Konstantina Pateli: “A Beautiful Journey and a Fantastic Experience”
1. How would you describe your experience in America while you had to combine high level education and sports?
I wouldn't change my experience in America for anything. It was the best choice I have ever made. In my eyes, the universities of America and in general the whole education system make it so much easier for the students to focus on school and homework. If I hadn’t gone abroad I for sure would have been just another college student in her sixth year, whereas by going to America I managed to graduate in four years with a degree in biology in one of the top fifty universities for sciences and engineering. The combination of studies and sports, something that I thought would be easy in my mind when I first got there, is obviously not. You spend a lot of your hours of the day in the gym, at practices, at the weight room, at rehab which are all very important in order to be able to play thirty or forty games within three and a half months. It doesn’t sound easy. Something that I liked is that in college teams really pay attention to grades. If you are not a good student you can’t play. For us it was, obviously, mandatory to have above 3.0 GPA and study hall sessions where the whole team would study together. It was a habit that became our routine and that’s how I learned to manage it but it was for sure not easy.
2. With what criteria did you choose your university?
When I first started thinking about going to America, I didn’t know anything. Back then, I had seen Alexandra Psoma and Olga Strantzali that had left and I really wanted to follow that dream and because I also like change as a person. So I started looking at how I could make it by myself because I didn’t know anyone that could help me at the time. When I got the offer from my college I was really drawn to my coach. We had a great chemistry from the first interaction already. Of course, since I was really enthusiastic about my coach, then I considered the fact that my school was very competitive academically. The third thing that I saw and it was the main reason that I stayed all four years in that university was that it was full of internationals. I made friendships with people that are very special to me.
3. What inspired you and you decided to go to America to play college volleyball? Why USA?
In the beginning, I used to say that I would never go back to Greece. As I mentioned before, I had seen the two volleyball players that had left and were doing really well. It had always been my dream to leave Greece and that’s how I combined it. From a little girl I always admired Alexandra and then I had the opportunity to play with her in Markopoulo. I was watching her career and that’s how I got inspired.
4. Has your plan always been to come back to Greece after your graduation in America? What differences do you notice between Greece-America on the volleyball part?
When I first left I wasn’t planning on coming back. Actually, I was sure that I wasn’t coming back. Making European friends though made me realise that I was missing our culture. The interaction with Americans can’t be compared with Europeans. Discussion topics, life, and the Mediterranean culture made me realise that I wanted to come back. It was for sure weird for me to get used to the Greek championship that starts preparation in August and ends in April, while in America it was mostly a four month period of a total of forty games. Also, in America, they care a lot about lifting in the weight room which was something that I had not experienced before. The way we practiced, for sure, seemed very different to me since I have experienced practices from other European coaches as well, mostly Serbians. Fortunately, my coach was from Poland so she had the European style/vibe (?) hahaha.
5. How did it help you to have a degree specifically from America in order to find a job in Greece? What are your future goals? Masters?
Certainly the fact that I have a degree and specifically from America plays a big role in Greece, which I personally consider unfair, but it obviously helped me so I am not complaining. Specifically, during the hours I was waiting at the airport for my return to Greece due to COVID, I applied to the company where I work. I got the job in June 2020 in a microbiological laboratory of a pharmaceutical company. Ideally yes, I would like to do a master's degree. I have found what I am interested in but I have to find a way to combine my job, volleyball, and school that I do not consider possible with the schedule. And unfortunately I can not leave my job.
6. Do you feel ready to play in the A2 division?
I am very excited that I am going to play for Iraklis Kifisias in A2 division this year. We have created a really good relationship with the girls and coach on the team. I can’t wait for the championship to start.
7. What advice would you give to the athletes who are thinking of following a similar path as you? What do you have to say to parents and athletes who are considering starting this journey?
The advice I would definitely like to give to those who decide to make the transatlantic voyage is to be prepared for the change of culture, to be sure that they will endure away from parents and friends. My opinion is that with basic reading and patience the 4 years of school will come easily. There will definitely be classes that will make you cry, and I definitely cried for a while, but we have all succeeded. It is a beautiful journey and a fantastic experience. Parents may be more anxious than the children leaving, actually they for sure are. My mother was going through horrific stress while I thought she would be very relaxed. It is an opportunity to experience things and get to know a very different culture that may or may not apply to some. There are many opportunities. Professional preparation and definitely many beautiful trips.