By Alexandra Zeng
I don’t have the typical background as a student of UC Davis. I was born and raised in Sweden (as you probably noticed with my blonde hair and blue eyes). I got introduced to golf at the age of six, and from the moment I hit my first golf ball, I knew that I wanted to become the number one golf player in the world. As my love for golf grew stronger, I was faced with two seemingly conflicting dilemmas; my highly academic parents insisted I earn a university education, but Sweden does not have any opportunities to combine studies with sports. The United States is the only country in the world where you can play collegiate golf, and that is why I decided that I wanted to go to America. I was set on going to the best university and the best golf team possible, but my choices were limited because my parents could not financially support the full American university tuition.
I was talking to multiple universities until I finally got in contact with UC Davis. UC Davis was my dream school; the perfect fit in terms of rigorous academics and a high achieving golf team. I was offered a scholarship, which eased the financial burden for my parents. I played on the team for three years while receiving the scholarship. I have gotten to travel all over America representing our golf team and have been lucky to receive one of the finest educations in the world as a managerial economics major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. I have also met students and faculty who will be in my network for the rest of my life, and above all, I have grown in ways I never thought possible.
I loved my time as a student athlete at UC Davis. The experience gave me skills for life, such as balancing 30+ hours a week of practice with strength training and full class loads, and the confidence to finish exams mid-air while traveling to Hawaii for a tournament. As a student-athlete, I attained the courage to work hard and diligently for my dreams.
But the summer before my final year, I made the painful decision to quit golf. It was the hardest, scariest, most important decision of my life. My passion for golf became less intense while I decided to focus fully on preparing myself for life after college. I was terrified to lose my scholarship and add to my parents’ financial burden, and I was daunted to find out who I was besides a golf player.
Thanks to the Internship and Career Center (ICC) on campus, I got my first job at a summer internship at Sutter Home Winery, and when school started, I got a part-time position as a student fundraiser at UC Davis’ Telephone Outreach Program (TOP). TOP opened the world of philanthropy. It became mind-blowing to me that the fundraising I was a part of was one of the key reasons why we have an outstanding ICC, tutoring services, computer centers and so much more at UC Davis.
My curiosity for fundraising grew, and I was fortunate to be selected for an internship with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations during my final year at UC Davis. Over the course of sixteen weeks, I have learned about every aspect of university development and fundraising, from front-line fundraising to strategically planning a transformational, university-wide fundraising campaign. I have learned that philanthropy is an incredible, beautiful thing that helps make UC Davis one of the best universities in the nation.
I am so grateful for my time here at UC Davis; it has been the greatest experience of my life.
I came to America to achieve my golfing dreams and found myself achieving even more, both on and off the course. Had I not received the scholarship from the start, I would have never realized my full potential as a courageous, passionate and holistic Aggie.