A glimpse into the life of an international student-athlete

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“I was really excited to come to America because I had a few friends who had done it before me, and I played tennis with them, and I saw how much fun they were having.”

Nicole Petchey, a freshman tennis player at Southern Methodist University, spent the first 18 years of her life living in London and Cape Town, South Africa.

Tennis is something that has been a part of Petchey’s life since a very young age, as Petchey’s parents, younger sister, and grandparents all play.

“My entire family played…” Petchey said. “It’s been in my family forever.”

Her father even played professionally, and now works as a tennis commentator at many tournaments around the world. Since tennis is a tradition in her family, Petchey was excited to play at the collegiate level. She discussed that at a place like SMU, student-athletes are provided with a great atmosphere to learn and compete.

“I think they do that really well here,” Petchey said. “The balance between your academics and playing your sport… there’s so many people who can help us.”

Although SMU does does provide student-athletes with a balance, it is still up to the athletes to find the time for both their course work and their training. In addition to juggling classes and homework assignments, Petchey attends regular practices, weight lifting sessions, and team meetings.

“Thursdays, I have weights at 7 a.m.,” Petchey said. “And then we have practice from 8:15 a.m. -10:15 a.m., and then I have class from 12:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m..”

In addition to her busy athletic schedule, Petchey is on the pre-med track at SMU, which has its own list of demands. When talking about her class schedule, Petchey said, “It’s obviously stressful, but it’s been ok right now.”

Although the amount of work Petchey has been given may seem overwhelming to most, when reflecting on her life as a student-athlete, she has a positive attitude regarding all aspects of her life.

“Being a student-athlete in America, you have to work so hard, but the benefits are so good,” Petchey said.

This positive attitude displayed by Petchey is reiterated by her teammates. Anzhelika Shapovalova, another member of the SMU tennis team, thinks that Petchey has been a great addition to the team dynamic both on and off the court this season.

“When you come into the locker room and you’re sad, for example, and then you see Nicole, you become happier because it’s nice to see her smiley face,” Shapovalova said.

In order to be a successful student and athlete, Petchey’s philosophy is to have a good attitude and enjoy the opportunities she has been given.

“The best part about coming to school in America has been meeting all the new people and experiencing a completely different culture,” Petchey said. “I don’t have any regrets, I honestly think it’s the best decision I could have made.”

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