Athletics at AU: Julita Kurdziuk '17

Julita Kurdziuk is a graduating senior on American University's volleyball team. She is majoring in Business Administration with specializations in Finance and Accounting. Her Campus American had the opportunity to ask Julita about her experience with volleyball and her time here at AU.

Her Campus American University: When did you start playing volleyball and was playing college volleyball always a goal of yours?

Julita Kurdziuk: I started playing volleyball when I was 10. I remember that during my English class, the man (who ended up being my first coach) came in and asked few tall girls to talk with him for a moment outside the classroom. He asked us if we would like to start playing volleyball because he has practices twice a week and he would like us to join the team. I agreed, and that is how it started. No, playing college volleyball had never came across my mind since I am from Poland, and I did not even dream about being in US anytime in the future. It just happened and I think it was the best thing so far. 

HC AU: How did you make the decision to play volleyball in the United States instead of staying in Poland?  What role did Coach Goldberg play in this decision, if any?

JK: The problem we have in Europe is that it is difficult to get a good education while playing sports at the highest level. Our college volleyball is not popular, and everyone plays club instead. Therefore, it is difficult to connect classes with practices, studying, travelling, and being an athlete. I remember that after I graduated from high school I had a difficult decision to make: to play volleyball at a higher level or play on a weaker team but pursue a good degree. I figured out that I wanted both of these, and this is when I reminded myself of my old friend who was that time at Syracuse University. I talked to her about her experience in the United States and I finally ended up talking with Coach Goldberg about playing for AU. Coach was very friendly, open, and welcoming. He promised my parents that he would take care of me, which is why my parents did not hesitate and let me make my own decision. And here I am.

HC AU: What position do you play on the team at AU? What positions have you played in the past?

JK: I am the right side player, basically the person who is supposed to block, hit, and be a "big human" on the court. I played right side from very beginning. In the past coaches were trying to make me the middle blocker, but as a left-handed person it just could not happen. When you are left-handed you cannot run the offense like right-handed players can. Therefore, we are usually "thrown" on the right side. Many lefties also become setters. Sometimes I wish I was more flexible with my position on the court. 

HC AU: As a graduating senior, can you tell us your favorite memory from playing Division 1 volleyball?

JK: My favorite memory...there are so many of them. The biggest one was my freshman year when we qualified for sweet 16. I remember when we went to Nebraska and we were playing against Texas, the gym was so big, there were so many people, so many emotions. I was really excited and impressed. Another favorite experience is when we won against Duke, the game that made us qualify for sweet 16, and we were all dancing on the bus afterwards. There was so much happiness in everyone... However, in addition to that memory, I will always remember our bus rides, our pre-game motivational speeches, and our countless hours on the court. I will miss every single moment I had with the team.

HC AU: How has being an athlete impacted your college experience? 

JK: It made me more focused on things I want to achieve. I realized that I have so many things from life that I should be grateful for, therefore I should work hard and use every single opportunity. I got to travel a lot, see cool places, and do things I love: play volleyball and make great friendships with my teammates. I would summarize it as hard work with rewards.  

HC AU: Are there any professional volleyball players you look up to or admire? Why?

JK: I actually always admired the polish volleyball player Joanna Kaczor. She was also in the U.S., studying and playing college, then she returned to Poland and started playing professionally. She was the right side player for our national team. I even changed my jersey number to #17 when I was in Poland because it was the number Joanna Kaczor was wearing in our national team. Here I ended up playing with #18.

HC AU: What are your plans for after graduation? Do you plan on still playing volleyball and staying in the United States?

JK: I am not sure what I will end up doing after my graduation. For now I can say that I plan on staying in U.S., playing volleyball for one more year, and pursuing my MS degree. However, anything can happen. I am open to everything. 

HC AU:What will you miss most about playing for AU?

JK: To me life is about people I meet. Therefore, I will miss the people I met here. I will miss great coaches I got to work with, the always supportive Athletic Department staff, and my friends within the team. I will miss everything from travelling, to studying on the bus and playing games, but mostly wearing my AU jersey. 

HC AU:  Is there anything else you want us to know or any advice you would give to new college athletes?

JK: I want to tell to new college athletes to be happy. Simply be happy. Enjoy what you do, and appreciate what you have. Stay humble, work hard and you will see great rewards because time flies and you do not want to wake up as senior wishing that you could have done something differently. 

Photo Credit belongs to Julita Kurdiuk.