Tell me your story at Smith.
I've played hockey since I started high school. Initially, when I was looking for colleges, I was looking for a club team because I was definitely not good enough to play hockey [at the Division III level]. I read Boys in the Boat, which is really cliché, and I was like oh I should try rowing because I love a good pain sport, but I'm too short, so I'll wait till college when there's nothing to lose. I came here and talked to the coach at the time, Karen Klinger. She was like, “Yeah, I'll try it out and if it doesn't work you can be a coxswain or you just aren't on the team. It's no biggie.” I tried it out and…here I am. I started in the novice program my first year and I learned how to row under Clare Doyle who is now the head coach.
It was a fun time. It was interesting to learn a sport that I'd never really seen or heard of because it's a pretty upper class, white sport. I'm from Maine. There’s definitely rowing in Maine, but it's not as publicized as lacrosse, or track, or soccer, or any of the conventional [sports]. I think the novice class I started with, there are only three of us left who are still on the team. It was a pretty healthy mix of just everyone. No one knew how to row but it was different races, different identities, and definitely different heights, which matters. Then people just started self-selecting out.
Once we finished winter training and started our indoor spring, I was approached by a coxswain, Coco. She was like, “Hey Anna, we're gonna have an Asian crew [team] dinner, will you join?” Up until then I'd never really like thought about race in terms of crew because coming from Maine and playing hockey, it's always very white dominated. It's just like this is normal. What's diversity? Never heard of her. I really struggled with even going because I'm adopted.
Culturally I feel very white, but presenting I'm not.
It's interesting because I'll always get biases of a person of color, but internally I never feel like I should, in a way. I mean, no one should get them. I was always like oh this doesn't make sense because I'm just as white as you are, but yet you're asking me, “Oh, where are you from? You speak great English’’… a bunch of bullshit like that.
I went to the first dinner and that was our first team POC dinner because while we were there, Coco was like, “What if we open it up to the other POC?” There were only five of us so that's a pretty small dinner. We did, and then it turned into this weekly, really fun dinner and we didn't necessarily bring race into the conversation, but we all sat around like, “How are you doing? Wow, this really sucks.” At the time, almost all of us ended up in the same boat. It wasn’t intentional, but it kind of felt side-intentional that all the POC were in the same boat. And it was like a lower boat, and we were like, “Wow, our race got canceled that's great. No warning.” Coco graduated because she was a senior, so then I was like I can help co-lead [POC dinner] my sophomore year and I'm still helping lead it as a junior. It's evolved into every week. We just hang out and talk about…I don't even know what…we usually end up talking about like Starbucks, what drinks are out, which is really dumb. At one point, we end up on Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and wow this is kind of dumb, but like I love these people.
It's kind of depressing though because there's so few of us. I think at our height we were 12 and we're a team of 40, which is pretty good for general diversity on a team. Now we're getting smaller and smaller as people go abroad and graduate and just live their life.