Natania LEVAK | My International Student-Athlete Experience

Natania LEVAK | My International Student-Athlete Experience

Going to a foreign school is a big thing and a hard decision to make. You just have to have a strong mindset. Everything is in your head. If you’re determined to do something, if you set goals for yourself and do everything you can to accomplish them you’re on the right track. If you keep saying “I can’t”, “I’ll do it later”, “I’m not good enough” just remember: Yes you can! Do it now! You’re good enough! Bad thoughts won’t get you anywhere. Believe in yourself and everything else will come naturally. Give 100% each and every new day and never stop reaching for your dreams and goals.
— Natania "Nati" Levak

First, a little background on you and the school...

Your full name: Natania Levak
Your country of origin? Croatia
our last team in your home country before attending school internationally? OK Marina Kastela
Name of your college/university? West Virginia University
This school is in... USA
...your sport? Volleyball (Middle Blocker)  ..your jersey # ? 13
...received a scholarship? Yes, Full Athletic
...enter your major(s): Undecided your status in school: Freshman

PERSONAL profile link from your school’s website:

Tell your experience BEFORE you got to your foreign school...

...what/who helped you in your process of deciding/getting to a foreign school:
Elite Sport Student's Mentors, Ryan Jay Owens, Coaches in my home country, Parents, Another Student-Athlete(s) , 

Rate your experience with RJO (Ryan Jay Owens) out of 10 (Fantastic): 10

Comments for RJO?
Ryan is the kindest. He always has the time to help others, he is super patient and answers whatever questions you have and always has the best advices. I know everyone wants to find a person that will never trick you, that will not let you down, just someone you can fully trust and Ryan is that person. Not only does he do all he can to help you, but you can also see him as a person to look up to - with the lifestyle he lives, the mindset he has and his intelligence. The more you get to know him, the more you'll be glad that you've contacted him in the first place. I personally couldn't choose a better person to help me get through all these preps to go study in the USA. RJO you rock! :) [Hvala Nati! Big hug!]

Rate your experience with Beyond Athletic’s Podcast out of 10 (Love it!): 10

Comments for Beyond Athletic Podcast:
I think the page is very helpful, it can answer a lot of your questions and you can learn so many new things through it's content. It has some great posts talking about preventing injuries, how nutriton and sleep is important for your progress, how to give 100% without fear and it has interviews with ex and current players in USA so you can get a better picture about what it's like to be here, how the days look like and all the things you would wanna know before you come here. All the posts are based on people talking about the things they've experienced themseves so you would definitely get a better understanding of being a high level athlete and you would get more prepared for all the things that you have to go through. I would recommend this page to anyone because it helped me a lot, helped me in the decision whether I should come to the States or not and I certainly do not regret my choice.

Rate your experience with Elite Sport Student’s Mentors out of 10 (Great): 10

Comments for Elite Squared AKA Elite Sport Students’ Mentors:
When I was preparing to go to the USA I had dozens of questions I wanted to ask and RJO connected me to a couple of girls (student mentors) that I can talk to because they've gone through the same thing as I did. I talked to Milica Kubura, Edina Selimovic, Edina Begic etc. I started to contact some other girls too by myself and it was nice to hear stories and experiences of the people just like you. It gives you additional courage, confidence and helps you make a decision of where you want to study and what your goals are.

Did you pay for their service? If so, how much?
No, I didn't. It is so amazing to know every help I got from Beyond Athletic and RJO was completely free and just selflessly and generously given to me. I'm grateful that I found this site! difficult was it to decide to go to a foreign school out of 10 (Very difficult)? 8

... If you knew what you know NOW... how difficult would it have been to decide to go to a foreign school out of 10 (Very Difficult)?? 0, Easy

What were the main things that convinced you to choose to go to a foreign school? :)
I've heard so many different experiences and they were all positive. I knew volleyball and education were very important to me and there just wasn't a better place to combine those 2 in a very high level than the USA. My parents are the ones who gave me the biggest encouragement and just made me feel like I was making the right decision. Now that I'm here at WVU, with every new day I realize how grateful I am to be here and that this is the best possible option for me to grow not only as a player, but as a person in general.

