Hi everyone! For those of you that don't know me yet, my name is Jen Yamin and I'm from Allendale, New Jersey. I'm a sophomore on the women's fencing team and I've been fencing since I was 11 years old. I decided to come to Northwestern because of its strong academics, supportive athletic community, the proximity to Chicago, and of course, the people here. With all of that in mind, I proudly present the first entry to the new fencing blog, Behind the Mask:
Writing to you from my bed after a casual 17-hour power nap, I have returned from Jeju Island, South Korea where my teammates and I participated in the Korea-USA Elite Fencing Invitational (KUEFI).
Five fencers from universities across the United States were chosen to compete in the individual competition. From Northwestern, Cara Franke, Mikela Goldstein, Courtney Dumas, and myself traveled abroad to participate in such an exciting event. Unfortunately, our teammate Dina Bazarbayeva suffered an injury before the competition and was unable to travel. There were also fencers from Princeton, Brown, Stanford, Notre Dame, Columbia, and many more schools.
Overall, the 'Cats performed pretty well considering the summer is our offseason. Fencing the Koreans was a tough, yet rewarding experience. Although their clean, precise styles were difficult to fence against, we still got the opportunity to test out different strategies at the highest level. Our best finish came from Courtney, who finished third in the women's epée event. Way to go, Court!
Jeju is a beautiful, tropical island that has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. After the competition was over, the competitors took advantage of the free-time to explore downtown Jeju. The streets were filled with so many shops, cafés, and restaurants that it was impossible to make it one block without stopping. The language barrier was sometimes an issue, and at one restaurant it led to a game of charades. One thing I did learn was that ordering chicken wings with hand gestures is a lot harder than you think.
In addition to exploring downtown, we had the opportunity to hike on "Cultural Experience Day," arranged by the Korean organizers of the invitational. The sights were beautiful and the water was a perfect blue. After hiking in the sweltering heat, we took a taxi to Hyeopjae Beach and stampeded like wildebeests ran straight into the water.
The organizers of the competition also held an "Education Through Athletics" Seminar, where the US coaches discussed balancing sports and academics. I was shocked to hear that in Korea, it is considered impossible for athletes to be academically strong students. In Korea, you are considered either a student or an athlete, but never a "student-athlete." One goal of the KUEFI event was to promote the "student-athlete model" and show the advantages of balancing the two. I think that after this seminar, the Korean students and teachers have a clearer understanding of the American collegiate athletic life. I wish the Korea International School students the best of luck as they continue on with their studies and sports!
My trip to Korea was a culturally enriching and exciting trip. However, it feels great to be back in my own bed. I can't wait to be back on campus, and as always, Go 'Cats!
- Jen Yamin