Last fall, senior Rachel Holm decided on “Chile today, pool tomorrow,” foregoing part of her final swim season to study abroad.
Few people have the talent and discipline to be in peak physical condition and compete among the nation’s top collegiate athletes. Even fewer of those esteemed student-athletes can boast about their impressive college GPA in a scientific field. Those attributes help set Monmouth College senior swim team member Rachel Holm apart, along with her difficult decision to miss half of her final season in the pool.
Holm holds multiple school records and is one of Monmouth’s 10 fastest women in five events. But last fall, the psychology major and Spanish minor from Oregon, Ill., faced a dilemma, having to choose between the swim team and her studies. After much contemplation, Holm decided to spend the fall semester abroad in Chile, even though it meant missing half of the swim season.
“Travel is close to my heart, and I did not want to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a new culture while studying with a premier psychology program,” said Holm. “Spending time in Spanish-speaking Chile would also increase my fluency, and that’s an essential element of a Spanish minor. I’m pleased with the decision I made.”
She acknowledges that studying abroad was an activity she had considered for years, explaining “Swimming is a significant part of my life, but it is also important to me to have a rich, well-rounded college experience.”
Upon completing the required classes to study abroad during her junior year, Holm immediately sent off her application to ISEP, the International Student Exchange Program. When she spoke with her coach regarding her decision to study abroad, he gladly invited her to rejoin the swim team upon her return.
“I will always treasure memories of my time in Chile,” claimed Holm. “I hope this vibrant country will continue to be a part of my life.”
Holm said the people she met were especially welcoming and eager to include her as another member of the family. Another highlight, she said, was watching a swim meet. During the races, the Chilean spectators were “incredibly loud” as they cheered on the swimmers.
After her return home at the end of the fall semester, Holm dove into intense training in order to get back into shape for competitive swimming.
“It was difficult to condition my body back into shape with such little time before the new semester and season began,” she admitted, before adding, “It feels great to be in the water again.”
Holm hopes to break a school relay record and end her senior year “with a bang.” It will be a challenge, to be sure, but that’s nothing new for the talented senior. She is making it a habit to clear obstacles, such as her difficult decision last fall and a schedule full of challenging courses. When she says she is optimistic about her and her team’s chances to have a record-breaking season, it’s easy to see that coming to fruition, too.