This blog was written by former UGA Gymdog, Noel Couch. Noel graduated in 2014 with degrees in both Digital & Broadcast Journalism and International Relations & Affairs. She then went on to graduate from the University of Georgia’s School of Law in May 2018.
At the University of Georgia student-athletes are trained to be champions – in the competition arena and in life. At Georgia, academics and athletics are interdependent. Student-athletes are taught values and lessons that enable them to be the best versions of themselves in all that they do. The culture of excellence is pervasive. I arrived at the University of Georgia in 2009 as a novice, subservient freshman on the gymnastics team. I graduated as a leader and a champion in life.
My career as a Gymdog was the best time of my life. I was not sure how anything could ever top the success I experienced, the individuals I worked alongside, and the thrill of competing at the highest level. That was until I graduated and began to see all my hard-work and dedication over the years pay off in ways I could only imagine.
In 2013, I was accepted to the University of Georgia School of Law. It was one of the best days of my life and the start of the next exciting chapter. I found myself once again as a “freshman” with an unrefined vision of what the next three years would entail; however, I was confident that the values instilled in me as a student-athlete would guide me successfully in the direction of my goals.
Law school was demanding, but I embraced each challenge and took the initiative to experience new opportunities, including the Semester in D.C. Program. I spent my 2L spring semester on Capitol Hill where I worked and took classes to earn credits. I split my time working for the UGA Federal Relations Department and the U.S. Senate HELP Committee, landing each job through connections with fellow UGA grads. Some of my most memorable days were attending the President’s inauguration and attending a meeting where I sat beside Georgia Senator David Perdue and UGA President Jere Morehead. It was enlightening to experience politics and the law at work, in contrast to reading about it in a textbook.
I know firsthand that student-athletes’ schedules leave them with little free time, but I would highly recommend taking part in experiential learning while at UGA. Georgia student-athletes have a vast network of connections they can tap into to find an internship or even create their own position. Georgia alum are often more than happy to help one of their own!
I graduated with honors in 2018 and my career at the University of Georgia had come full circle. I walked across the stage to accept my diploma in Stegeman Coliseum, the same arena where years before I had flipped across the floor as a Gymdog. The conclusion of a student-athlete’s career is not an end game, but rather a new chapter with endless possibilities. For student-athletes whose lives have revolved around structure and schedule, this can be an intimidating concept. I encourage these graduates to embrace the challenge by simply “taking initiative” – take initiative to network with alumni, to inquire about career options, to complete an internship, to accept a unique job. It does not have to be perfect, but each new experience is like a day of practice – like putting money in the bank that they can cash in on later on in their careers. No matter what initiative they choose, I encourage them to represent that “G” proudly in all their endeavors!