Zoi Sherolli: "I feel justified in choosing to come to America"
Even though I had already entered the branch of Applied Mathematics and Science at the engineering school, I feel justified in choosing to come to America to pursue my academic career. The quality of the academia has exceeded my expectations and the fact that I have the opportunity to experience college life while playing volleyball is amazing.
I began the recruiting process in November 2018, just a few months before I left for America. The process was quite stressful because I wanted to choose the university that would be the best fit for me, and I did not know much about how things operate. However, I am very grateful to the NOMOS and EVE teams because they were always by my side and they were willing to answer all the questions I had. I am very happy with my final choice in terms of the level of studies as well as the level and the culture of my team. An important part of the university selection process was asking the right questions to the coaches to get a complete picture of their program. I had no idea what questions to ask and so I enlisted the help of the Nomos team who immediately gave me a list of questions I should ask. I will never forget how much they helped me.
The truth is that all the years I played in Neos Vyronos, I played in two to three age groups at the same time so in one game I would play as a middle blocker and in another as an outside hitter. The last three years I played more as an outside hitter, so coming to America, I had some experience in defense and serve-receive, but they were my weak spots, especially serve-receive. I would make sure to get a lot of touches in defense and serve-receive each day at practice, and I would even go to individual practices with our assistant coach in my team. My coaches helped me a lot by telling me to correct some details when I serve-receive and to watch the videos from practice to see what I was doing wrong. In doing so, I improved a lot and even managed to stand out in one of our games for the number of digs I got, something that I never imagined I could do.
I am studying to become a Mechanical Engineer, so my academic goal is to get my undergraduate degree first and my master’s degree after that. As for volleyball, one of my goals is to help my team go to the championship next fall. My long-term goal would be to continue playing volleyball after college, whether I am in America, Europe, or Greece. I believe that the fact that I will be graduating with a Mechanical Engineering degree will open many doors for me in the professional field. When it comes to volleyball, I think the fact that I have improved as a player will open more doors for me than the fact that I have played in America. Either way, time will tell.
What I miss from Greece the most is the hot weather, the beautiful beaches, the freshness and variety of the food, because as we all know, America is not known for either of those. But most of all, I miss my family and my friends. One thing that I would like Greece to improve on is equality amongst all sports and to give all athletes the same opportunities and facilities. There is no denying the fact that volleyball is extremely neglected compared to soccer and basketball. This has become even more obvious during the outbreak of this pandemic. I would like for volleyball to be given the same attention as other, more popular sports get. This way, young children will not be forced to pursue a better volleyball career abroad.
I have not received any kind of racism from anyone while being in America. The girls in my team welcomed me very warmly and asked me several questions about Greece and Albania, as I have Albanian roots. They really wanted to learn more about the country I come from and even now, two years since I came to America, they are still trying to learn more. Their questions are sometimes quite amusing I can say. I felt like I was part of the team from the very first moment due to the girls and the coaches.
This journey is scary and stressful at first, but at the same time very exciting. I would advise all athletes to be patient and not rush to make any decisions. They have the right to take their time and make sure that this is what they want because this will be their future. There will be times where they will challenge and doubt their decisions, but this is also another part of the journey. They should also know that coming to America, they must prioritize in taking care of themselves mentally and physically. It is up to them to make 4 years look like 4 minutes or 4 centuries. As for the parents, they need to understand that their role in this journey is purely supportive. They are allowed to guide their children, but the final decision must be made by them. After all, this journey takes patience and perseverance from both the athletes and the parents. It will not be easy but in the end, the difficult journeys are the ones that are worth it.