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    Comfort, Community and a Volleyball Career


    16 Sep, 2022

    09 : 34

    • It was not too long ago that Stella Snider-Hickey was in our school’s auditorium attending her graduation ceremony in the mid of June receiving her IB Diploma as well as an award for her outstanding achievements and continuous efforts in the subject of PE. Throughout her school life, Stella has been involved in many of our school’s sports teams, but it was probably beyond her imagination that less than three months later she would get invited to play for American University (AU) Women’s Volleyball Team, in NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), Division 1 competition.


      Our CUGO Mr Jonathan Mellen spoke to Stella in an online interview about the honor of playing in the highest division of college sports in the United States, how Stella is adjusting to her university studies and why having comfort zones is important.


      Congratulations, Stella on your university and your volleyball team. How did you start playing volleyball after you arrived?

      I took part in a 2-week university volleyball summer camp. It was only meant for training not for recruiting. And during my last two days of being there, the coaches came up to me about how I would feel about joining the team, helping out, training with them, and seeing where that would lead to. It felt like an amazing opportunity and there was no way I would have ever said ‘No’ to that. I love volleyball; I love being in a team sport and I know that it helps me with my academics as well. The next day I talked to the head coach of AU (Barry Goldberg) and he further explained to me and my parents what the job would entail.


      Please tell us about your weekly schedule.

      Besides games, we practice every single day from Monday through Friday scheduled for three hours. Twice a week we practice lifting, and strengthening conditioning. This may sound like a lot but for me as the person I am, and how I manage time, having not a lot of free time on my hands is better. Because as I am transitioning from high school to college, time management is all up to me now. If I do not manage my time wisely and fall behind, no one will care. 


      Having my time scheduled down to the minute is helpful for me because I won’t waste my free time since I don’t have very much of it. It is not overwhelming; I am having fun; the team is amazing. Regarding my classes, I am taking five courses which translates into 14.5 credits, the middle amount of credits. My courses include Maths, Communications, Law, and the Justice System. I feel very well equipped as I can explain Maths perfectly to other students and it feels easier than IB senior year. It is also quite interesting that in one of my Communications classes we covered a psychology study that I have already learned in YCIS and in another Harsh Justice class we were taught the skills of critical thinking which I had also already learned in a TOK (Theory of Knowledge) class at YCIS.


      You have spent your entire school career, Year 1 to Year 13 at YCIS Beijing and you trained with Baiyun International Volleyball Club. How did this help prepare you?

      My entire experience with volleyball and academics at YCIS and training at Baiyun tied it into a package to prepare me perfectly for what I am doing now. YCIS is a small-knit community and sports is not the main thing, but we are all very competitive in representing our school. I liked that community, we all knew each other, and we were all very passionate about it. There weren’t any surprises when it came to the community. It is exactly how it is here.


      Being on the YCIS volleyball team with three to four training sessions per week helped me to balance my academics as IB is a very rigorous program. YCIS helped me to figure out my time management skills. The school was very good at allowing me to discover my passions other than academics and balance that with the curriculum and this is what I am continuing to do now – just in a different country.


      What is your biggest adjustment?

      August was usually the time when I went back to China after having spent the summer holidays abroad. But this time I am not going back to Beijing, which feels pretty surreal. My new community is not as international as YCIS. My volleyball team feels like my new international little hub with team members from Turkey and Israel which makes it a little bit of my comfort zone.


      What is your word of advice to current students at YCIS?

      I would say find some comfort zone other than academics. Find something that makes you feel safe and at home because if you are going to leave the country that you have lived in for a very long time you need something that will make you feel safe and at home. For students that are looking into sports or even anything else, reach out to the professors, reach out to the coaches and they will respond to you. Trust the process by letting things happen but you will still have to work things out for yourself. And bear in mind if things are not working out you can always change your mind.


      I would like to say thank you to YCIS Beijing’s former Athletics Director Ms Shannon Speight who was constantly working whether on the schedule or putting me in touch with Baiyun. Without her and her contacts, I would not be at the volleyball level that I am at now. It was kind of her to be working so hard. The school's PE teacher, Mr Matt McEwan is the most amazing coach ever. As I was the captain of the volleyball team over the past two years he allowed me to have a lot of control over how I thought the group should be bonding, how I thought we should be working together, or how I thought we should improve as a team. The skills that I developed being a leader there helped me in the classroom, helped me with my resume applications, and helped the coaches at AU volleyball recognise me for who I am.


      Our alumna Stella sets a great example to all the students at YCIS Beijing and we are very proud of her achievements. We look forward to hearing more about Stella’s success, and her university experiences in the future and we wish her all the best in all her endeavours.