...What, if any, were the difficulties in choosing to go to a foreign school?
Well personally I was being indecisive for a long time. I didn't know if I was ready to leave my family, friends and my country and literally start a new life all by myself. I got so many encouragement from a lot of people and as the time went on I realized that's the best thing for me to do. It took me about 6 months to finally say that I'm ready to go to the States. The preparations were crazy, there was just a lot of things to do and I wasn't sure if everything's gonna be done on time. But it all turned out perfectly and now I'm here, making a lot of new friends, learning so many new things and enjoying life!

... and how did you overcome these obstacles to get to a foreign school?
I just did a lot of reading, research, watched a lot of videos, talked to some people that have already studied in USA or are currently studying there and the more I did all these stuff the more I got confident about me going to a foreign school.

... how helpful were the staff at the school with getting you admitted out of 10 (Super Helpful)? 10

What things helped you get everything done to get to a foreign school?
I think my parents are the ones I have to thank the most about that. They're the best!

Why did you decide to go to a foreign school?
Because those kinds of things are opportunities that come once in a lifetime and that can help you build the person you wanna be and get more responsible and mature. Learning about a new culture, living in a different society, experiencing new lifestyles and mindsets can only help you grow as a person and become more independent.

Lastly, your experience at your foreign school...

...your happiness with international student-athletics out of 10 (LOVE IT!)? 10

...What, if any, were the difficulties to adjust to life in your school’s country?
American food, getting up really early for practices, getting used to difficult practices which drain a lot of energy from you in the start and you just wanna sleep but in the same time you have to study and go to classes...

... and how did you overcome these obstacles to adjust to school life?
Eventually you get used to all those things and they just become a part of your daily routine. You just have to stay strong and think about how all those things are only gonna help you improve yourself

...What were your best experiences in your foreign school?
Meeting all of my coaches and my new teammates which are better than I could imagine, meeting new people, making new friendships, perfecting my english speaking skills... What amazes me most is seeing all these people here just trying to improve themselves on a daily basis, not only athletes but all the other people. I think this change of environment can only do good things for me. I couldn't like the fact thay I'm here more than I do! I get positive experiences each and every day!

Anything else you’d like to mention?
Going to a foreign school is a big thing and a hard decision to make. You just have to have a strong mindset. Everything is in your head. If you're determined to do something, if you set goals for yourself and do everything you can to accomplish them you're on the right track. If you keep saying "I can't", "I'll do it later", "I'm not good enough" just remember: Yes you can! Do it now! You're good enough! Bad thoughts won't get you anywhere. Believe in yourself and everything else will come naturally. Give 100% each and every new day and never stop reaching for your dreams and goals. 

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#33 World Champion At Age 23... What Now? with Trofym ANDERSON

#33 World Champion At Age 23... What Now? with Trofym ANDERSON

Athlete Case Study: Rower for George Washington University; 3 High school National Championships; Winner of 2 Canadian Henleys; 2014 World Champion at coxed four; Under 23 senior Developmental Team for Canada


March 12, 2015

Trofym ANDERSON - Team Canada World Champion Rower | Beyond Athletic Podcast
Listen ON-THE-GO (00:56:37) NOW -or- mobile via iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn Apps!


On today’s show, Trofym will tell us about his journey from where we was as a young kid, to how he got to where he is now. He will share his experiences as an “obese” young boy who was pushed to the limit at an early age and became an elite rower and received multiple scholarship offers from the United States. He explains WHY he decided to compete and receive and education in the US instead of staying home in Canada. We will get many lessons from today’s episode as Trofym expresses the importance of Never giving up and always making sure you are “10x better.”


