For the past eight years, hockey has been both my refuge and the fire that propels me forward. Since age 8, my family escaped economic crises in three different countries, only to be chased by it. To distract me somehow, my father signed me up for after-school hockey. Right from the first contact, I was raptured by how natural the hockey stick felt in my hand; it was like an extension of myself. I had never connected with anything so immediately. That is why I knew I could not let go of it. And I never have.
Hockey was one of the only constants in my ever-changing childhood. But I soon learned that the stability that hockey brought into my life did not mean that it would come without struggle.
At age 9, I realized that I not only had to contend with running after the ball as hard as my legs let me but also with being the youngest to compete for my school’s team. At 13, I became the youngest player to be recruited for my school’s alumni team, San Silvestre Sports. Proving myself as the youngster was never easy: extra drills, additional focus, and excruciating extra laps were the price I had to pay for the privilege of training–and then competing–alongside adults. But it was a fair price to pay: after dealing with grueling sessions, I now see my age not as a limitation, but as the reason to become a better player, the spark to keep running when my legs will not last any longer. Now, tiredness elates me, as I imagine myself zooming from one end of the court to the other, like the pros I would watch open-mouthed at Lima’s 2019 Pan-American Games.
When I was young, I would have never expected to be recruited for Peru’s national hockey team, let alone consider playing hockey after graduating high school. Now that I juggle training sessions with both Peru and San Silvestre Sports’ teams, I know that continuing to play is more a necessity than an improbable dream. This is why I am seeking to play hockey at a collegiate level.
Not only does hockey ground me and give me hope amidst uncertainty, but it also makes me want to spread that hope beyond myself. I realize that just like I always choose to join the defense when the opposing team attacks, I cannot be a bystander when an inefficient system denies women and girls in my country healthcare. The fire that hockey lights inside me does not dwindle when I leave the field; instead, it grows stronger. It pushes me to join a new generation of female doctors and scientists determined to turn quality healthcare from a privilege to a right. It propels me to use my healed wounds to heal those whose injuries have been unattended.
I yearn for a program that allows me to extend the lessons of hockey both on and off the field, helping me grow as an athlete while supporting my dream of becoming a socially impactful doctor and scientist. I seek a program that becomes an escape, a refuge, and a fire beyond the next four years of my life.