My name is Mariela Sariñana and I am originally from Mexico City. I have played competitive tennis ever since I was 11 years old and I always enjoyed sports in general. While it was always a dream to become a professional tennis player in the future, it suddenly became more attractive to obtain a scholarship to pursue a bachelor degree in the US while playing the sport I loved in a team of girls who shared the same passion as me. I chose the US because it is the only place, in my opinion, where you can continue playing a sport competitively while also studying.
My first two years of college started in the California University of Pennsylvania where I got to play with a team of girls from around 8 different countries. After these two amazing years, I decided to transfer to St. Mary's University of San Antonio where I also had the time of my life.
I expected this experience to be very enriching because I knew I would meet lots of new people and that new opportunities would open for me. I just did not know how many opportunities it would actually bring me. Before starting this college tennis experience, I was not really sure what to expect. While I was really excited, I was also very nervous because I had never left my country for such a long time.
My journey as a student-athlete was not easy. Being a student-athlete means that you have to be fully committed to both school and the team you play for. This requires lots of discipline as I had to train for 5–6 days a week plus traveling every weekend to matches during season. I had to constantly adapt by talking to professors, working ahead on schoolwork, and working with others to meet deadlines. While it was stressful at times, I not only learned to adapt, but I also learned to cope with stress and challenges in order to solve problems in a more collective way.
This experience benefitted me mentally the most. Here I was playing with a team rather than playing just for myself. My game changed a lot because I had this new motivation of playing well for my team and coach. This experience teaches you to find a way to win while working together as a team and helping each other to rise from frustrations.
Being a student-athlete in college definitely changed my life forever. I not only acquired very valuable skills for the future, but I also acquired friendships that I will never forget. Having played with two different teams in my college career allowed me to meet people from all over the world, which in turn also allowed me to see parts of the world I never thought I would see. It is such an amazing experience to become part of a student-athlete community with other internationals because you get to build strong bonds with people that are in the same position as you and that share lots of common interests.
I can say I found my best friends for life during this experience and also got to grow so much as an athlete and as a person.
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