Balancing University Life and Volleyball Sports Career

Below is a story about a young female athlete who was born and raised in Budapest and later pursued her studies and volleyball career in the United States. Kata’s journey gives us a glimpse of how a Hungarian girl adapted to a new environment and lifestyle, and how she managed to balance university studies and sports. We’ll explore the differences between American and Hungarian volleyball and learn how Kata tackled her challenges. 

First, let’s hear a bit about where you grew up and how you got into the world of volleyball

I was born in Budapest and lived in Pest all my life. Coming from a family of volleyball enthusiasts, I practically grew up in this volleyball circle. Even as a tiny child, my mom took me to volleyball tournaments, where I fell in love with the sport at first sight. Whenever she had some spare time between matches, she would teach me. Around the age of six or seven, I insisted on going to regular practices, so she took me to a club in Pest. I was about eight or nine when I realized I wanted to take it more seriously and signed up with a bigger club, Vasas. I spent six years there, working with numerous great coaches and improving significantly. Later, I ventured into beach volleyball for a year, competing in Mevzáks (Middle European Volleyball Zonal Association) as part of the national team, then returned to BVSC (Budapesti Vasutas Sport Club). I had the opportunity to showcase my skills in the Hungarian Cup, NB2, and U19 categories. After spending three months with the Kispest team, I joined the UTE team, where I played for two full seasons, achieving many notable successes, such as second place in U21 and a successful performance in NB1. In my heart, I’ll always remain a bit of an Újpest supporter. 


When and why did you decide to move to the United States? 

Since I was very young, it had been my dream to go to America. A recruiting agency approached me in ninth grade, but at that time, it wasn’t clear to me that I wanted to go there for volleyball. Two years later, I found Easygotousa, who guided me through the entire process, from visa arrangements to exams, to find the right university. I decided to move because, besides the high level of education and numerous job opportunities, I could also maintain my volleyball career without having to give it up. 


Which university are you attending, and what are you studying? What criteria did you consider when choosing the university? 

I’m currently attending Southern New Hampshire University, majoring in Sport Management. It was important for me to attend a diverse university with an active community, excellent business education, and a strong volleyball team. 


What was the transition like from your home life to American campus life? 

At first, it was very easy; we did everything together as a team, participated in many activities, and spent time together every day. Additionally, we had many memorable moments during the season, and I met many new people. Of course, there were tougher times, but these moments make us stronger. 


What helped you get through the tougher times? 

In addition to my teammates and foreign friends, I’m very fortunate to have supportive friends and family back home. During difficult times, dormitory supervisors, professors, and coaches are very helpful. There are truly many resources available, depending on the difficulties one faces. 


How do you manage your schedule between university studies and volleyball practices/competitions? 

Currently, we’re in the off-season, which is the preparation period for the competition season. During this time, we had more time for studying, so that wasn’t a problem. But during the season, it’s much tougher; we have several matches per week, five practices, conditioning, classes, but after the first semester, I managed to get into a rhythm regarding time management. 


What does the off-season look like in volleyball for you?

During the first part of the off-season, we have fewer volleyball sessions and more conditioning. Our week consists of two volleyball practices and four strength training sessions. We focus more on improving strength and agility, and we also have more opportunities for individual training. From March onwards, we switch to four practices per week, as our basketball team also has its off-season, giving us more time to train with them in the gym. But besides volleyball, we also have more time for friends and to explore Manchester and surrounding cities like Boston. Additionally, I had the opportunity to make an official visit to another university in Arkansas, so I got to visit more places within the United States. I also work 20 hours a week at the university’s sports marketing department, so I try to maximize my days. And of course, studying is an integral part of university life. This semester, it mainly consists of assignments and quizzes, but it’s relatively manageable. 


How different are American collegiate volleyball and Hungarian volleyball practices and mentalities? Or are they different at all? 

There are many differences. Overall, American volleyball involves much longer rallies, both physically and mentally demanding, but you get used to it over time. At my current team, we play with much higher balls compared to Hungary, which was challenging to adapt to at first, but it was just a matter of time. In terms of training structure, there are far more complex team drills in American volleyball, which help prepare us and enhance team chemistry for matches. As for the mental aspect, it’s emphasized much more in America than in Hungary. Besides, coaches are very open to personal conversations, and we even have the opportunity to request three mental health days from our coach. Before every practice, we have a check-in where we leave the outside world behind, and for three seconds, we think about something we’re grateful for that day. Personally, these practices helped me adjust to the American mentality. 


Finally, a few rapid-fire questions: 

Burger or Hungarian Layered Potatoes? Definitely Hungarian Layered Potatoes 

Cheesecake or Somlói galuska? Cheesecake, but in a gluten-free version 

Peanut Butter and Jelly or Pancakes? Pancakes 

Chicken Fried Steak or Chicken Paprikash? Chicken Paprikash 

Mac and Cheese or Túrós csusza? Túrós csusza 

Chain Bridge or Brooklyn Bridge? Brooklyn Bridge 

Vacation by Lake Balaton or Florida sandy beaches? A bit of both, but perhaps Florida sandy beaches, as I haven’t been there yet 

Soccer or American football? Definitely soccer 


The “My America” blog series introduces several successful Hungarian athletes in America, click here and get to know them too!

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Daytona Beach, FL 32114

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