After graduating from high school, I was accepted into a university that was located 1,393 km from my hometown. I really wanted to attend this school, because it had both the undergraduate and graduate programs that I was interested in taking. However, the uncertainty of living so far away from home made me anxious.
No one from my hometown or from my high school would be attending this university. My mental strength had always come from being with my lifelong friends and I knew I was going to be alone. Additionally, I hardly had the money to pay for my tuition, books, fees, and accommodations. My parents said that they could help in my first year and that after that I would be on my own. There were so many unknowns and uncontrollable factors to making my decision and I wanted to make sure it was a decision I could live with for the next 4 plus years once I made the commitment.
In the fall of my first year, my parents offered to drive me to the university and to help me settle in. The drive was a two-day trip where I continually asked myself if I was making the right choice. So many thoughts and questions were running through my head. All the uncertainty made me very anxious.
We finally arrived and my parents did as they had promised and help me unpack and settle into my new surroundings. It was all so unfamiliar to me. I was living in a dorm room, that I shared with a stranger, who was starting her second year. I kept asking myself, could I do this?
To add to the confusion, I was misled by the campus recruiter when I applied to the university, being told that there was a Women’s Varsity Volleyball program but when I arrived at the campus, I learned that the program had been cut two years prior to my acceptance. This was crushing for me as so much of my identity had always been as a varsity student-athlete. I had no idea how I was going to fill the void.
One month into my academic program, I wanted to pack up and move back home. Before I did that though I decided to check in with my assigned academic program advisor, who was also my professor in one of my first-year courses. He recommended to me to wait until the end of my first semester to make that decision. He assured me that everyone in their first year had doubts. He also suggested that because I had been a high school varsity student-athlete that maybe I could get involved with playing on an intramural team. The next day in class I gathered my courage to ask a few of my classmates if they would be interested in putting a team together and they said yes! I was excited about playing a sport I loved and in making new connections with new friends.
We signed up with the team’s name of Baby Jocks and began to take part in playing in a COED competitive volleyball league. It was through this experience that I remembered who I was, and how I loved to be on a team, and I started to feel a sense of belonging and self-worth. That semester, we went on to win a silver medal. This was the beginning of new and fun things to come for me!
I went on again to play in my second year with the same group of wonderful people! I don’t remember where we finished in the league that year, but it didn’t matter because the people who surrounded me were so amazing. True friends and in fact, what turned out to be my friends for life!
With the first two years under my belt, I extended my safety net a little further into my third and fourth years, playing competitive club volleyball in a city league with another group of amazing women. We also had a remarkable coach who believed in us. She had been a national team player and had so much knowledge to offer to us. It was quite an experience. That same year, our club coach and I discussed the possibility of working to reinstate the women’s volleyball program back to a varsity status level. The paperwork was completed, the discussions took place with the administration and low and behold, the program was accepted to be reinstated the following year.
In the fall of that next year, I started my graduate work in a Master’s program, and was able to also play varsity volleyball. What an incredible opportunity for me. Those four undergraduate years leading up to this had laid the foundation for me. I also became the team’s co-captain and was able to mentor and lead the younger student-athletes on the team.
I continued to play for another three years, being recognized as a conference all-star, and eventually graduating out of my Master’s program, and obtaining my teaching degree as well. As I walked across the stage at convocation, I reflected on my first semester in university, and how I wanted to just give up and go home.
The rest they say is history, as I went on to have a 30-year career of coaching and mentoring at a high-performance level and being a role model and leader as a sport administrator across Canada. So much to be thankful for, with that one conversation I had with my academic advisor all those years ago. His kind words, support and help on that one October day, made an incredible and profound difference in my life.
~ Linda, Employee Wellness Services