Beyond Boundaries: The Inspiring Journey of a Student Athlete at UFV

By Matthew Michaud

From Gyeongju, South Korea, to the University of the Fraser Valley, a young woman’s journey exemplifies the essence of determination and adaptability. As a Communications major and a standout on the UFV women’s golf team, her story is a compelling narrative of balancing academic rigor with athletic excellence. Leading the UFV Hub Club, she has significantly contributed to enriching campus life, showcasing her leadership skills and community spirit. This piece delves into her journey, highlighting the challenges, achievements, and invaluable lessons learned along the way.

Tell us a little about yourself

I am a fourth-year student at the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) currently pursuing a major in Communications with a minor in Visual Arts. Throughout my time here, I’ve been actively involved in various programs and activities that have enriched my university experience.

I was born in South Korea, in a small city called Gyeongju. At the age of 11, I moved to Canada with my older sister to pursue educational opportunities abroad. Initially, we stayed with different host families in Abbotsford until my sister graduated and moved to Vancouver to pursue her academics at the University of British Columbia. Through middle school and high school, my sister and I moved around a lot, transitioning from one host family to another until I began university. During my first year of UFV, I moved into dormitories, and currently, I rent a small place for myself. Living away from my parents at a young age was a challenge, yet it also taught me invaluable lessons. I learned to take on responsibilities earlier than many of my peers and to seek help when necessary. Throughout the transition to a new life in Canada, my sister served as both my biggest support and my best friend.

How did you get involved with the UFV Golf Team?

My passion for golf began during grade 10 of high school, and from that moment onward, it became a huge part of my life. I started as a hobby to enjoy with my sister since our dad plays golf. As I picked up this sport, I saw myself enjoying it more than just a hobby. Despite being relatively new to the game, my coach recognized my enthusiasm and encouraged me to enter tournaments after just three months of playing. This was not because I am super talented but because he saw my genuine enjoyment of the sport. From there, my golf career has begun. I came to the point of being recruited to play for the UFV golf team, where I now proudly represent as a varsity athlete.

One of the most significant experiences during my time at UFV has been my involvement with the UFV women’s golf team. I was recruited during my high school years, and now, in my fourth year with the team, I cherish numerous great memories. Not only have I improved my golf skills by working with exceptional professionals and coaches, but I have also created lasting friendships with my teammates. We have competed in various leagues, including the Canada West league, NCAA tournaments, junior college leagues, and numerous invitationals, as well as the Golf Canada Nationals.

I had great success in my first year, receiving nominations for both athlete of the year and rookie of the year at UFV. Additionally, our team secured a silver medal finish at Nationals, with me achieving a 9th place individual finish and leading the team to 2nd place overall. I’ll always remember the moment when I completed my round with a strong finish, securing our team’s second-place position, three strokes ahead of the third-place team. It stands out as the highlight of my golf career thus far, being part of the team that won the silver medal in the Golf Canada National Championship.

Furthermore, I celebrated my first college win last season at Indian Summers in Olympia, Washington, alongside a team victory. These achievements hold a special place in my heart and represent significant milestones in my journey as a golfer. I can’t wait for the rest of the season and am especially looking forward to competing in the upcoming Golf Canada National Championship in June 2024.

Looking ahead, I aspire to continue my golf journey beyond my education, pursuing dreams of becoming a golf professional. Golf isn’t just a game to me. It ignites my true self and fuels my passion like nothing else.

You are also very active with the social scene at UFV. Can you tell us some more?

In addition to my life as a student athlete, I have dedicated my time to enhancing student engagement on campus as the president of the UFV Hub Club for the past two years. The UFV Hub Club is an official social club focused on fostering student engagement and facilitating connections among students. Through this role, I have organized a diverse array of events such as skating, bowling, movie nights, game nights, lake days and more. These events have provided students with invaluable opportunities to socialize, relax, and connect with their peers beyond the academic sphere. In my capacity as president, I have not only found friends and mentors but also developed my communication and leadership skills.

Overall, my time at UFV has been marked by valuable opportunities for personal growth, as well as lasting friendships. Through my involvement with the women’s golf team and the UFV Hub Club, I have not only developed as an individual but also played a role in enriching the dynamic student experience at UFV.

How the life of a student athlete?

While I’m deeply committed to pursuing my athletic goals, I equally prioritize my academic journey as a full-time student athlete. Balancing these two facets of my life has proven to be a significant challenge. I found time management to be very crucial, especially considering the extensive travel involved in competing in golf tournaments as a team.

