LAU students represent Lebanon at public speaking contest in London
Ranya Ayache and Joelle Hayek take part in the international competition of the English Speaking Union after winning the top spots in the local contest.
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LAU students Ranya Ayache and Joelle Hayek represented Lebanon at the annual International Public Speaking Competition of the English Speaking Union, where they competed against around 70 students from 42 countries at the HSBC headquarters in Canary Wharf, London, May 21.
The two students were selected to participate in the international competition after winning the 9th National Public Speaking Competition organized by ESU’s local chapter at the Department of Literature of the Lebanese University in Fanar on March 28.
During their four-day (May 18-21) stay in London, Ayache and Hayek attended workshops on debating and public speaking, as well as live debate sessions at the House of Commons, before standing in front of an international audience on the last day to present their speeches on this year’s theme, “Regeneration and Renewal.”
Ayache, a psychology student, chose to speak about her love for Lebanon and the country’s ability to survive hardships. “When we break down [as a country], we regenerate more beautiful than ever,” says Ayache.
In her speech entitled “Lover’s Tiff,” Ayache showed her relationship with her “schizophrenic” country. Here, “one day I’m partying till dawn and the next day I’m dodging bullets,” she explains.
In her “Bring out the Light,” Hayek urged the audience to always have a positive attitude in life. “I chose this topic because I’m a person who loves life and who is greatly optimistic,” says Hayek. “I believe that the attitude with which we embrace our day is what makes all the difference,” adds the computer science major.
The students received rigorous training at LAU by Dr. Nabelah Haraty, instructor of English, and Assistant Professor Lina Abyad, who teaches theater and oral communication, to get ready for the national competition. Haraty gave them guidelines on how to write and present their speeches. Then, along with Abyad, she edited, revised and supervised their works.
“Both Dr. Haraty and Dr. Abyad gave me tips on how to enhance the delivery of my speech. They were both extremely encouraging and supportive, and I am greatly thankful for their time and effort,” says Hayek.
Ayache and Hayek were among the eight students registered this semester in Haraty’s Fundamentals of Oral Communication course that were interested in the contest.
Despite showing enthusiasm, the six others dropped out. “I think it is fear of facing the public and I don’t blame them,” says Haraty. “Today [life] is all about communication. And yet public speaking is fear number two after death” for many people, Abyad adds.
But Ayache and Hayek conquered that fear and won the two spots in Lebanon — by competing against students from the University of Balamand, Université Saint Joseph, Haigazian University and Lebanese University — with their “beautiful presence, fantastic eye contact and a way of delivering which we call in public speaking ‘extemporaneous,’” Abyad says.
The sincerity of their speeches charmed the jury at the national competition. “I can testify that all [Ayache’s] speeches in my class were about Lebanon so they [the jury members] felt what she was doing wasn’t fake. She was not trying to impress,” explains Abyad.
Although they didn’t win in London, Ayache and Hayek consider the experience as a life-time opportunity that boosted their level of confidence. “It taught me how to be more independent and responsible, added to my knowledge, and increased my sense of belonging to Lebanon,” says Hayek.
The sense of responsibility was empowering for Ayache as well. In such contests, “you learn how to rely on yourself, on your wit and intellect,” she says.
“I strongly encourage LAU students to participate in such competitions because, even if they don’t win, they get to learn a lot. And I believe that the phenomenal experience gained from such competitions is alone worth all the effort,” says Hayek.