The US Geography Olympiad is delighted to see James Mullen, the 2014 International Geography Olympiad champion, get the recognition he deserves. Here’s an article from the San Jose Mercury News (James is from nearby Cupertino, CA) on his victory, while the local ABC News affiliate also picked up the story as shown in this news clip. This geography blog also picked up James’ win. But for more on the story, let’s go to James himself, who submitted this report on his triumph at the 2015 iGeo in Krakow:

I had an amazing time at the International Geography Olympiad in Krakow, Poland this year. Before the trip I expected a week full of hard testing in quiet rooms and tough competition. However, I remember the iGeo not by the testing but by all the great experiences that I had. We spent so much time on excursions, seeing areas of Poland and parts of Polish culture that I had no idea about before. Whether we were biking across the Dujanec River into Slovakia or exploring the main square of Royal City Krakow, I had a new sense of wonder for what actually made up the maps that I studied. The iGeo also encouraged us to get to know the other participants and their countries. We bonded during the rafting and bus rides as well as in the common areas of the dorms, talking about the things that were different about us and the many things we had in common. The poster exhibitions and cultural presentations also told our team about the many things that made each country unique, both geographically and otherwise.

I suppose we did end up taking a few tests, so I should probably mention them. They were honestly quite different from previous geography competitions that I have done. The iGeo focuses much more on the theory and concepts behind geography than the facts and statistics. All three sections (multimedia, written-response, and fieldwork) stressed how geographical knowledge can be extended to other fields and put to use in the real world. The fieldwork focused on urban planning of public spaces in Krakow, especially how people interacted with the space around them and how that space benefited the population. There of course is a focus on maps and graphics and how they can be interpreted and put to use. Studying for a competition like this is very difficult but I would recommend just spending time reading and learning. Popular Science or the Wall Street Journal may not seem like fodder for geography studying, but anything can be connected to geography if you try hard enough.

Again, though, the testing is only a part of the iGeo experience. I have so many great memories and have met so many great people during that week. It was a geographer’s dream. I can’t wait for another chance to make lasting memories while doing exactly what I love.