Illona Hartman – Blog #2

Illona Hartman – Ambassador Blog #2

How I Became Part Of The Bobcat Family

            On a Monday morning in September of 2012, a 17-year old Dutch high school student decided to improve her English skills. She had failed a couple of her English reading and listening exams. For this reason, she watched American TV shows like Pretty Little Liars to improve her English listening skills. Her grade still did not change much, but her love for America grew. During this period, she became aware of American college sports and the way athletics opens up a world of opportunities because of scholarships for student athletes. Nevertheless, this Dutch field hockey player stopped dreaming about America because she was too insecure about her abilities as an athlete. She did not even play for a varsity team (“selectie team”) so why would she be good enough for a division I field hockey program in the States…?

This 17-year old, insecure girl was me about 5 years ago. Nowadays, I am like a butterfly that came out of its Dutch cocoon. A lot of things have happened and changed since that one Monday in 2012. I graduated high school with one C (English…) and I decided to take a year off to work on my language skills. I was also denied by my top medical school in the Netherlands which made me doubt my decision to become a doctor. I always wanted to help people by studying medicine, but this childhood dream changed after my gap year and journey through Southern Africa.

In 2014, I traveled to South Africa, Swaziland, and Mozambique to volunteer at a Neighborhood Care Point for vulnerable children. During this 6-week teaching assistant job, I also partially funded a construction project which made me realize one does not necessarily need to be a doctor to help others. I helped with the building process and I designed some murals to flourish the school. On top of that, I had the honor to paint them myself too, and I was able to see with my own eyes how much it was appreciated by the community. This made me change my plans by 180 degrees: I wanted to study engineering instead of medicine.

That Summer in 2014, I applied for a major called “Bouwkunde” – a combination of structural engineering and architecture – at Eindhoven University of Engineering and Technology. I got accepted and I started my next chapter of life as an engineering student in the Netherlands. It was a tremendous university with sophisticated students and teachers. However, once I started traveling, I wanted more than the tiny Dutch cities surrounded by flat farmland and water. In the meantime, I was playing field hockey at the second highest level in the Netherlands which opened up some opportunities in the United States of America.

Since my English skills were still below average by 2015, I started to look into some transfer options to continue my studies in an English speaking country. This was when my “American Dream” appeared once again. The 17-year old high schooler was now a confident 20 year old young adult ready for the next step in her life.

After a rollercoaster of field hockey recruiting events, recorded games, skype conversations, and loads of paperwork, I finally got my American visa to continue my academics and athletics at Ohio University in Fall 2015. It was a huge step for me to transfer to an American university but I am extremely happy that I did. Choosing Ohio University was quite a risk because I did not visit America before, let alone Athens, Ohio. Nevertheless, the conversations I had with my head coach, teammates, engineering teachers, and even current students on top of the beautiful Google Maps pictures made my heart race.

The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.” –Sarah Bombell

I always say I would rather try than regret not trying at all, which brought me to Athens this time and who knows what is next. Overall, this is my journey to Ohio University and now I will help you find your journey back hOUme.