Yvonne is at Northwestern University in Illinois, United States and is about to start her second year of study. Yvonne was accepted into the university as a student-athlete, after gaining a Scholarship in Fencing.
I decided I wanted to go to the United States for university at some point during 5th year. I know that I probably started a little late on the whole process, particularly because I was trying to be recruited for fencing by a lot of schools, but I ended up at what I honestly think is the best school for me anyway. I would not have been able to do any of it without the help and support that Truro School, and in particular Mrs Lucy Jupp, provided. There were a lot of different tests and forms that needed to be completed and while a few I could complete on my own, the majority required letters or validation from my ‘high school’ to prove that I was telling the truth. This led to me asking various teachers for letters of recommendation, and to fill out forms describing what kind of school Truro School is and how I was as a student. Though the process was stressful and time-consuming we got through it and I could not be happier with the result. I was so lucky to have had teachers who were willing to go the extra mile to help me achieve my goals, I truly could not have done any of this without them.
My first year at Northwestern University in the Unites States was an amazing experience, but it certainly had its ups and downs. When I first arrived I was very excited and the welcome week (their version of Freshers’ week) was great and really helped me get to know people before classes started. On top of that I had the fencing team who were all very welcoming and excited to meet the new freshmen, despite being slightly disappointed that the Brit on their team didn’t have a proper British accent!
As the year progressed I had to deal with classes and traveling for fencing competitions, which was challenging but the support system for athletes in the US is very good and the school was very supportive of allowing me to compete for both my university and the British team. On the other hand the step up from A levels to university classes was pretty big, especially because you have to deal with handling your own life now and in the US there isn’t a grace period in your first year where you just have to pass. Your first year courses count just as much as your final year.
One of the things that surprised me the most about the move was the culture shock. I grew up in the US before moving to the UK at age 11 so I didn’t expect to find it very difficult. However there is a different attitude towards things in the States that is difficult to put your finger on exactly but it took me awhile to get used to. Additionally the no gun signs around campus really shocked me for the first few weeks because the concept that someone would even have a gun anywhere near me, or a university was so utterly alien.
That said, I really enjoyed my first year and I wouldn’t change anything if I were to go through it again. I’ve made some great friends and learned a lot in this past year and I really feel that I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities to do the sport that I love if I’d stayed in the UK.
The United States is a little bit sports mad, which is great if you want to do sport at university. There are a bunch of different perks, including scholarships, access to sports physicians, strength coaches and healthcare, but what really made me want to go to the US for sport was the academic support they provide. I have access to free tutors if I need them to catch up on work when I’ve missed class due to traveling, there are group study sessions organized by the athletic department for athletes in the same class, with a tutor present to answer questions and athletes get priority access to class scheduling to ensure that they can go to class and train at the same time. Additionally, the athletics has a whole department of people dedicated to advising athletes on what classes they should take and making sure that they can graduate on time, which is in addition to the advisers you get through your course. Altogether it is a great set up that provides one of the best possible chances for student-athletes to succeed in the classroom and in their sport.