A postcard from a Meriden Old Girl

3 September 2020

Meriden alumna, Ellen Shanahan, completed her HSC in 2019 and is currently undertaking an academic degree while playing in the competitive world of NCAA women’s tennis at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this Q and A, Ellen shares with us a little about this next chapter of her life in the USA.

Tell us about your journey to the US and the time you have spent there so far.

I arrived in the US on 10 August to begin orientation activities at Duquesne University, which are held for international students and for the incoming class of 2024. These activities were modified due to COVID. I also settled into my dorm room and got to know my roommate who comes from Madrid, Spain, and is also a freshman on the tennis team. Following these orientation events, I started attending classes for my undeclared business major and commenced training at the university gym. Duquesne has such a nice campus feel I enjoy living on campus in the dorms. I didn’t know what to expect of the dorms or campus life but now I am so happy to live here.

What is your favourite thing to do on campus?

So far, my favourite thing to do is walk across the A-Walk. The A-Walk is a part of the university that leads to the central classrooms and passes the football field, which is particularly nice at sunset. I also love using to the amazing gym facilities, which include three levels of equipment for use by all students across the university.

What has your experience of living in “COVID times” in the US been like? How has life been impacted at your university?

The university experience has definitely been impacted. However, Duquesne University has put in place excellent measures to ensure the safety of staff and students, with the compulsory use of face masks and classes taking on a hybrid format, which means we attend a mixture of both face-to-face and online classes. Despite the adaptations, I have had such a positive experience meeting new people, particularly members of my tennis team.

What lessons did you take from your Meriden education that have supported you in your new life in the US?

I feel that Meriden prepared me for the future I dreamed of and supported me to reach my goal of studying and playing tennis in the US. In particular, I feel my teachers equipped me with good study habits and the Meriden Tennis Academy provided lots of opportunities to experience competitive tennis throughout high school. Particularly in Year 12, the School helped me to balance my interests so I could showcase the best of both my studies and my tennis. Meriden taught me to be courageous and determined and instilled in me the importance of reaching for every opportunity. I am so grateful for the support I received from Coach Ross Anton and the Meriden Tennis staff and also for the support of Mr Ryan Richards, who helped me navigate pathways to the US college system.

How often do you train?

At the moment, due to COVID, training has been reduced. However, from 4 September, I will be training for twenty hours per week and that includes weight training, conditioning and tennis training. Unfortunately, the upcoming fall season of NCAA Tennis will not include as many matches as previous seasons but my coach is organising various practice matches and competitions that will help the team gain enough experience in preparation for the spring season. 

What have you learned so far about your new tennis family?

I have learned that the Duquesne Tennis Team is a close-knit squad that works together to push each player to perform to the best of their ability. I am grateful for the guidance I received from upperclassmen upon arrival at the university and I am also grateful for the friendship of my roommate, who is undergoing a similar journey to my own move across the world.

What are your aspirations for the future?

Upon arrival in the US, my goals became clear to me. In particular, I have come to realise my passion for working in an industry that involves health and fitness through nutrition and physical training. I also want to continue playing tennis and hope to travel while doing so, particularly by playing higher-level tournaments throughout my college experience which I hope will open doors to professional tournaments.

The Meriden community can continue to follow Ellen’s college tennis journey here.