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All-night debate connects Linfield students with Afghan, Chinese peers

Melrose HallMost college debate tournaments don’t begin at 8 p.m. and last all night, unless students are competing by Skype with peers on the opposite side of the globe.

Linfield College was one of 16 schools in the U.S., Afghanistan and China to participate in the recent Debate Without Borders tournament, and won the final round against Kabul University in a three-to-zero decision.

Afghan debaters kicked off the Skype tournament by saying good morning to locals, and good evening to students in the U.S. Cheerfully braving an awkward time zone, Linfield students debated their Afghan counterparts all night long, with topics ranging from Facebook’s effect on society to borders around the world to the positives and negatives of international intervention.

After four preliminary rounds, debate teams representing Linfield College, the American University of Afghanistan, Kabul University and Xi’an University advanced to the finals, where Linfield students prevailed.

The college and university students agreed the event was less a competition and more a cultural exchange. In spite of the animated contest, the first question students asked after the tournament ended was, “When can we do this again?”

Xi’an University student Stacy Luo said what most mattered to her was that “we begin to have a conversation with people we have never known before.”

Debate Without Borders, one of first international debates hosted via video conferencing, was supported by Afghans for Progressive Thinking and the U.S. Embassy. Linfield College Professor Jackson Miller mentored the Linfield students, and Linfield alumna Rachel Mills ’11, who lives and works in Afghanistan, helped organize the tournament.

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