Alexandra: My name is Alexandra and I am a student at the Tudor Vianu National College in Bucharest. I am in 12th grade, so this is my last year of high school and after this I am going to study Mathematics at Cambridge University in the UK.

Mireia: Wow, nice!

A: Yeah, it was my dream!

M: Good job then! I heard that this is going to be your 4th time participating in the EGMO, and it’s also a bit special because of the online setup and all that jazz… Which things do you expect to be the same and which to be different?

A: I think the online event is a very good solution taking into consideration the situation we’re all in with Covid-19. I think not being able to communicate face to face with the other participants will be a great loss, and going to the EGMO was also an occasion to visit another country, which was always fun. But the math part will be pretty much the same, because we will have problems as usual, we will have to think about them for the same amount of time, someone will correct our solutions and then some girls will get medals… In this way, I think that the core of the contest is still the same.

M: You’re right… Since you have so much experience competing in the EGMO, do you have some general tips in terms of preparing mentally for the exam and things like that?

A: (Laughs.) I need to think about this for a bit, because this is a conversation I have had with myself for quite some time now… I would say: after the contest, let it all go and don’t think about it anymore. Once the exams are over, just go out, talk to other people, do something different. And for the contest itself: stay concentrated but still relax, try to reach that sort of meditative state that allows you to really immerse yourself into something.

M: Related to the exams themselves, I am curious: what’s your setup? How are you and your team planning to go about taking the exam?

A: We are all taking it from home while our team leader watches us telematically via a video call. However, I would have preferred to have an external place to take the exam, because it is quite odd, it’s hard to really understand that there is an exam taking place even though you are just at home. I pretty scared about that, actually! I am scared that I will sit down at my desk and start working on the problems, but that the fact that I am actually doing a contest won’t be in my mind and I won’t hurry enough…

M: Have you thought maybe about creating a special space in the house and make it be the “EGMO spot” with a clean desk, clean walls, no distractions…

A: Yeah! I was thinking about it… My bedroom is upstairs so I usually work upstairs, but I was thinking of maybe taking the exam downstairs to make it a bit different. And I have asked everyone in the house to not disturb me during that time. That’s it.

M: These things will definitely help making the mental switch to “okay, something special is going on.” Also once the EGMO is officially started and everyone is on the same page it might get easier to get in the mindset of the competition even if you are in your house.

A: Yeah, I think watching the opening ceremony will certainly help already.

M: Is there something you want to tell the rest of the contestants?

A: Good luck and have fun during the contest and while you’re thinking about the problems!

M: Thanks Alexandra!

By Mireia