by Linda Hass, Published July 07, 2013
When international student Klara Supejova (Prague, Czech Republic) was offered an opportunity to play tennis on Eastern Michigan University's women's tennis team last spring, she jumped at the chance. "My parents raised me to be independent. This seemed like a wonderful opportunity to do that and experience a new culture," says Supejova, who signed a letter of intent for an athletic scholarship in April 2012.
The 20-year-old tennis ace arrived on campus last August and has spent the last year immersing herself in the Eagle experience. It was so rewarding, she's already looking forward to the next three years. "I didn't know what the first year would be like. Now that I do, I'm excited about playing tennis another three years and getting my bachelor's degree at Eastern."
Supejova also applied to universities in Prague and was contacted by the University of Minnesota because of her athletic prowess. But after considering the options, the sport management major decided on EMU.
"Eastern has the best educational and athletic opportunities and many international students. That's a good combination. For the most part, I've had no problems adjusting to life in America," she says, adding that Americans have impressed her as being "nice" and very "friendly."
Still, living 4,400 miles away from home for the first time was not without a few challenges. "Air conditioning was everywhere," she says. "It was new for me, but I've learned to get used to it." Food was another hurdle, she says, adding that she is still getting used to American cuisine-except for cheesecake. "I like that a lot!"
Thanksgiving provided another positive culinary experience, she says, adding that she celebrated the holiday for the first time at a friend's family last year. "I enjoyed the food and friendly atmosphere, but the best part for me was when they served dessert on the same kind of plates used by my grandparents," she says, adding the distinctive black metallic plates had red flowers painted on them. "It brought back a lot of nice memories from childhood. I felt like I was home for a moment."
Not only has Supejova found a way to cope with the challenges of living in a strange new environment, she has thrived both on and off the court, says Head Women's Tennis Coach Ryan Ray. Supejova was named Mid-American Conference (MAC) women's tennis Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, finishing the 2012-13 season at No. 1 singles with a 26-9 overall record (6-2 in MAC play) and a 21-13 overall record at No. 1 doubles (7-1 MAC). Supejova is one of only two Eagles in league history to collect both awards in the same season.
"Off court, Klara has a relaxed, care-free demeanor and a great sense of humor that she's started to show as she feels more comfortable here," Ray says. On court, Supejova has proven to be a great competitor who has won fans in the stands, Ray adds. "Klara is a very hard working individual who has made a very positive impact in only one academic year of attendance. She is well-liked both on and off the court."