Women's Tennis |
Feb. 12, 2012
By Shawn Sell
The first time Kristina Georgieva saw the University of Cincinnati was late December 2011. No recruiting trip, no visit to campus to check things out, just show up and get ready to start winter quarter of her freshman year. If the story sounds a little unusual for a Division I student-athlete, it is. Unless you consider Georgieva is not your typical student-athlete, but instead is one that is over 5,000 miles from home.
Georgieva grew up in the city of Varna, Bulgaria, a tourist town on the coast of the Black Sea. The third-largest city in the country, Varna is much like the Midwest of the United States from a weather standpoint and because of its proximity to the Black Sea; it's a haven for tourists during the summer months. It is also the setting for the beginning of Georgieva's tennis career which began at an early age.
"I started to play tennis when I was seven," she says. "My father encouraged me to play tennis and I really liked it and I have never stopped playing. It was my life; I spent like four hours a day on the court. I enjoyed practices and traveling all over Europe for competitions."
As a youngster, Georgieva got a taste of high-level tennis, both in her native Bulgaria and in countries across Europe. The list of countries she has visited and competed in is impressive and includes Germany, Italy, Spain, Macedonia, Romania and Greece. While not competing or practicing for future tournaments, Georgieva took the time to hone her English skills, not because she thought of leaving her homeland, but instead to make communication across Europe easier.
"I had English at school, but two years ago, I started taking some extra lessons outside of school with a teacher," she recounts. "I never thought I would come to the United States; I just wanted to study English because of traveling in Europe. When I was in Europe, I couldn't speak all the languages. So my parents and I decided to take some extra lessons."
It looked like those English lessons would begin to pay off in November 2010, when Georgieva decided that she would like to pursue a tennis scholarship at a university in the United States. With the power of the internet, Georgieva was able to communicate with coaches in the US; including UC head coach Angela Wilson
who was impressed with the Bulgarian's play on video. Without ever stepping foot onto United States soil, Georgieva decided to take a chance, accepting Wilson's scholarship offer and arriving in Cincinnati on Dec. 27, 2011.
"This was my first visit to the US as a whole," Georgieva says. "I was advised by people in America that Cincinnati was a very nice city. UC was also recommended to me by a Bulgarian coach."
Because of missing the fall quarter, Georgieva had to hit the ground running, not only academically, but on the tennis court as well. While she says she is starting to get adjusted, Georgieva admits her first month in a new country has definitely taken some getting used to on matters both big and small.
"Everything is different here, even the small things," she explains. "Here you work with meters, in Europe its kilometers, here it is Fahrenheit, in Europe it's Celsius. The people here are a little different too, but I am getting used to it. I like the school, I like my schedule. I am full with a lot of work with practice and classes and homework and now we are in season so we travel a lot also."
Including Georgieva, the Bearcats opened the 2012 season with just six healthy players, leaving head coach Wilson and her team with little room for error. Georgieva has been thrown right into the fire, playing No. 2 singles for the Bearcats in six of the first seven matches of the year. Even as a college rookie, Georgieva knows expectations are high.
"I play second line for my team which is very high and my coach expects a lot of me," she says. "I hope to contribute to the success of the team."
In the meantime, Georgieva will continue to make the adjustment to life as a college student in the United States, including improving her English and working through the barriers of language she is fighting.
"People here say my accent is cute," she says with a laugh. "I find it hard to explain things sometimes. I want to say things that are more complicated, but the language barrier is still a problem for me. I have to get better but it's only been a month so that's normal."