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Esha Shah

To my first year self,

First of all, I just want to tell you to take a second and appreciate that you are finally at the program you’ve dreamt about playing for. Take a second to let yourself be content with where you are. It is hard coming into a year where you are isolated from seeing anyone but your team, sometimes only your roommate (good thing I loved mine!). It is hard to come into a year where your experience of being a first year is filled with restrictions and protocols, all to ensure we can play in the middle of a pandemic. It is hard to have this be your college transition, but I can assure you that 4 years down the road, college is not usually like that, and we are all now laughing together.

The next 4 years of your life will be filled with injury, frustration, and challenges; but it will lead you to become a person that can handle adversity and will be prepared to handle any hardship in the real world. You will sometimes question your love for the sport. I wish I could warn you that your field hockey experience will not be anything like what you thought. You will have lots of lows and lots of highs. It is okay to let your friends and family help you out; you don’t need to appear strong all the time.

Looking back, I wish I did not let a sport define me and that someone told me that I am more than what I can offer on a field. But you will have no regrets because it led you to become the person you are today, someone who is mentally resilient, has learned to enjoy every moment, and be easy on yourself. You will learn that it is okay to not have everything in control and that mistakes are okay, they do not define you.

My advice to you is to appreciate every moment, every practice, every game, every road trip because college really does fly by, and before you know it, your playing career will be over. I also want you to take a step back and appreciate that you are an Asian that is playing a sport in college. That is not common, and you dared to be different which is pretty cool. It is a bittersweet feeling being done, but your teammates will always be your family and UVA will always be your home. You turned out into an amazing person with amazing friends that will be my family for the rest of my life.

Esha Shah

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