May 28, 2024
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Binghamton athletes appreciate accent on academics

Interview with a Bearcat (the Doubles version)

Tennis players Maria Pandya and Tiffany Dun. Tennis players Maria Pandya and Tiffany Dun.
Tennis players Maria Pandya and Tiffany Dun. Image Credit: Jonathan Cohen.

​With a team GPA reaching 3.65 in fall 2018, the women’s tennis team has logged five consecutive semesters of having the highest GPA of all the sports teams at Binghamton University. That has once again earned them the Academic Cup, tying the women’s cross-country team for consecutive wins. Seniors Maria Pandya, a French and linguistics major with a music minor and a 3.8 cumulative GPA, and Tiffany Dun, a psychology major with a 4.0 cumulative GPA, are among the nine high-achieving tennis players. They’re also international students; Pandya is from England and Dun is from Australia. They both say they came to the United States for the chance to play high-level tennis while going to college. This spring, as their final season was about to start, they sat down with Binghamton University Magazine.

You traveled a long way to study and play tennis. Why?

Pandya: What brought me to the United States is that you can play tennis at a high level and do your degree simultaneously. Back home you either go to tennis academy and just focus on tennis, or you go to university. Although tennis is an option as a club sport, it’s not competitive. Also, in the States you don’t have to choose a major until the end of your sophomore year, whereas in England you have to decide when you’re applying for university. I had no idea what I wanted to do.

Dun: My tennis coach in year 11 said, “Why don’t you try to go to America? There are lots of opportunities, especially for girls because of Title IX.” In Australia they don’t really give scholarships for sports — that’s an American thing.

How does the team manage to practice and compete while maintaining high grades?

Dun: Our whole team is pretty motivated to study. Some of our teammates are pre-med, so we often study together.

Pandya: It’s ingrained in everyone’s attitude. Academics come first.

Dun: Our coach, Libby [McGovern], always says that if we need extra time to study or meet with a professor, to tell her. If we’re stressed about school, it will affect our performance on the court because tennis is such a mental game. Libby is a big influence.

Do you have time for anything else besides academics and athletics?

Pandya: I play cello and I’m in the University orchestra. Practice is twice a week for 2 or 2½ hours, plus I take cello lessons once a week. I’d like to practice more, but there’s no time.

Dun: I write for Pipe Dream and I also play guitar. I love painting and am doing an independent study this semester. All my paintings in my independent study will revolve around the ocean because that’s what I’m most passionate about and it reminds me of home.

What are your plans after graduation?

Pandya: I’ve applied to jobs in France for a teaching assistant position. My future goal is to do a postgrad in speech therapy in the U.K.

Dun: I’m going to Hawaii on my way home and will volunteer on a farm for the summer. Then I’ll probably go back to Australia and study for my master’s in marine conservation or ecology. Eventually I want to do research and publish a book, and maybe be a university lecturer.

What do you like about tennis?

Pandya: I like that it’s not just an individual sport but it’s also a team sport. My game style suits singles better, whilst Tiff’s suits doubles. You can choose. And there are tennis courts everywhere; you can just go and play.

Dun: It’s a good sport that you can play forever, and it can be as competitive as you like. My parents actually met when they were on the same tennis team, so I’ve grown up playing with my family.

What are your perspectives on being an international student?

Pandya: In America you can try out different classes, and I took classes I’d never be able to take in the U.K., like psychology and earth science. Here you can step outside your comfort zone.

Dun: Everyone should think about studying abroad. I’ve learned so much, not just from classes but from talking to people from the other side of the world. I even became vegetarian, which I’d always wanted to do, and it was easy because I lived with Maria. It also makes you appreciate home so much more.

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