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Studying in the States

It was great to chat with OM Annabelle Davis, who shared insights into her life post-Millfield, including her journey to America, where she balanced her studies with playing tennis.

My name is Annabelle Davis, and I’m an OM who attended Millfield Prep and Senior School on a sports scholarship from 2013-2020 (Hollies, Acacia, Warner, & The Lakes). Millfield enabled me to play over 10 different sports to a national standard, including representing the 1st team hockey and serving as the Millfield tennis captain. I studied Physical Education, Psychology, and English Literature at A-level, and was awarded a full scholarship to be a NCAA Division 1 student-athlete on the Women’s tennis team at the University of North Florida (UNF), in Jacksonville, Florida. After four amazing years, I recently graduated with the highest honours with my Bachelor’s degree in Health Science.

Studying in the US has been a life-changing experience that has allowed me to earn my degree whilst competing in collegiate tennis to the highest level across the country. During my time at UNF, I earned conference Freshman of the year, won two team championships, and progressed to the #1 singles and doubles positions on the line-up, earning my NCAA national singles ranking during my senior year. My daily schedule consisted of an early morning individual session, followed by team practice, and then a fitness session in order to prepare for our individual tournaments in the Fall and team matches in the Spring. Afternoons were spent attending classes, plus university events or community service endeavours across Jacksonville. Balancing all of this required hard-work, time-management, and discipline. I believe the environment and people I was surrounded by at Millfield successfully prepared me to thrive in this step of my journey.

One of the benefits of the US college system is that it provides flexibility with selecting classes, which allowed me to customise my degree and study the areas of Health Science that interested me the most. This led me to pursuing minor studies in Psychology, Sports Management, and Leadership, and I gained valuable experience serving as a mentor for the Florida Institute of Education and the Taylor Leadership Institute. I had the opportunity to be a panel speaker at Leadership Jacksonville conferences, as well as attending a shadowship week with the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team.

Millfield provided excellent support prior to my studies in the US, through SAT workshops, scholarship guidance sessions, and talks from OM student-athletes. Also, the current Millfield Director of Tennis, Dan Manlow, helped me get connected with tennis coaches across the US to find a program that was the perfect fit for me. My advice to current students embarking on their journey to US university is to research the location of the schools you are interested in, as it makes a huge difference to your overall experience. I was fortunate enough to take three official visits prior to the pandemic and I discovered that the outdoor lifestyle in Florida was exactly what I was looking for. Secondly, it is important to get to know your prospective coaches and teammates, as you will be training alongside them every day which can have a huge impact on your overall experience.

At the start of this year, I fractured my wrist on court and was unable to compete in my final competition season at UNF. As a result of this set-back, I now have one more year of NCAA eligibility that I’m going to use as a graduate student-athlete at Clemson University, in South Carolina. I will be pursuing my Master’s degree in Applied Psychology with a Concentration in Health, where I will be carrying out a research thesis with the goal to work in the field of Sports Psychology or as a Functional Medicine Practitioner. Alongside my university studies, I recently completed a training course and passed my examination to become a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness coach (NBC-HWC), which will enable me to assist clients in goal setting and facilitating behaviour change. This summer, I look forward to competing in professional tennis tournaments across the UK and spending time back in Somerset with my family, including my younger sister Francesca, who is also an OM and student-athlete at the NCAA Division 1 College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia.