As a student at Marcellus High School near Syracuse, New York, Eimile O’Brien knew she wanted to play Division III volleyball in college. She was approached by both public and private schools and she visited a few. However, as soon as she stepped onto the Buffalo State campus, the choice was clear.
“I fell in love with the campus, the city of Buffalo, just everything about it,” said O’Brien, an economics and finance major who is in her junior year. “And tuition-wise, it’s definitely the best bang for your buck.”
She said she struggled academically in high school and was a little nervous about living away from home. She quickly acclimated to the college environment and has thrived.
“The volleyball team is my family here,” she said. “Each of the girls is just amazing. I’ve never met a group of people who gets along so well. Twelve instant friends—who wouldn’t want that?”
It’s a young team. When O’Brien started, there were 10 freshmen. They helped each other adjust to living in the dorms and excelling in the classroom as well as on the court.
“During the season, my GPA is probably five points higher,” O’Brien said. “Playing on the team creates a conducive environment for time management. We have mandatory study hours.”
Originally a business major, O’Brien switched to economics and finance at the end of her first year.
“I took Principle of Micro Economics and fell in love. The theory behind economics, the numbers, I really enjoyed all of that,” said O’Brien, who hopes to work as a financial adviser in the future.
Her grades reflect her passion for the subject; she currently has a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) in her major and a 3.85 overall. Developing better study skills and playing an organized sport helped boost her grades from where they were in high school.
“We say ‘student-athlete’ in that order for a reason. You go to college to get a degree and to educate yourself,” she said. “But the skills I’ve learned on the court transfer to the classroom. You go into a class and the professor assigns a group project. It’s the same teambuilding skills—knowing how to talk to people and get things done while also being respectful.”
In just two years, O’Brien has gained confidence from playing sports and serving in leadership positions, including on the executive board of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).
“I attend the athletic budget meetings as the voice of the student-athletes,” she said. “I think it’s important for our voice to be heard. Having the ability to be that person is awesome.”
Recently, she was offered a position as a SAAC representative for the whole SUNY system.
In addition, she’s gotten involved in a campus organization called Love Your Mellon, which sells beanies to benefit children with cancer. Once a year, the group invites one child in remission to campus for Superhero Day.
“Last year, we invited a 4-year-old girl and her sister. We played soccer, basketball, and other games and had cupcakes,” she said. “I think I will remember it for the rest of my life, just seeing the smile we put on her and her sister’s faces.”
One maxim O’Brien has heard repeatedly at Buffalo State is “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
She said she considers it every morning when she wakes up.
“If I can get comfortable with being uncomfortable, then I can do anything I want,” she said. “That is what Buffalo State has taught me—through the opportunities I’ve had, through the people I’ve met and the friends I’ve made.”
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