It has been a few (okay, several) years since I graduated from college. But, every year during this time in the late weeks of May and early weeks of June as my Facebook feed is filled by graduation photos and Twitter flooded with sayings of “Congrats!” or those great cliché quotes about seizing the day and taking the road less traveled, I think back fondly on my time at the University of Virginia.
Graduation is such an exciting time. Bittersweet in a way. Sad to leave a place you called home for the last four years (or for some people, give or take another year), the best friends you’ll ever have, and the best late-night sandwich joint you’ll ever know. But ahead are new adventures and opportunities: perhaps a job or traveling for a few months while you “figure out what’s next,” or maybe you’ve already decided to dive straight into graduate school. And for a very small group of individuals, you’re taking a leap of faith and pursuing a continued athletic career, chasing a dream to make the big leagues, compete nationally and internationally, or go to the Olympics. And as we like to call it here at the Princeton Training Center, getting a Ph.D. in rowing. Whatever that next step is, it’s another door opening as you close one behind you.
My route in coming to train full-time as an elite rower at the USRowing Training Center in Princeton was a bit non-traditional; I did not begin my “professional rowing career” until well after I had graduated from college, attained a Master’s degree and established a career in the television industry. So technically with less than three years of rowing experience under my belt, I’m still working on my undergrad in rowing, although I like to think I’m in an accelerated program.
Most of the women at the Training Center joined the group directly after college, while there is a small handful who found their way to Princeton by way of the elite rowing club system. Choosing to pursue elite rowing in the United States is not for the faint of heart or those that wish to achieve fame and glory by becoming a professional athlete. Better start working on your jump-shot or touchdown dance if that’s your goal.
Last week, the Princeton Training Center was joined by a couple of fresh college graduates: Tessa Gobbo from Brown University and Heidi Robbins from Princeton University. Both Tessa and Heidi come from strong rowing programs and will be excellent additions to the group.
Additionally, the women training to make the U23 National Team, many of whom are recent college graduates, are here in Princeton training before they head to the World Rowing Under 23 Championships (July 24th – July 28th) in Linz-Ottensheim, Austria. I’m sure there may be a couple out of that group who hope to join the senior team training group once they complete their U23 competition.
Congratulations to all of the college graduates out there and a special good luck to those who are taking a chance and pursuing their dreams, whatever they may be. At 21 and 22 years old it can be difficult to see beyond the big paycheck and fancy lifestyle, but having a passion will take you further in life than you could ever imagine. And if you haven’t found your passion yet, keep your eyes and ears open. It may hit you when you’re least expecting it.