters could have easily won the best debater award," Tarai said.
For his prize, Tarai who is a postgraduate diploma student in diplomacy and international affairs will travel to New Zealand next year competing at a forum which is modelled after the United Nations General Assembly.
The former Marist Brothers' High School student will be part of the United Kingdom team that will be debating alongside other nations from around world that will send debate teams there.
"I have to represent the UK and I was reminded of this three times yesterday (the day of the debate) by one of our chief guests and I see this as an opportunity to see things from another perspective.
"The perspective of that of a developed nation, seeing things from their eyes and how they formulate their foreign policy and trade agreements with regards specifically to the Pacific region and how I can bring this back with me and see how it can perhaps help us better understand the way they approach issues," Tarai says.
Tarai also displayed good leadership skills as captain of the USP 1 debate team, a fact that stood out considering that the questions to be debated were only confirmed on the morning of the competition.
"We organised ourselves about a month away from the competition when we were given the themes by the European Union and from there we dissected all the themes into categories and later into specific topics and into questions where we had mock sessions."
In the end Tarai knew they had to take a chance on every single topic because they would not know the actual question they will be given to debate on, until a few hours they are about to take the stage.
"We knew also that possibly a majority of our research work might mean nothing because we did not know of what questions we would be debating on but I told my fellow team mates to cover all bases," Tarai says.
FNU and USP debate teams competed on a series of topics like climate change, corporal punishment and disability at the one-day event.
After losing the Europa Shield to FNU last year, Tarai was glad USP had managed to win in the third year after they had won it in the first year.
Winning the Europa Shield for USP is just one step that Tarai says he has taken in his life journey and he hopes to put his other skills to use.
He will continue with his postgraduate diploma studies and hopes to complete it this year.
"I would like to become diplomat and it would be nice if I ever reach a stage where I become one," Tarai says.