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I had possibilities! Wow, here I am 19 years old finishing high school and I had a problem most teenager was facing: I had no idea what to study. One week I wanted to study medicine, the next it is was math and after that engineering. I just had no real passion for any studies that were offered. The only thing I wanted was to play Volleyball. I was in 4 different Volleyball teams only so I would be able to play every day. I loved it. The sports, the competition, the team spirit.
But here in Germany, sports are seen as hobby, not something that could be used to achieve goals. If I wanted to play Volleyball more seriously I would have to go to the United States. Being part of a university team would mean I could train every day and compete nationwide.
I mentioned to my father, the decision maker in our family, about my thoughts. I would consider my father cliché-type German. He is organized, punctual, structured, serious and security-focused. He wants for his daughters (I have two sisters) a successful life which is comprised of a thriving career with enough money to buy a BMW and a nice apartment in one of the rich sections of Munich where he lives. He meant it well. He wanted the best for us, he wanted us to be happy. But he had his concept of what would mean happiness and success – a way of thinking he shared with many.
Thus, when it came to talking about my idea to move to the United States to play Volleyball, my father did not completely shut my idea down but put down the facts: “Moni, why should I spent 40000 Euro per year for four years if you can get the same if not better university education here in Germany for free?”
He made a point. But I was so motivated to play Volleyball that I had to find a way to go to an American university to pursue my passion for it.
I needed a full scholarship to be able to fulfill my dream.
It was an arduous process, applying for universities, taking videos of my Volleyball skills, taking English and other university entry tests without knowing for certain if I will ever be able to move to the United States. My chances were low. I was only 172cm (5’7”), too small for an outside hitter. In addition, my English grades were mediocre at best so the English entry test which is required to attend a US university were decreasing the probability to pursue my dream.
Months and months went by waiting for a letter from the sport agency that looked for scholarships for me. Everyday, I checked my email inbox and my spam – just in case the letter of the scholarship offer made itself into the trash. Every ring I answered in a rush so that I could not potentially miss that life-changing phone call. I even walked to the letterbox every day, just in case they lost my phone number or email address and decided to write me instead. I just couldn’t take any chances.
One day, having gone through the application process six months ago and my hopes hanging low, I received THAT phone call.
“Monika, we have a scholarship for you. It is even a full Volleyball scholarship.”
While she was congratulating me I started dreaming…I couldn’t believe it! Did I hear it right? Would I really finally go to the United States of America now to play Volleyball? I imagined playing Volleyball on the beach in California with other Americans just how I saw it in those Hollywood movies. A dream has come alive!
The lady on the phone cleared her throat. “Monika? Are you still there?”
“Oh I am sorry; yes, I am still here.”
She gave me more details. The university that offered me a full scholarship was a historical black university in South Carolina. I would have to fly to the States early August for a three-week pre-season camp.
Did I hear that right? Three weeks of Volleyball before the university started? Wow! That was exactly what I was looking for.
With excitement I told my dad about the great news. My dad brought my enthusiasm to a hold. “Moni, do you know what you get yourself into? This is a historical black school. 3800 black students and you with other 49 white ones. This is the American South. This is not the Marienplatz with a mingle of different cultures. Other laws exist there! This is America.”
A bit flattened by my dad’s approach to congratulate me on my scholarship receipt, I did my own research about the university and the location. I looked up every ranking there is and could not find “South Carolina State University” in any of them. NONE! How is this possible?
But whatever the ranking, the location and the culture, I was determined I am going to the United States to play Volleyball. I don’t care if most students are black. I am not discriminating so what should be the problem?
On 9. August 2005, I boarded the plane from Munich via London to Atlanta, Georgia to start my first semester as Freshman with great hopes to be able to pursue my passion for Volleyball.
I did not know then that the next 12 months would be most decisive year of my life. And the worst.