Golf and Stern

Being able to represent NYU on and off the golf course is a tremendous honor I am blessed to have. After playing this past fall and spring I’ve met a ton of people from all over the world, have wonderful teammates and a coach who would do anything for his players. However, it was not always smooth sailing. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Coming into NYU, I had very ambitious goals — maintain a 3.7 GPA the entire year, win some tournaments, join a sorority and some clubs while taking on all New York City has to offer. As the year went on, I realized those goals were far too ambitious and I had to lower my standards as each week passed by: my GPA is nowhere near a 3.7, I did not win a single tournament, didn’t get a bid from the sorority I wanted and stayed in way more nights than I went out. I didn’t understand what went wrong. Suddenly it felt like I was treading water in all my classes; no matter how much time I put into my schoolwork there was always more that had to be done. During the in-season, the traveling team would dedicate five full days to golf every week, spending around six hours a day driving to the course and practicing and playing tournaments. I had the hardest time handling this schedule even though I’ve been a student athlete my entire life, and felt like I was half-assing it in both areas since there was no time to focus all my energy on one area completely. During practice I would think of all the schoolwork that had to be done and during class I was thinking of my swing issues and what I had to pack for that weekend’s tournament. I slowly became lost in a world where everyone seemed to know exactly where they were going to work every single summer and after they graduate, whereas I was still figuring how to use the waffle maker in the then-Hayden Dining Hall.

Attending the Stern School of Business at NYU has a myriad of stereotypes and implications attached to it. The first thing I was told about it was that it is incredibly competitive and intense. The people here are only looking out for themselves and don’t ask for help because people will give you false information so they can get ahead of the curve. It was always consulting this, investment banking that, along with the ever-constant reminder that landing an internship is just as important as attending classes.

With these thoughts in mind, I was very wary of who to befriend and how much of myself I should show to other people. I didn’t want to be known as just another Stern robot, so I stayed away from the school as much as I could and never went inside the building unless I had class. I rarely ever attended events hosted by Stern and always bolted from the conversation whenever I heard Stern’s favorite word — networking. It got to the point where I was afraid of answering questions in class because people would think I was trying too hard and was too obnoxious. I found that I was slacking rather than pushing myself in classes because I didn’t want to look like a typical workaholic Stern student, and my grades took a toll because of these frivolous fears.

Looking back on my experience now I realize these stereotypes are based off just a handful of people and do not represent the school as a whole. I have never been turned down for help from any of my Stern classmates, and the competitiveness is only in the minds of those who want to be a part of it. While it is true that Stern can be intense and competitive, so are most schools at NYU. That’s just the reality of attending a respectable university. But what’s also the reality is that there are a ton of resources that can help anyone succeed, and I am so blessed to be able to have the opportunity to attend one of the finest universities in the greatest city in the world — and to be able to hit greens while learning how to make green.

Email Catherina Li at [email protected].