By Max Ferrandino
Saturday Morning, Carr-Saunders Hall. I wake up at around nine, later than usual, and get ready for the day. Today is my first race with the LSE Rowing Club. I joined a bit late so I don’t have an LSE racing kit. Instead, I put on kit from my two past rowing clubs as a sort of homage to the time I spent racing with them. First goes the unisuit that I wore for five years when I rowed in high school back in the United States. Second goes the shirt I got from my January training camp before the world shut down because of Covid, and I switched schools. After getting dressed, I rush to have a quick breakfast in the cafeteria before catching the Victoria line to Vauxhall and the South Western Rail to Chiswick. From there, I walk the five minutes to the boathouse along tree-lined avenues, which are always so much quieter than the bustle and flash of Oxford Street or Tottenham Court Road.
We then get ready for the race – getting boats out and prepared, getting oars down, and getting dressed. We launch and row down to the start line, preparing for the regatta ahead. We get onto the start line; we start, racing over the 3.7km course as fast as we can; and then we finish, exhausted. We paddle back to shore, get the boat back onto the racks, and cheer on the girls eight.
After we’ve gotten everything away, we head to a nearby pub and are greeted with the tantalising aromas of burgers and pies. We sit and talk about the race and how well we felt it went, and then we all go off in different directions – back to halls or Halloween parties. Later that night, we found out that we had won. For me, coming off a year without rowing, I would say that that was quite an achievement.
Why could reading about my journey to a rowing race and the description of how we won be important to you? This article is not simply a day in the life of a rower, but a description of how I found community in another country. England and London, in particular, were and are foreign to me, and while I knew I could do it – I could handle the transition to LSE – I was worried about fitting in.
I have been rowing for six years, and while last year I took up sprinting, rowing has always been the sport I feel most comfortable in. As a General Course student, finding my fit was something I worried about before coming to London. I have always seemed to fit in rowing, and the LSE club is no exception.
Ultimately, I do not think my experience is particularly unique. Whenever I step into a boat everything else fades away; it is just you and your crew. Sport generally has been a place to find community, not just rowing. If you know how to play a sport and enjoy playing that sport (even if you know no one at the university), you will have a place to fall back on. If you play basketball or football the rules are basically the same in most parts of the country. You can connect with people over your general love of the sport. Coming here for a year after Covid and all the transitions from in-person learning to online learning and back again has been a challenge for students everywhere. I came to LSE unsure of my place in the world and university generally, but I was able to find it within the halls and especially within the rowing club. I am thrilled we won, but I was just as happy to be back on the water again, finding my place in the LSE community.