My Passion For Geography

“The study of geography is about more than just memorizing places on a map. It’s about understanding the complexity of our world, appreciating the diversity of cultures that exists across continents. And in the end, it’s about using all that knowledge to help bridge divides and bring people together.” –Barack Obama

President Gary Knell, left, and host Mo Rocca, right, congratulates the winners of the 2017 National Geographic Bee, from second from left, third place winner Veda Bhattaram, 13, of Montville, N.J., second place winner Thomas Wright, 14, of Milwaukee, Wis., and first place winner Pranay Varada, 14, of Carrollton, Texas, Wednesday, May 17, 2017, at the National Geographic Society in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Most people assume geography is a foreign subject no longer needed in today’s age of technology, but as President Obama said, geography is all about making connections in our world. Sure, reciting all 194 world capitals in impressive, but how can you make that skill useful? When you have expansive subject knowledge, and are able to interpret it, your skills are highly valuable. In short, geography is more than just the facts; it is about application to real-life scenarios.

Geography has always been a part of my life. My earliest memory of geography is of my parents giving me a map puzzle when I was four years old. I completed the puzzle very quickly, sparking my initial interest in geography. I was fascinated by the way the vivid color-coded countries fit together along their borders. By the time I was 8, I had countless atlases, globes, and framed maps in my bedroom. Although having a passion for geography at a young age may not have been the most popular of hobbies, my peers were often fascinated with my pastime and very supportive. My love for geography blossomed in the 5th grade when I had the opportunity to compete in National Geographic Bee. It was hard for me to imagine a contest devoted to geography. In my four years of participating in the Bee, I far surpassed my expectations. I was a state finalist for four years (2014-2017) including Wisconsin champion in 2016 and 2017. Having won state, I was able to take my talents to the national level of the competition, where I battled 53 other representatives (one representative from each state, Atlantic territories, Pacific territories, and the Department of Defense schools). In 2016, I placed 8th nationally, and in last year’s competition (2017), I finished as runner-up, out of almost 3 million students who participated.

It is remarkable to think about how much I’ve accomplished in the Bee, but I credit all of my success to developing a strong work ethic. I may have spent countless hours learning geography, but what I really learned during this time is how to chase a goal with laser focus. So find your passion, related to geography or not, and then set yourself a goal that excites you. This can take you anywhere in life.

The objective of my blog post series is twofold. First, I want to shine a light on the importance of geography and draw connections to events around the world. Geography sets the foundation for our society in politics, economics and culture. In addition, I’ll  provide helpful guidance towards preparing for the state geography bee as well as my insight into the competition. I believe my expertise can help deliver Wisconsin’s first National Geographic Bee champion! Sharing my passion with as many young geographers as possible is an honor and I welcome your comments and questions.