Since the age of four, horse riding has been a part of my life.
It’s taken me all over the world and even gave me an opportunity to live out my dream as a student-athlete at SMU.
One of the many things I love about being an athlete here is that you’re far more than just an athlete.
We are members of the community — a community that has opened doors I never even knew existed.
As a pre-med student, one of those doors led to a program called International Medical Aid.
The program essentially invites you to travel to Kenya or Peru to help out at local clinics, do some community outreach, and just broaden your expertise in a brand-new and different environment.
I always wanted to do work abroad, so I jumped at the opportunity and signed up for the trip to Kenya in Africa.
Little did I know that those two and a half weeks would change my life forever.
Truth be told, when I entered the Coast General Hospital in Mombasa for the first time, I was shocked.
The working conditions were unfathomable.
There were malaria patients everywhere, beds with no sheets, rooms with no air conditioning, and limited medical resources and professionals to give everyone the care they needed.
It was mind-blowing. And a reminder of how blessed we are here in the United States.
There was a man, for example, who died right in front of my eyes. He had a heart attack, but because the hospital was so underfunded, it didn’t have any defibrillators.
Like, it was insane.
It was just so sad and heartbreaking, you know?
But despite these harsh and literally devastating memories, I experienced some of the most fulfilling moments of my life at the women’s health outreach clinic in Kenya.
We would meet with teenage girls and teach them about everything that pertains to women’s health. We would bring in supplies, educate them, and answer any questions they had.
It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.
I’m only a couple of years older than them, and just seeing how grateful they were to have us come and talk to them, help them out, and listen to their stories about their daily lives was incredible.
I found these women to be very inspiring.
There was one young woman, in particular, who shared her entire life story with me.
Just some of the stuff she has to go through every day.
Like, what she has to do to get drinking water, for example, you know?
But despite the challenges she faces every single day, not a single one of the girls had any complaints.
She was just determined to better her life and work with what she was given.
As we were talking, I also realized that she had never seen a horse before. So, I showed her some photos of the horses here at SMU.
And it completely moved her.
She was full of joy and just grateful that I shared this moment with her.
She started crying. And then I started crying.
It was such a wholesome moment. We live these vastly different lives, yet, we got to bond and connect over something so simple.
It’s a moment I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
Returning from this program, I can’t help but be thankful for SMU making it possible.
Choosing SMU for my college education was undoubtedly the best decision of my life.
I’ve always had a close connection to Dallas as my mom’s family is from here. So, growing up, I spent a lot of time here.
But when it was time to pick a school, SMU, and the team, simply checked all of the boxes.
It’s really such a special place.
Whether it’s bonding with a young African lady over horses or winning a national title with my teammates — SMU has already given me a lifetime’s worth of memories.
But now, it’s time to return to work.