Each tournament trip is a 4–5-day travel commitment, leading to the unfortunate necessity of missing lectures. Many of us in the team often work on assignments during our travels or in spare moments during trips. Our tournament destinations have spanned across various locations, including Washington, Las Vegas, California, Quebec, and more.

The peak golf season, spanning from March through May for the spring season and September through November for the fall season, sees us participating in approximately 8-10 events annually. Despite the academic demands, every tournament experience has been incredible. We get to play different golf courses around North America, engage in team activities and compete against great players from various schools. I think that missing lectures and having to work on schoolwork in planes, ferries, cars, and hotels is worth the experience. Additionally, professors at UFV are very understanding for student athletes which helped me navigate this challenge.

What were the biggest challenges of undertaking CMNS 235 – Public Speaking class?

I had been hoping to enroll in CMNS 235 since my second year, but finding a class schedule that didn’t conflict with my golf commitments was a minor challenge. The course required regular attendance for in-person lectures and active participation, and I didn’t want to miss out on valuable class interactions and opportunities to engage in coursework.

Last semester, I was fortunate to finally find a class that aligned with my golf team schedule, and it turned out to be one of the most beneficial courses I’ve taken at UFV. CMNS 235 pushed me out of my comfort zone, particularly with presentations. For me, one of the toughest aspects of the coursework was improvisation, a skill that didn’t come naturally to me. While I typically felt well-prepared for presentations that allowed preparing time for planning and practice, improvisation posed a unique challenge. Without the safety net of prior preparation, I grappled with the pressure to think on my feet and deliver rushed speeches.

Additionally, unlike previous presentations where I relied heavily on written content in PowerPoint slides or notes, CMNS 235 required me to invest significantly more time in speech preparation. Rather than reading from a script, I had to craft and memorize my speeches thoroughly. This meant dedicating extra time to ensure I was ready to speak confidently in every class session, where participation was expected regularly.

What did you get out of CMNS 235?

Participating in CMNS 235, a public speaking class, has been instrumental in improving my communication abilities and overcoming my fear of public speaking. Through this experience, I’ve not only developed a greater sense of confidence in communicating in front of audiences but also developed invaluable skills in speech preparation and presentation. One of the most significant benefits I learnt from this class was overcoming the anxiety of speaking in front of many people. By consistently engaging in speech delivery and getting immediate feedback, I gradually learned to manage my nerves and communicate with greater ease.

Moreover, the course taught me practical strategies for speech preparation, allowing me to approach presentations with clarity and organization. From structuring speeches to creating effective PowerPoint slides, I gained insights into effective communication techniques that I was able to use outside of this class. I learnt how to confidently prepare and deliver speeches. As my goal is to become a golf professional, I will be in a lot of situations where I have to speak in public such as in interviews, teaching, giving lessons and more.

I am continuing to develop my public speaking abilities. I am grateful for the personal and professional growth I was able to have through taking CMNS 235. I can proudly say that I have enhanced my confidence and proficiency in communication.

What are your general opinions from being a CMNS Major at UFV?

Firstly, my enjoyment of every Communication class I’ve taken at UFV played a big role in making my decision to pursue this major. Beyond the enjoyment of these classes, I’ve come to recognize the relevance of communication to both my personal life and future career aspirations. Among the courses offered within the Communication program, standouts for me include CMNS 235 (Public Speaking), CMNS 316 (Communicating for Social Media), and CMNS 375 (Print and Digital Design).

The Communication major surprised me with its variety of course offerings. Initially, I expected a focus on reading and writing, but I discovered a diverse array of courses spanning various aspects of communication. Currently enrolled in CMNS 316, I’m learning about how to communicate effectively for social media platforms but also took CMNS 375 where I learnt about print and digital design.

Overall, my experience as a Communication major has been overwhelmingly positive, reaffirming my belief in the transformative power of effective communication. The wealth of knowledge and skills gained from these classes has been exceptional, emphasizing the importance of communication in various contexts.

For anyone deciding on switching to Communication major at UFV, I would encourage them not to hesitate. Not only are the classes enjoyable and engaging, but they also impart invaluable insights and practical skills. Moreover, the broad opportunities of job within the field of communication offers a various exciting career paths to explore.

Thank you and all the best with your studies and future!