It's funny to think that originally my parents moved to Europe for the opportunities in education. Here I am 7 years later on a plane headed back to the United States to continue my education at the University of Stanford. After going through almost 2 years of recruiting process, I was excited to find out if my decision would end up being the right fit.
At first, I didn't feel like I fit in at all. Being almost 3 years older than all others in my grade, I had an overwhelming feeling of being in the right place at the wrong time. I got the feeling that those around me defined me by my age, and I became the 21-year-old freshman. It didn't take me long to notice that I wasn't the only one feeling out of place, but each person for different reasons. I always thought that being back in the country, where I was born and partially raised, would automatically make me feel like I was back home, but I was silly to think so.
When heading back to Switzerland, I felt more connection to the country than previously before, and I was happy to finally feel that the country I was living in was not what I defined as home but it was what I had made of my own life, the dreams I was following with rowing, the nature surrounding me that I had become very close to, and the people.
Getting to row for Stanford University is what helped me find my ground. I knew coming into the program that I was going to be surrounded by the very best rowers, not only at a Collegiate level but at an international level. At first, I was not used to the size of the team but as I got to know each person, they all left a mark on me. I watched as quiet leaders inspired us to push ourselves to the limit. I learned how to become a better teammate and to trust those I was working with.
When I arrived at University, the first thing people pointed out is that I seemed like a very confident person. I didn't know what people meant, and to this day, I am still unsure if I do, but I believe it is due to the fact that I am highly competitive in everything I do. In the time I got to compete with Stanford Women's Crew, I got to understand myself better, as well as (hopefully) better myself as a Swiss rower.
Arriving in the USA, I was opened up to a whole new world of rowing. The world of eights and sweeping. I felt like I was discovering a whole new sport, nothing to do with the rowing I knew. At first, I disliked having a coxswain in the boat as I never felt like I had the time to think for myself, but as time went on I
realized that letting go of all control would end up making the experience of sweeping more complete.
I didn't understand the competition of collegiate rowing until I arrived at our conference championship. It hit me that I wanted to beat every team in the United States as we arrived to dock after winning the PAC-12 championships, which gave us our ticket to the National Championships.
After weeks of seat racing, erg pieces and honestly good fun,
we were ready to race that special race that we all dreamt of
winning. 2 years in a row, Texas beat Stanford in a tiebreaker, making the idea of finally etching the Stanford name on the championship trophy that much sweeter.
In the days following up to the grand finale race, signs were pointing in a special direction.
We happened to be in the home state of one of our teammates, where we all gathered to have a meal. We were lucky enough to get to meet one of the women who was in the Championship winning boat that won back in 2009 at that very same body of water. A sign? She explained that no matter how painful the lactate felt in our legs during that race, that all she remembers of that time, is the moment she ran off the dock into the water, and the celebrations that followed.
In 2009 Stanford was ranked 4th coming into it and we were also ranked 4th. Another sign?
Something just felt right.
As I sat in the ice bath full of ice cubes, I remembered the words of my dear teammate, "we all get a ring". Each one of us had done our very best to get to the top, and no matter where we sat or who we were, all of us would get that ring together. Now of course this was not the only reason I wanted to win but something about knowing that there were so many people out there who deserved to be recognized for the effort they put in, warmed be from the inside, and the ice cubes under my barre legs, didn't seem as bad anymore.
Nothing could explain the feeling of jumping into the water at the end of the dock full of joy and popping our heads out of the water only to realize we were waist high in mud that would forever stain our unisuits.
Thank you team, excited for many more memories to come and thank you, Lindsay Clarke for your wise words and inspiration.