Going into my senior year on a full athletic scholarship at the University of Tulsa, it was a time of mixed emotions. After four years of being away from my family in Canada, part of me was looking forward to finishing up and heading home. Another part of me was sad as my life as a collegiate student-athlete in the United States was coming to an end.
I really started to reflect upon my experience in my final year as an upper-classman on the University of Tulsa cross-country and track team. The journey up to that point was one I will remember for the rest of my life. I realized how lucky I was to achieve a full scholarship and to get the opportunity to travel all over the United States competing and experiencing the things I did. This was an opportunity people are seldom presented with.
These reflections inform the advice I have for incoming student-athletes entering higher education. It is critical to take care of yourself outside of school and sport. During the school year, it is easy to become exhausted by the academic and athletic schedules. Even though it is important to maintain a schedule for school and sport, it is almost just as important to treat yourself to some down time as well.
When I say taking care of yourself outside of school and sport, I am referring to time with friends and family, taking day trips, and doing activities you used to enjoy before starting school. You may not realize the importance of this, but years after you graduate these will be the things that you remember most. As I was in Tulsa and an 18-hour drive from home, I did not have the chance to go home very often. Looking back at my experiences now, I am thankful I took advantage of some of the opportunities to travel and to experience American culture outside of academics and running. Some of my favourite memories are traveling to the Grand Canyon during spring break, going to St. Louis to experience American Thanksgiving with a teammate, and traveling to Hollywood to run a track meet. These are the moments you will remember for the rest of your life and that may be easy to pass up because you could be studying or training harder.
If I may offer any other advice to student-athletes or any student studying abroad, it would be to explore. Go on trips, make new friends, and appreciate your situation, because when you graduate and life moves on you will look back and remember these great experiences.