Life is full of surprises and unexpected twists. In this article, we present the journey of a young fencer who was born in Budapest, and eventually found herself in New York, one of the world’s most attractive cities. Although she tried herself in various sports, for Fanni Pótz Nagy, fencing was what captured her attention the most and became her passion. Join us as we delve into Fanni’s story and explore how one can be successful both in university studies and competitive sports.
Can you tell us a bit about where you were born and raised, and how you encountered the art of fencing?
I grew up in the capital of Hungary, Budapest. My parents exposed me to various sports from a young age. I played tennis for a year and practiced figure skating for five years, but none of them captured my heart as much as fencing did. My father suggested that I try fencing, thinking it might be interesting for me. At the age of 10, I joined the BVSC-Zugló fencing club through an acquaintance, and I have been practicing this beloved sport ever since.
What motivated you to move to America?
Honestly, I didn’t feel a strong desire to leave home, as I love living in Hungary. It wasn’t in my plans to continue my studies abroad; I was attached to my home. Over the years, my brother had the opportunity to travel to Florida for tennis. In my senior year of high school, I decided to try my luck in the United States as well. I applied for scholarships because the tuition fees are quite high. Based on my previous achievements, my goal was to receive a full scholarship to a Division 1 university. After applying to various universities, in March 2020, to my great joy, the head coach of St. John’s University in New York reached out to me, and we started talking. I was very excited because New York has some of the strongest fencing universities. During our conversations, it became clear to both of us that I would be a good fit for the team so he offered me a position with a full scholarship, which I couldn’t refuse. That is why in 2021, I moved to America and began my student-athlete career.
Which university are you attending, and what is your major?
I attend St. John’s University, Queens campus, and I am majoring in psychology. I really enjoy it; I find it to be an interesting subject.
What drew you to psychology?
I found psychology to be a fascinating science, particularly the study of human behavior and personality development. I believe it’s important to recognize the people around us, and I can see myself using this skill in the future.
How has becoming a member of the St. John’s University fencing team influenced your personal development?
I think becoming a member of the fencing team has made me much stronger and wiser. We have a large team of about 25 members, including both boys and girls. I can say that our fencing team is one of the most versatile out of all teams at the university. I have many international teammates, including Polish, Ukrainian, English, Brazilian, Italian, Israeli, Romanian, Tunisian, and more. Connecting with students from such diverse cultural backgrounds has opened my eyes, making me more understanding of people and more open-minded about the world. My leadership skills also developed as I became the team captain in my third year. Taking on this responsibility was a significant step, but I have never regretted it. I love being a team captain, encouraging the team and helping my teammates bring out their best in both practice and competitions. I’ve learned that unity is crucial. Despite fencing being an individual sport where you stand alone on the strip, we function as a “team,” and I compete not only for myself but for the team. I always try to emphasize the importance of collaboration.
What is your biggest challenge as a student-athlete?
My biggest challenge is meeting the expectations of both professors at university and coaches during training. A lot is expected from us, which is understandable since we receive a significant amount of scholarship, covering all expenses. We must perform well academically because that’s how they will renew our contracts. Our GPA cannot fall below 3.0 (out of 4.0), and personally, as a bit of a perfectionist, I always aim for the highest grades. However, this adds extra pressure.
When you moved to New York, how challenging was it to adapt to university life? Did you have anyone you could turn to?
For me, it was relatively easy to adapt; I found my way around if there were any problems. Making friends wasn’t difficult; my teammates were very welcoming from day one. I was glad they were helpful and immediately filled me in on things to avoid any surprises later on. At St. John’s specifically, I only knew alumni, but no current students. Fortunately, I knew 1-2 Hungarian friends attending universities in the New York area, and I could rely on them for advice.
Being a competitive athlete and excelling in studies simultaneously cannot be easy. How do you balance your academic and athletic commitments? Do you have a strategy that has proven effective over the years?
I am very conscious about studying. I don’t leave anything to the last minute because, for me, handling everything at once causes a lot of stress. I study a bit every day and complete various assignments. This way, I find studying easier. Although it’s not easy with so much training, the last thing I want to do after a long day is study.
Are there any specific habits or foods from Hungary that you have tried to maintain or incorporate into your life in America?
I can’t give examples of specific habits, but I try to stay in touch with my family and friends daily and weekly. Last year, we had the opportunity to meet several Hungarian student-athletes, and since then, we’ve been having small “Hungarian gatherings,” which I personally enjoy. Regarding food, I usually cook for myself because it’s healthier and cheaper. Occasionally, I make Hungarian recipes like túró rudi (a Hungarian dessert), chicken paprikash, but they take a lot of time, so I usually opt for simpler recipes.
Lastly, but not least, here are some rapid-fire questions:
Burger or Hungarian layered potatoes (Rakott krumpli)? Hungarian layered potatoes
Cheesecake or Somlói dumplings (Somlói galuska)? Somlói dumplings
Peanut butter and jelly or Pancakes? Pancakes
Chicken fried steak or Chicken Paprikash? Chicken Paprikash
Mac and cheese or Cottage cheese noodles (Túrós csusza)? Cottage cheese noodles
Chain Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge? Brooklyn Bridge
Lake Balaton vacation or Florida beach? Tough question, but I’d prefer Florida beach
Football (soccer) or American football? Soccer
The “My America” blog series introduces several successful Hungarian athletes in America, click here and get to know them too!