LEAVE A REVIEW & Subscribe to #BeyondAthletic in iTunes so other can find us too! Share this with one person you think could benefit the most…

Listen ON-THE-GO (00:56:37) NOW -or- mobile via iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn Apps!

“You always gotta make sure you are 10x better than the next guy.”
-John Ruscitti

Key Mentors in his life:

  • John Ruscitti: His high-school coach that pushed him through and helped him overcome the adversity of being an undersized rower

  • His Uncle Harry (ex-NHL Player): Trofym was obese at an early age and his uncle got him up early in the mornings at 5am and pushed him to the limit

Key Discussion Points:

  • When was one of your biggest struggles?

  • When was your lightbulb moment?

  • When was your proudest moment in life so far?

  • Why did you choose to go to a US college over a Canadian College?

Key Lessons:

  • You can change if you want to, its all about taking that first step

“My biggest lesson was just never giving up no matter what.” TA @ 16:12

  • Nothing ever comes easy, you have to work hard always

  • We don’t always know our talents or what we are good at until we branch out and try different things

  • Sometimes we need to stop what we are doing, look at our situation and ask ourselves what we are willing to do to get what we truly want

“It was that day that I said...‘I gotta stop what I’m doing. I gotta revamp everything, I gotta look at my training..I gotta get a strict week program..I needed to get serious with my all started there.” TA @ 24:19

  • Once we make the decision to make a positive change, we should never look back

  • If you’re serious about whatever you’re doing, demand more of yourself, put a plan together, and associate yourself with the best

  • Winning at the highest level comes with struggle and obstacles along the way

“It’s not because we won, but its because during the 9 years to get there, there were just so many obstacles and so many miserable days.” TA @ 27:15

  • Having a champion like mindset means you know you can always push to be better

  • When choosing a school for your sport, it's important to think about what you truly want out of it

“In trying to choose where I wanted to go… ‘ do I want to go to a massive, already established team, and maybe be the guy that helps continue to make the team as good as it is..or do I want to come to a smaller team at George Washington..take them from the absolute bottom, to now finishing 14th in the country last year.” TA @ 36:51

  • If we stay in our comfort zone, we will stay where we are; you have to get a little uncomfortable in order to improve

Listen ON-THE-GO (00:56:37) NOW -or- mobile via iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn Apps!


What is the best advice you have ever received?
Nothing is impossible

One thing you like to do when you come to a new arena to compete?
Walk around really slow and look at everything, become comfortable with the area

Sleep & Morning ritual:
In bed by 9 or 10pm, wake up at 5am, stare out the window..check my phone, 2 shots of espresso; 20 minutes to get ready, bike to practice, 20 minutes of core stretching; row for 90min-2hours; get home and have breakfast. “Maximize your day by starting early.” -TA

One way you’d like to improve yourself as a person?
Reading more and further educate myself

One tip on how to live a little bit healthier?
Planning; writing down a weekly plan on Sundays

Knowing everything you know now and having all the resources now available (ESS, Beyond Athletic Podcasts, Mentors), if you had a do over, what would you do differently?
I would have started rowing the single earlier; challenged myself as it was something that I always avoided


Past/Current Teams:
Current: George Washington University Men’s Rowing; also Under 23 Men’s Canadian Team
Past: Canadian Junior National Rowing Team

Ontario, Canada
E.L Crossley High School
Canadian Henleys
2010 Junior World Championships.
University of California
British Columbia
George Washington

2013 Under 23 World Championships
2014 World Championship
Under 23 Senior Development Team
Sports Management
International Olympic Committee in Switzerland
John Ruscitti
George Washington University Men’s Rowing
Under 23 Men’s Canadian Team
Canadian Junior National Rowing Team

Tim Ferriss; Speed Reading


Follow Trofym:

Parting Pieces of Wisdom

"10x better, that’s the way you gotta approach everything, this goes for any sport...even if you’re in a sport that doesn’t require as much cardio or is more technique based..always being able to improve...always FINDING and area you can improve on" -Trofym Anderson