The 2017 Senior Perspectives is the 12th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
Nina Fairbairn, Women's Golf
Hometown: Orinda, Calif.
House Affiliation: Pforzheimer
Entering college, everyone tells you these four years will be some of the best in your life. And how could they not be — we are so fortunate to be surrounded by an incredibly engaging peer group, some of whom will become our life-long friends, and to have access to world-class professors who push our intellectual boundaries. What many people do not tell you when they share their own highlights of their college experiences is how much you grow as a person during this time. I have always been drawn to golf because it forces me to be honest with myself. Through my experience as a student-athlete, and with the help of my coaches and teammates, golf has become an integral part of who I am and who I will become.
To get to Harvard, many of us have been laser focused on school and our extracurriculars. We become accustomed to sacrificing social events, skimping on sleep, and pushing ourselves to the edge of our mental breaking point to achieve the incredible things we do. So much so, that when we get here, we fall into this habit and often fail to appreciate the dream we are living in that present moment.
Especially as an athlete, sacrifice is an expectation. When I share the details of my week with non-athletic friends, such as the 6:30 a.m. practices and red-eye flights back from tournaments, they give a look of disbelief often accompanied by a “I don’t know how you do it”. Because we are not bound by contract as athletes in the Ivy League, each time we step out on the course, we are there because we choose to. Unlike some activities at Harvard, many of which students do mainly to pad their resume, there is no “next step” for many Harvard athletes. We aren’t using our athletic career as a stepping stone, but rather treating it as an end in itself. In a place where people move so fast and are chasing the next, shinier trophy, it seems to be an odd concept to do something purely for the love of it.
From the outside perspective, it is easy to see what we have to give up to be a successful student athlete at Harvard. However, what we have been given in return is so much more. Through Harvard golf, we’ve been able to play some of the most beautiful and challenging courses in the world, travel to South Africa, and channel our competitive energy to win multiple Ivy championships. More importantly, our coaches and teammates have created an environment for us to become the best versions of ourselves — as competitors, students, and teammates. They’ve been a mirror, especially in the times I needed it most.
It is rare to find a program, or people, that encourage you to constantly strive and that will be there when you triumph and fail. I am fortunate to have this support system through my family, friends, teammates and coaches. As graduation nears and I am immersed in self-reflection, I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend four years than as a student-athlete.