By Siddharth Vodnala, Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture intern.
“We came from far-away places in the world, but we feel at home here.”
That’s how Melisa Ates from Turkey and Michaela Bayerlova from the Czech Republic describe their experience at Washington State University.
Athletic scholarships from Washington State University helped both women pursue their American dream. The pair got the opportunity to receive a world-class education while pursuing their passion for tennis.
Life at WSU
Like many new students from foreign countries, Ates and Bayerlova struggled their first semester with adapting to a new country, improving their English language skills, and keeping up in unfamiliar classes.
They soon found their stride. They came to love being in a small, college town and discovered that WSU provides facilities and other opportunities that they previously didn’t have.
“I was amazed that I could access so many different fitness facilities within the student recreation center,” said Bayerlova. “I can lift weights and do cardio before I practice and I can go swimming after practice.”
At WSU, they also discovered a new philosophy of playing tennis.
“Back in Turkey I thought of tennis as an individual sport but here I realized the importance of belonging to a team,” said Ates. “Now I feel fulfilled whenever I make a contribution to the team.”
When they’re not busy in classes or practicing, they are on tour representing Cougs and fighting to win in competitions around the nation.
Bayerlova recently made it to the finals of the ITA Hilton Head tournament in South Carolina. As a freshman she won the ITF Charleston tournament. Last summer she won the $15,000 Banja Luka Ladies Open in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ates helped the Cougs advance to the semifinals of the Pac-12 championship by beating the University of California, Berkeley in Ojai, CA.
Court to the classroom
The discipline and focus the women learn as athletes helps not just on the tennis court but also in the classroom. Tenacity and persistence make a difference – in a match or when struggling to keep up in demanding computer science or engineering classes.
“I was taught by my coaches to never give up,” said Ates.
The sport also has helped the women improve their ability to concentrate, which spills over to doing difficult math problems or computer programming.
“Tennis taught me to focus in the moment,” said Bayerlova.
Both athletes also attribute their success at WSU to head coach Lisa Hart and the tennis support staff. In addition to tennis coaching, the students receive support, such as tutors, advisors, special lab sessions and mentors, which help them immensely, said Ates.
Ates and Bayerlova chose to be part of the Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture because they wanted to pursue analytical and creative majors. And, they believe that their majors give them good career options.
After graduating, Ates hopes to work in software engineering. Bayerlova hopes to play tennis professionally, but she is glad that her major will provide good alternatives.
“The things I learn in my classes are super useful and can be used in many different jobs,” she said.