We recently caught up with our very own Jamie Gibson, ex student-athlete at the University of Charleston and West Virginia University Women’s Assistant Tennis Coach. Jamie shared his experiences with us from his time as an undergraduate and Masters student, as well as his future plans.
Can you tell us about your journey that has led to you being out in America on a scholarship?
I first played tennis when I was five years old and instantaneously fell in love with the game. I played at Kenilworth Tennis Club until the age of 10, where I then went onto train at the University of Warwick. Both my coaches where instrumental in improving my tennis rating and ranking in preparation for America. Growing up I was always active playing lots of different sports. At 14 I made the decision to concentrate on my passion for tennis, meaning I had to stop playing football! Around this time, I had friends looking at tennis scholarship opportunities out in the States which sounded like an amazing opportunity. This is when the USA dream first became an option for me, and the hard work truly began to turn this dream into a reality.
Can you tell us more about what were the steps you had to take prior to America?
I had to go the United States Embassy in London to apply for an F1 student visa, where I had to prove my identity and confirm the reasons for going to the States. I then sat the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) exam that allowed me admission into a United States college/university. It is important to get as high a score on the SAT as possible as this will lead to you receiving a higher academic scholarship (your scholarship will be made up of an academic and athletic component).
Another key part of preparation for the USA was to put together a video that really sells you as an individual and great player. To do this, I recommend asking your coach or someone you trust who will help you put together the best possible footage you have. The video is what the coaches at the American universities will see, and this accompanied with your UTR rating will ultimately lead to a scholarship offer. My video was a compilation of technique, drills and points play. Subsequently I edited the footage to last the recommended 10 minutes and then uploaded to YouTube.
A link to American Tennis Scholarship video can be found below:
This is one of many parts of the process that we at Destination 219 will be able to help you with.
What can you tell us about your first semester in America?
My first semester in America was completely jumping into the unknown. Although I had been lucky enough to go to the States before with my family and get a feel for the ‘American Dream’; having just turned 18, in August 2014 I set off on my own to Charleston, West Virginia – optimistic, excited and certainly without doubt some nerves. Upon my arrival at the airport, I was welcomed by the Head Coach and two players that would be on my team, it didn’t take long to get settled down and start playing Tennis! Everyone was extremely helpful, welcoming and friendly which made what could have been a difficult transition, a more seamless one.
What I loved about my first semester was getting to know my teammates and so many
different people and their cultures. From stepping off the plane and not knowing one person to having made lifelong friends within one semester was incredible.
In America it is the norm to room share and I roomed with a guy from England who played on the Soccer team while being close friends with other Brits on the soccer team as well as my own teammates.
My first semester was all to do with finding my feet in the classroom and of course on the court. Upon arriving I was bombarded head to toe with team kit and much more. I instantly enjoyed the competitive nature within my team, whether it was running the fastest 2-mile loop, playing inter team matches, table tennis or beer pong! It is fair to say my first semester raced by, and little did I know at the time so would the remaining 3 and a half years out in the States.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a sports scholarship?
It is an incredible opportunity to play tennis at such a high and competitive level on a regular basis. For anyone who is debating on whether to play your favourite sport on an
athletic scholarship and earn a degree I would say definitely do it. My four years in America where the best time of my life, what have you got to lose?
Unbelievable friendships, amazing experiences and memories for a lifetime.
Can you tell us about the best memories of your time in the USA?
I have been lucky enough to complete my undergraduate and Masters studies in Accounting in West Virginia, play alongside some incredible teammates and have met some life changing people.
I have stand out Team memories such as beating our rivals West Liberty University in my Sophomore semester and winning the Mountain East Conference. Other great memories include winning ‘clinch’ matches, making it to the NCAAs and making Second Team All-Conference.
I also have had some great times outside of tennis, which include spending spring break in Hilton Head, SC and Miami, Skiing at Arapahoe Basin in Colorado and Road trip around the Eastern side of the USA to places such as Boston, New York, Toronto, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Savannah, Charleston, Nashville, Miami, New Orleans and Texas to name a few.
Is this something that may interest you?
Enquire with Destination 219 today for your chance to turn the American dream into a reality.
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