The National Junior Classical League (NJCL) holds its annual convention on the campus of a different US university every year. This year, it took place at Emory University, just outside of Atlanta, GA. And last week, 1,800 students from over 30 states and one Canadian province inundated Emory’s campus for a week of competition, camaraderie, and craziness- all in the name of everybody’s favorite ancient cultures: Latin and Greek.
The attendees of the NJCL convention are zealous, to say the least. For these few days it seems like they care about nothing but the Classics, and will do anything to hold the ‘purple and gold’ in the highest place in their hearts. And I’m proud to say that I fit into this description- I am a full-on Latin geek.
To summarize, the national convention is the last word in Latin devotion and celebration. Throughout the year preceding this monumental occasion, I attend Regional Forum among other Central Florida students. It takes up the majority of one Saturday in January/February, and is a lot of fun. In Spring, students from the entire Florida delegation flood an Orlando hotel for three days at State Forum. It’s jam-packed with Latin fervor- from tests to a spirit competition to Certamen: a Latin-themed quiz bowl whose participants are the hotshots of the Classics community.
And then, there’s Nationals. A six-day Classics marathon that’s like State Forum on steroids combined with a few other ‘substances’ that I’ll abstain from naming. There are tens of tests you can take to show off your academic aptitude in subjects like Derivatives, Roman History, or Customs. There are tons of ‘colloquia’ to attend: which are Classics-themed seminars that range from a comparison between the Harry Potter story and Greek literature themes to learning how to make a Roman lamp. You can attend a Certamen match or two which, at the National level, is more intense than a hostage negotiation. And then there are the spirit competitions: you team up with your state delegation (Florida has one of the largest and most deranged), dress up in accordance with a given theme, and scream/cheer for a solid 15 minutes. Needless to say, upon my return home, my voice resembled that of Gollum’s.
There are a bunch of great night activities, too. One night, I accompanied many other Disney Pixar fans to a screening of Monsters Inc. Another night I wandered through the Bazaar, a hallway lined with clubs and states selling various Latin paraphernalia, with as much assertiveness as any ancient merchant. You can also wander into a dance, which I heard one JCLer describe as, “beautifully awkward” due to our collective nerdiness and socially questionable dance moves. There’s “That’s Entertainment,” the much-anticipated talent show that provides hilarious interludes between incredible acts, making fun of the various fallacies present at convention. On the last night, I watched (and sung) karaoke along with a huge group of fellow singers who felt the need to dance and belt their hearts out along with every act.
So, with my larynx decimated and my body aching for more than 4 hours of sleep, I left the 2014 NJCL Convention (at the same time as that Ebola patient was being flown into Emory Hospital, mind you). My mind is overflowing with memories made with people that are a little more passionate about the Classics than they should be- next year’s convention can’t come soon enough.
Latin Title Translation:
Convenimus ad Emorem = We met at Emory
*For you Latin scholars: I changed “Emory” to “Emorem” in order to fit into the 3rd Noun Declension with an accusative (direct object) ending. And yes, I am aware that “convenimus” can also be translated presently*