Lucy Chae, a high school senior from Newton, Mass., won the 2015 Massachusetts state GeoBee and finished eighth nationally. She is the first subject of our new interview series, “Five Questions With a GeoBee Champion.” Edited excerpts of our conversation follow.
Q: How has studying geography made you more of a global citizen?
Lucy Chae (LC): I definitely think just being aware of the details and where things are has allowed me to see things in context. If the news is talking about something happening in Kashmir and you don’t know where Kashmir is, that doesn’t make sense to you. But if you already know about the place, I think the rest falls in place.
Q: So, did you notice yourself becoming better able to understand the news after starting to study geography?
LC: Yeah, definitely. I think it also compelled me to join the debate team in high school, and that brought me further into global events. I found that having a strong background in history and knowledge of countries really helped me.
Q: What advice would you give a student competing in the GeoBee this year?
LC: It’s important to look at the reasons why things happen. The GeoBee questions have changed to require that of competitors. Students are probably already aware: geography isn’t just memorizing locations anymore. They have to interpret things, make sense of information, and have this way of thinking to succeed.
Q: How would your life be different had you not competed in the GeoBee in middle school?
LC: I think I would have had a narrower worldview. The GeoBee definitely helped me see what’s out there. Without that experience, I wouldn’t be doing a lot of the things I do now. I probably wouldn’t have been interested in debate or been involved politically [editor’s note: Lucy recently interned with a city councilor]. So, I think I would have been a very different person.
Q: What are your academic or career goals?
LC: I’m a senior applying to college, and I’m stating that I’m interested in urban studies. I definitely think that’s related to geography because it’s demographics and knowing issues. It’s geography on a more local level, and I think knowing about the world has given me a good foundation.
Check back next week for the second installment in “Five Questions With a GeoBee Champion,” in which we speak with reigning national champion Nihar Janga.
Registration for the 2019-2020 GeoBee is open through Jan. 24, 2020. Title I schools are eligible for a discount on GeoBee registration. Go to NatGeoBee.org to learn more.