Students in Service and Leadership at Harvard

Rowing and Me

          I have been a rower for over five years, beginning in eighth grade and continuing to the present day. As a high school athlete, most of my friends were rowers. Having spent so much time together in training, travelling, and at school all day, we remain close even after leaving Washington, DC to attend colleges across the country. Already, I anticipate similar long- lasting friendships with my teammates after graduating from college.
          I chose to come to Harvard because I was so attracted to the rowing team. In the fall of my senior year, I came to Cambridge on an “official visit” as a recruit. This visit was one of three that I made to colleges around the country with intentions to be chosen by a coach to matriculate the next year. Recruitment entails acceptance to a college without extensive evaluation by their admissions office. Unfortunately, I did not receive such support from Harvard. I spoke extensively with my host for the official visit, Alanah Anderson (now captain of the team), who already felt like a mentor and friend, as I deliberated applying to Harvard on my own. Her kindness and advice reassured me that Harvard college and Harvard- Radcliffe lightweight rowing was the place for me and so, I applied. On my birthday; December 13th, 2016, I received an acceptance letter.
         When I arrived on campus, I was overwhelmed by the responsibilities and expectations of college. I had trouble balancing my rowing schedule with extracurricular activities and a new caliber of academic work. However, my connections with older girls on the rowing team guided me to a balanced schedule and mental peace that has made me successful throughout these past months.
Throughout my first semester, informal relationships with upperclassmen became my most valued resource and source of comfort. Though other girls on the team have similarly informal relationships, there is formal infrastructure meant to connect teammates in smaller groups called, the “Family System.” Each freshman is assigned a group of mixed aged teammates who guide and support each other to navigate college rowing and college life. However, these groups have hardly met this year. Instead, individual athletes form friendships based on mutual connections that yield informal mentorships. Alanah continued to be a resource and mentor in my early days on campus and other girls including Ada Bielawski and other seniors on the team helped me to understand team dynamics, college dynamics, and tools to be successful in every respect. Further, their presence in my life made me feel safe as I transitioned to college life.

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