On November 30, in Jinjiang, China, Gabrielle Emilien and her Gee-Gees teammates made history by winning the first ever FISU Women’s University World Cup of Football. A moment that will remain forever etched in the memory of the young goalkeeper. Upon returning from China, Faculty of Education Dean Richard Barwell met with her to offer congratulations and to hear about her experiences as a student-athlete.
Gabrielle Emilien won a Canadian championship in 2018 and now a University World cup. Beyond soccer, the Master's student at the Faculty of Education also dreams of passing on her knowledge and becoming a teacher. In this interview, she agreed to share her thoughts on soccer, university life and her career aspirations:
What has changed in your life since the conquest of the University World Cup?
After having realized such an amazing feat China, I believe the biggest noticeable change in our lives is the support we have received from family, friends, colleagues, peers and the media, which started with a wonderful welcome home in Ottawa Airport. It was heartwarming to be greeted by such a proud and supportive Gee-Gee community, after having been away from home for so long. As always, we hope that through our accomplishments, we can become role models for the next generation of young female athletes.
After the victory in China, it’s the return to the reality of a student-athlete's life with final exams. How did this triumph help you get through the exam period?
Once we returned to Ottawa, we had to get back to business in school to prepare for final exams. Many of my teammates had an exam to write within two or three days of our return home. While it is a challenge, the team works together to motivate each other in school. Being in a positive and winning team environment, we try to bring that positivity to our studies. Our goal as student-athletes is to do well in both aspects of our university experience, and we are proud to be a team that does just as well on and off the field.
What is the key to having success in the classroom and on the field? Do you have any good advice to share?
The most important challenge of being a student-athlete is to effectively manage your time and connect with the community that can support you. Many don’t realize that student-athletes, all while keeping up with their studies, often train every day of the week and travel to compete against other university teams on weekends, leaving little time for much else. It is important to reach out to professors and staff to ensure they understand this unique situation. In terms of time management, student-athletes must be able to work around their sport's schedule, while still prioritizing school. Determining when you study best, getting work done before trainings, not leaving school work to be done on busy weekends, using a calendar, and preparing in advance are all, I believe, effective tips for a student-athlete.
You are doing a Master's degree in Education. Why did you choose this field of study?
I have always pictured myself becoming an educator. I completed my Bachelor's in Education at Howard University (in Washington, D.C.) and decided to return home to Canada and continue studying in this field. My concentration at Howard was in elementary education, the level at which I would like to teach. Here, at uOttawa, I was able to explore teaching students with learning differences - another interest of mine. My goal is to work in a special education setting at the elementary school level.
The University of Ottawa offers an online Master of Education (MEd) program that is gaining in popularity among students. How does this online program allow you to combine soccer and school?
Fortunately, I have been able to take all my courses online during my time in the Master of Education program at the University of Ottawa. This allowed me to focus on soccer when needed and adapt my school schedule as I saw fit. I learned what it meant to be a student-athlete in full-time courses at Howard University, and it is a very challenging schedule to maintain. The flexibility of the uOttawa program allowed me to take courses when needed to remain a full-time student and eligible to play as an athlete. I have never felt torn between a school requirement and a soccer one - I have never missed a practice, a game or an exam due to a scheduling conflict. This program definitely made it possible to succeed in school all while putting the necessary amount of focus and time into my sport.
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