We all know being a student-athlete in college has its troubles. But imagine dedicating yourself to your sport, taking yourself away from any life you’ve known before and planting yourself at a school half the country away from your home, family and friends.
Well, Jennifer Koller sat down with College Magazine and told her tale of just that — a small-town Connecticut girl followed her dream all the way to Arkansas.
CM: Why did you choose Arkansas?
JK: I chose Arkansas because it was the package deal. I got a good amount of money, but the important things were that I liked the coach, I liked the team, they had a great field hockey program that was growing and had so much potential, and that was something I wanted to be a part of. I didn't know what I wanted when I was looking at colleges, but when I visited Hendrix it just felt right.
CM: What is the difference between home and the Mid-West?
JK: I was never exposed to such extreme heats [or tornados] before. The four seasons aren't as distinct. Southern accents, styles of food — so much BBQ – family lifestyles are different. People seem generally more friendly and outgoing to complete strangers than from some areas [in Connecticut].
CM: How did you adjust to the differences?
JK: It was difficult playing field hockey in the heat, but I soon learned that on game day us and our opponents would all have the same weather conditions, so that wasn't going to be an excuse whether I was used to it or not. Through friends and people I’ve met on campus, I’ve learned that families are very different in values and it is interesting to see what is more common among families in the south versus north. For example, I've seen and heard of more weddings at younger ages. It was different at first, but Hendrix feels more at home.
CM: What is your sport like down south?
JK: Field hockey is foreign to Arkansas residents. A lot of people think its lacrosse. I like getting to tell people what it is and I like that we do something that is different and new to Hendrix and the state of Arkansas. We are also the only college and school in Arkansas that has a field hockey team. Since we are the only school in that state to have it, our closest competitor is Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., which is two to three hours away. And I have been to states that I never thought I'd go to before college.
CM: How do you stay committed to a sport that has taken you so far from home?
JK: I love field hockey. This program felt like the best fit, and I knew I would be taken care of here at Hendrix. It is not hard to stay committed because it is such an important part of my life. My family gets to watch my games on the Internet. My team is very close; my best friends are on my team. I train all year long for two short months and 14 games, so to me being far from home is worth it. I’d rather play with a great, dedicated team and for an inspiring, knowledgeable coach far away then settle for a team and school [that’s] closer to home.