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The Journey to Nationals: Inside the Mind of Lucas E.

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Picture of Lucas

Picture of Lucas

Lucas E.

Lucas E.

Picture of Lucas

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The national geography bee is the nationwide competition where kids from all 50 states — as well as Puerto Rico and some other military bases/territories — get together to battle it out for a 50 thousand dollar scholarship, as well as the fame associated with being number one. I sat down with the Minnesota contestant Lucas E. to have a quick chat about some of the most intriguing parts of his journey. Here is the result:

  1. What do you think was the hardest part of getting to where you are now?

Well, I don’t know – I’ve studied a lot and I suppose I studied more for nationals than anything because I kind of figured I’d get here, as I’ve been to nationals before. I think an interesting thing about the geography bee is that it really is in many places it is just luck of the draw. I mean they’ll do bird’s eye views of the city and you have to identify it, and one kid could get New York City and another one Karachi, you just never know what you’re going to get, and being prepared for that level of randomness and difficulty is probably the hardest part.

  1. You also were a finalist in the History bee — was that a difficult load on top of geography?

I found that history and geography (which are two of my favorite subjects, I’d say), are very intertwined. In the history bee they’ll ask questions about a place, well, obviously a place that has a ton of history, but you know, you can’t understand the city of Istanbul without understanding its storied past and the Ottoman and Byzantine empires and all that, and in geography, they ask a lot of questions about history and vice versa so I think a lot of it was the same, of course it is always a little bit more, but they overlap a ton and I think that’s really cool, and it means I have to study less so that’s nice.

  1. You’re returning to both finals this year — which one do you feel the best prepared for?

Well I’ve been to the geo bee once before and I’ve been to the history bee twice before — they’re both, I would say, very different competitions, the geography is one person, one question, one answer, and the history bee is eight people asked the same question at the same time in a buzzer format, so they’re very different competitions and I’d say the history bee is less about winning for me because there’s like, 500 people that go to nationals each year, so it’s very unlikely [that I should win] — it’s less about winning and more about having fun.

  1. When did you first start geography?

I didn’t start it because it was something I could win at, it’s never been like that for me. I’ve loved geography since I was very, very young, like at three I would be begging my parents for maps and jigsaw puzzles of countries as christmas presents, so it’s always been a love of mine. I’m not entirely sure why, I think it might have to do with how the world is laid out, and how it’s changing, especially with history, but it’s always, always been one of my favorite things. So the geography bees and history bees were just cool ways to show of my knowledge of that, if that makes any sense.

  1. Which continent was the most intriguing to you to study?

Oh boy, um, I wouldn’t usually have a response, but I’m just so deep in studying right now that it’s almost like continents have their own personalities at this point. I can tell you which one is my least favorite, for sure. That would be Antarctica because as far as the geographical knowledge goes, it’s literally just a bunch of lands that you have to know where they are in relation to each other. Like “Ellsworth land is west of which mountains?” or “Coatsland borders which sea?” and for me I think part of it is connecting to the people who live in those places, but because no one lives in Antarctica except small, flightless birds it is very hard to care about Antarctica when it’s practically meaningless. I’d say my favorite is probably Asia, although it’s also the hardest continent because there’s so much variation; it’s so different from what we usually see here in America both in climate, in language, in culture, it’s just a new experience, and I really get a kick out of that.

  1. On average, how much time do you spending working each day? Do you keep up normal school loads on top?

Well, I can say that homeschooling has really allowed me to follow geography and history a lot more strenuously than if I was in a normal school. Now that it’s less than two weeks before the competition, I would say that most days I’m only doing geography now, which is both a good and a bad thing. I like studying it, so it’s fun, and it helps me prepare, but it also means I get really tired after looking at maps and atlases for the whole day. In the last two or three weeks you just leave everything by the roadside and focus on geography, and I guess I’m okay with that.

  1. How are your friends and family reacting to your newfound fame?

I wouldn’t say it’s newfound fame by any circumstances. It was a very interesting experience being on local TV and being interviewed by the newspaper, but one of the nice things about the national geographic bee is that it’s super unknown so I’m not a celebrity or anything. It is kind of interesting to be a semi-star in something that not that many people care about as far as a subject goes. It was a new experience being in media, but it hasn’t been a highlight, like I’m not on celebrity magazines all of a sudden, so I think everyone is taking it fine.

  1. This is your second year doing geography. What do you think has changed in study patterns, areas of focus, etc this year?

Well, let me just say the first time I went (which was two years ago), I had no idea what I was doing. I just looked at things, kind of, and was like ‘Oh, this is cool… I’m really happy to be here.’ and I knew I wasn’t going to win, so I just kind of had a fun time. This time, everything is different. I have studied intensively in lots and lots of patterns, going country by country, being very in depth. It’s just a world of difference, and I know so much more than two years ago, as far as geography goes. So I think the whole attitude is kind of different, but at the core it’s still about having fun and, you know, showing my knowledge. So the core thing that makes me do it is still the same, I guess.

  1. The geography bee is in just under two weeks – how has this affected your lifestyle?

Um, three words: Eat, sleep, study.

  1. What drives you to succeed?

For me, it really isn’t about winning. If I was that kind of person I could enter into some obscure championship where all you have to do is study like crazy, but for me it isn’t about the money or being on the TV, or you know, winning. It’s more about just learning about the world and the people and places in it, and I guess it sounds kind of corny, but it is really true because I have a passion for that and this gives me an outlet to use it, so that’s what I find more fun about the bee.

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1 Comment

One Response to “The Journey to Nationals: Inside the Mind of Lucas E.”

  1. Emma D. on May 30th, 2016 7:31 am

    Congratulations on placing 7th, Lucas! *throws confetti*

    [Reply]

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