Life + Arts

Student-athletes speak about adjusting to college

Student-athletes share thoughts on adjusting to college.

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

Starting at a new school is terrifying, and moving away from home isn’t particularly pleasant either. Combine these two feelings with a dash of dorm life and you have a recipe for a stressful first semester. 

Student-athletes are not immune to these feelings either. Yet, despite the added stress of competing on the collegiate level, many UH athletes see their commitments as a source of strength. 

“Trying to get students more involved, try to bring up that Cougar spirit a little bit, trying to unify students together around a common cause,” said Anna Economon, a rising senior on the women’s golf team. “Just getting the whole city of Houston and the community together has been cool — and you can do that through sports.”

The Amsterdam-born golfer was crowned the 2023 UH Athletic’s Most Spirited Coog award and she wears her crown with pride.

Economon always tries to find ways to integrate the school and the athletics department. As she sees it, it’s all about building up a support network.

“I think university is about school and education, but I think more importantly, it’s about the connections you make,” Economon said.

Even future NFL stars recommend attending other sporting events. Donovan Mutin, an Indianapolis Colt signee and UH football alumnus, said that basketball games were his favorite. 

“Basketball games are always crazy, the stadiums are always really lively, real upbeat,” Mutin said. “You can meet a bunch of people there, so I think those are always great events to go to.” 

Mutin added that, with the University’s transition into the Big 12, students can expect an explosion of athletics on campus. 

“More money, more buildings, more students, better competition for all sports,” Mutin said.

If you are a homebody, like him, Mutin said all it takes is a little patience and persistence to find your people. 

“It made me have to start meeting people,” Mutin said. “You find that those people are going to be some of your best friends – just by branching out.”

Starting a new life, especially one without your support system, is hard. Meeting new people is never easy — even for social butterflies. 

As an international student-athlete from Germany, rising sophomore Paul Schmitz understands what it means to be homesick. He said his involvement with the baseball team gave him meaningful relationships and a goal that made it worth staying. 

“There would definitely be times where it would be hard and I would sometimes be homesick,” Schmitz said. “But it got easier just because I met so many great people. That really helped me to stay here and experience the city.” 

Getting to know a new city is difficult, especially for international students. However, as one of the most diverse universities in the U.S., finding a community is easier than some might think. In Schmitz’s case, that meant finding fellow Germans.

“(I’ll be) walking in between classes and not knowing where to go and then talking to people and it turns out they’re from Germany,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz said that the cultural diversity of the school not only builds a good environment, but it builds a sense of community.

Getting involved, whether you’re a student-athlete or average commuter, is a great way to connect yourself to campus and the community within. 

“If you’re into video or filmmaking, I know they always have positions for that as well,” Economon said. “See what opportunities there are and just reach out and get involved.” 

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