The life of a student-athlete on an international scale


Photo courtesy of Tulane Athletics

Junior Paris Zhang, originally from Australia, is a member of the Green Wave swimming and diving team.

It is Friday night and the final game of the season. For most high school athletes, this is merely a game used to prepare for next season. For seniors, this singular event defines their entire collegiate careers.

As collegiate scouts watch from the bleachers, the pressure mounts on these student-athletes to perform their best. If athletes falter under this pressure, they may not be recruited. This nerve-racking moment is often only associated with American high schools. In fact, this moment oftentimes occurs across the globe.

Tulane has been vocal about its pushing for diversity in its recent incoming classes. Five percent of the Class of 2021 is composed of students coming from outside of the U.S. Many of these students have been recruited to play on one of Tulane’s 16 Division I teams.

Freshman Elise Genoux, originally from France, recalls her experience being recruited to the Green Wave’s women’s golf team, which began two years prior to her commitment to Tulane.

Coach Lorne flew to France to watch a couple of my tournaments, so we met two years before I actually got recruited,” Genoux said. “I was talking with a couple of the universities, and when he got to France, I was actually winning tournaments. So he told me he wanted me to be on the team … I told him I was going to think about it. A couple weeks later I emailed him and told him I was coming.”

Once these student-athletes commit to Tulane, they depart from their families and travel across the world. They then arrive in a place where the culture and way of life are often completely new to them. For Australian junior and Green Wave swimmer Paris Zhang, her perception of the U.S. prior to her college years was shaped primarily through television and online sources.

“So I came here expecting the full college experience,” Zhang said.  “A lot of like football games and frat parties, but it hasn’t been that at all. I didn’t expect the commitment that swimming was going to be, and often you are too tired after practice. I think that it has been disappointing, but there has been a whole new dimension of college that I didn’t know existed because college athletics isn’t portrayed in the TV or media.”

While the U.S. has provided some surprises to some of these students, Tulane has attempted to supply them with the opportunities and resources to become acclimated to college life while pushing them in academics and athletics. The university is well-known for the rigor of its curriculum, and student-athletes are held to the same standard no matter their countries of origin.

Zhang is currently balancing a double major in English and Neuroscience along with participating in the Newcomb Scholars program and competing in swimming. She explained how all students, especially athletes, strive to find that equilibrium.

“I feel comforted that the name is student-athlete: it shows academics comes first, and it always does, but sometimes it feels hard because swimming is so inflexible,” Zhang said. “Our schedule is fixed, you can’t be late, you have to be there for that amount of time. So you have to carve hours out of the day, and sometimes it feels like school is secondary to sport. It is a compromise always, and sometimes it gets hard to find that balance.”

For some students, Tulane has provided a safe and welcoming atmosphere. The idea of support is oftentimes associated with the experience of incoming freshman. It takes on a whole new level, however, in association with those who travel halfway across the world. For senior tennis player Constantin Schmitz, Tulane was able to provide the necessary resources for him to have a smooth transition from Germany into American college life.

“Tulane helped me to feel at home right at the beginning,” Schmitz said. “It was difficult at the beginning with a new schedule and a new language, but I received so much support where it was needed. New Orleans is a great place to do this and make a new beginning.”

Zhang will be participating in the AAC Swimming and Diving Championship in Dallas beginning on Feb. 14. Genoux will be competing in the UCF Challenge on Feb. 4. Schmitz will be traveling to Oklahoma on Friday, Feb. 2, to take part in a match against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. 

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