The transition into college for most swimmers is very difficult. The time consuming curriculum restricts their training and reduces their performance. I did not want to sacrifice anything to study, but I did not want to quit my swimming career. Therefore, when a friend of mine told me that there is an opportunity to study in the US where sport is very supported in universities and colleges, I realised found a great solution.
Of course, there was a long process of school selection, SAT & TOEFL exams, and applications. I had pretty good results both academically and with swimming, and that resulted in me getting several full scholarship offers from different schools. The selection was eventually quite hard because I was given many reasons by every school about why I should choose them for my academic and sport career. Fortunately, one of my fellow swimmers recommended me a school which he also attended, so I opted for the University of Cincinnati. It’s a big school which is in the first division.
It still surprises me that I had dared to make this huge decision. I packed one suitcase and flew to the US to study, where I did not know a single person and where the language was quite foreign to me. Upon arrival, the coach, whom I never saw, picked me up and immediately I got to know the other swimmers, who were already on the campus of the University. Due to the international orientation, I arrived a week before the start of school when there were just a few students.
The swim team accepted me warmly. Our team consisted of about 50 swimmers, half girls and half boys. I was very surprised that swimming in America was so popular. We had three swimming coaches and gym coaches, physiotherapists and an academic adviser for athletes. In addition to an individual and personal approach, there are also a lot of other benefits, such as housing a few minutes away from the pool and classrooms, supply of university apparel for several years ahead, and being free to choose subjects before other students.
Upon my arrival, I was not sure what to study, I was hesitating between physics, chemistry and chemical engineering. The University of Cincinnati is a great school where you can study anything. I decided to study physics and I am so glad that I did. Later, I decided to add one more subject — mathematics, and I started going to a couple of extra classes, which was also a good choice. Over the summer I’ve always had a physics internship in Europe, so I did not lag behind my classmates. Thanks to everything I went through, I now continue with postgraduate studies in particle physics at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. Without swimming and studying in America I probably would not get to where I am now.
Overall, I’m very glad that I decided to sign up and attend college in the US. Being a student-athlete is a lot of work, but it is definitely worth it.
In post-graduate life Helena started her studies at Royal Holloway in September 2017 when she joined the John Adams Institute (JAI) for accelerator science within the particle physics group and the ATLAS collaboration at CERN. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.