Joanna Wycech: Swimming to Success
Hartford, Conn. – Stare Babice, Poland is home to sophomore swimmer Joanna Wycech, but for the past few years Wycech has been taking advantage of the athletic and academic opportunities that American schools have to offer.
After the first six years of schooling, Wycech says that students in Poland go to Gymnasium, a secondary school where they are required to partake in a sport. Wycech's decision to swim was made easy, as she was already the Junior Polish Champion in the breaststroke.
According to Wycech, swimming is a competitive sport in her native country but not as competitive as in the United States due to its smaller size. Seeking greater academic opportunity, Wycech came to America when she was 15 and enrolled in the Peddie School in New Jersey.
She says, "I went to the Peddie School because I have family in New Jersey and it has one of the best swimming programs in the nation for high school. As a team we won three conference championships while I was there."
Trinity Head Swimming and Diving Coach Kristen Noone agrees saying, "Peddie has a very competitive swimming program and Joanna brings that intensity to the Trinity program as well. She pushes herself every minute of every practice."
Wycech knew that she wanted to continue swimming in college and earned high praise from Coach Noone after emerging as the team's top breaststroker in her rookie season. Wycech is proud to have already improved so much throughout her first season at Trinity, which both she and Coach Noone agree is doubly impressive considering her established suceesses at both Peddie School and across the pond.
Wycech says, "I swam on a relay that broke the school record last year. It is really encouraging to see your name on that board and know that you have contributed to the team."
Coach Noone added, "She is kind of the whole package as a competitor, an intense, serious athlete who, from a personality standpoint, also knows how to relax and enjoy her college years. She also understands the team aspect of things, and wants the best not just for herself but for her teammates as well."
Swimming and being part of the team has positively affected Wycech's experience as an international student at Trinity. She says, "The team has had a huge impact on my life here. I consider the people on the team to be my family, my closest friends and I can go to them for anything. Swimming is a way to release stress, and just relax and escape from thinking about school for a while. After I swim all the stress goes away and I can start anew, refocus."
An escape from academic stresses is especially helpful for a student-athlete like Wycech considering she is one of the few female engineering majors at Trinity. Wycech reflects on how college would have been different had she stayed in Poland saying, "I stayed for the education in America because it is much more valuable than the education I would get back home." Wycech started looking into engineering her sophomore year at Peddie. She remembers that it was interesting to her to think about how bridges are built and so she considered civil engineering. She has now switched gears and is studying biomedical engineering.
She says, "There are eight female engineering majors in my class, which is one of the biggest. It is a big step and it is really cool to see because the professors are excited about seeing more girls study engineering and the guys don't treat us any differently. We are all competitive," she adds, "I think it is important for women to want to study engineering."
Being only a sophomore, Wycech has big plans for the next three years at Trinity. According to Coach Noone, "She is very involved on campus. She was a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) representative for swimming, she helped out at a Boys and Girls Club open-swim event, and she taught swimming lessons for the children of Trinity faculty and staff." Wycech says that she would like to become even more involved on campus and in the community through the Trinity College Without Borders Program and the Society of Women Engineers, helping to inspire more women to study engineering.
As for swimming, Wycech hopes to improve her personal-best scores again and to continue to develop in all of her events. She says, "My main goal for this season is focused on the team, helping to achieve the team goals and making everyone feel as if they have accomplished what they were going for."
Coach Noone adds, "I am fully confident that she will continue to improve and continue to develop as a leader," she adds, "She is a joy to coach."
Looking ahead, Wycech has considered staying in the States for graduate school before possibly returning to Europe to work in a clinical setting as a neural engineer. She says, "I have realized there is so much more that I can do than I thought I could and that so many more opportunities are open to me."
Reflecting on her experience as an international student-athlete Wycech says, "My teammates do have some fun with my accent but I am comfortable here and I know that they are my friends. I have definitely found my home away from home at Trinity."
written by Kristen Ramsay'12