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Richmond student vying for spot in International Geography Olympiad

Geography is so much more than place names, says Li
Eric Li
Richmond Secondary School student Eric Li is aiming for the International Geography Olympiad this year

A Grade 12 Richmond student is aiming to be a competitor in this year’s International Geography Olympiad.

Eric Li, a Richmond Secondary School student, is competing in the level three category of the Canadian Geographic Challenge and is hoping to advance further in the competition than he did last year.

The Canadian Geographic Challenge, in the level three category, challenges Canadian students, between the ages 16 and 19, on their geography knowledge in three tests: multimedia, written and fieldwork.

The top 20 students in the multimedia test proceed to the written test, and the top 10 in that advance to the fieldwork or project. From there, six are selected for an interview by Team Canada leaders and four of them are selected for the International Geography Olympiad.

In February 2020, Li made it into the top 10 students in the challenge, but was unable to advance further after competing in a geography-themed project.

This year, Li has once again placed in the top 20 of the Canadian Geographic Challenge and will be taking the electronic written exam in the next couple of weeks under the supervision of his teacher at school.

“I feel this year I’m much more prepared and thankfully I made it to top 20,” said Li.

“I feel ready to compete again and not only represent Richmond proudly, but our country in the International Geography Olympiad,”

When asked why this competition was so important to him, Li told the Richmond News that it was about understanding the world in terms of geopolitics and worldwide conflict.

“Many wars are fought over geography and having an understanding of geography helps better understand the world,” he said.

“In this day and age, the world is so convoluted with political conflict, having a good understanding of geography helps make sense of it and makes it less confusing.”

Li added that the competition has given him an opportunity to meet and learn from other geography enthusiasts around the world and learn about more geography-related opportunities.

Preparing for the competition, he said, has been difficult with watching multiple documentaries and going through past exams.

However, he said that it was due to his previous volunteer experience with his school’s green team and the City of Richmond’s Green Ambassador program that he was able to gain a deeper understanding of environmentalism, which was “a huge part” of his exam last year.

Despite it being an amazing opportunity to partake in, Li was disappointed so few students from public schools, including many “smart and amazing geography students” from his own school in Richmond, even know about the Canadian Geographic Challenge.

He said that during a workshop to prepare new students for the competition, he mainly met students from private schools and thought “it was strange.”

“It was pretty disappointing and weird,” said Li.

“I was disappointed that many Richmond students, like me, who love geography and are really great at geography didn’t know about this, and I want to change that.”

And change is what he did.

Li brought forth the idea of the competition to his fellow geography classmates at school and six students have since joined the competition.

“Geography acts as a medium to show people information and help them understand the world. It teaches you so much more about history and science, and I hope other students who are interested would join because, in the end, it’s free and you learn at the same time.”

Li aims for a career in urban planning and environmental science.