Feb. 12, 2013
Bailey Hunter graduated from Georgia Tech in December 2012 and is currently playing professional volleyball for Doprastav Bratislava in Bratislava, Slovakia. She took time to answer a few questions for RamblinWreck.com.
RamblinWreck.com: What’s been the biggest adjustment living in Europe and specifically in Slovakia?
Bailey Hunter: Definitely using public transportation for everything. Back in Atlanta I drove myself everywhere and never had to plan a trip to the grocery store (or Bila in Slovak) but here I have to check the public transportation website, which is all in Slovakian. Translate it. Decide to use a bus or tram. Check the time they will be by my stop and then go wait in the freezing cold! At first it was so hard figuring it all out, but now I’m a wiz at it.
RW: How long was your training camp, what was the hardest part, the part you liked the best?
BH: It was only two weeks for me. Because I came after Christmas the second half of the season was starting. We got right back into training which I liked because it was such a challenge learning the different system here. The ball is different from the ones we play with in American. They set to their hitters so much higher than anyone has ever set me before. And also no one talks or calls the ball. You are expected to have a good court presence and also feel the other players. It was very confusing and hard at first. I still talk and communicate all the time though, it just my style. 🙂
RW: Are you home sick at all?
BH: First week I’ve been homesick was this past week. The weather was cold and over cast, with no snow which is a bummer. We had a hard week of practices and I just missed cookie (my mom). But fortunately we won our last match so all moods are good and everyone is happy. My homesick spell was short lived!
RW: When does your season start and end, how many games will you play, where will you travel?
BH: My season starts in August and ends in May. But I have been here since January so I will only compete for half the season. We will play about 20 matches from Hungry, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria to Slovakia. I am so lucky to travel from country to country. Most leagues stay within their country. I’ve seen some beautiful places so far.
RW: If you’ve already started playing games, how are they going? Is there a website to check on your stats?
BH: We have started playing and are doing pretty well – middle of the pack in our league and top of our country league. March is dedicated to playing within Slovakia for the country cup. We are in second now but I’m confident we will beat the team ahead of us at the end of the season for the championship. Check us out at www.svf.sk (beware it’s all in Slovakian) and also www.mevza.org.
RW: How does volleyball in Slovakia differ from that of the US, and college vs. professional?
BH: The only differences as I said earlier are the height of the sets and the idea of having a court presence, but not vocalizing it. It all took some getting used to. Collegiate volleyball is much more about camaraderie and team cohesiveness. You form a bond with your teammates and that is what helps pull the team through in a tough situation. Here it’s very independent, you learn to function independently, but somehow make the team click. Also I am now paid to do what I love! I feel so lucky and fortunate to actually go to work each day and do what I absolutely love the most, it’s pretty special.
RW: What is your favorite thing about the culture there?
BH: I love how Europeans take time to have coffee and tea. I sometimes go to coffee shops just to meet and talk to people. Everyone is friendly and eager to learn about you and your culture, while telling about them and their culture. It’s great.
RW: Does your family plan on visiting?
BH: My family comes in 15 days to be exact. March is packed with friends and family visiting. My mom and dad will come, as well as my aunt and uncle. Max, my boyfriend, will come after the family leaves. And then my best friend Alison Campbell (who played for GT for three seasons) comes the end of March to the beginning of April. I am so looking forward to showing the people I love the most my new home!
RW: Describe a typical day in your life now?
BH: A typical day would be for me to wake up around 8 a.m., make some tea and write in my journal. Each day I take time to journal because in 10 years I will so enjoy looking back on my wonderful journey and seeing how I’ve grown through it all. I then go workout around 10 a.m. for an hour and half. I ride the tram there and back, which takes about 20 minutes each way. Come home, go eat lunch at our sport pub and relax a bit before practice. I then practice for 2.5 hours, shower and get treatment. Then cook dinner, YES now I cook for myself. It’s awesome. Then hit the hay around 10 p.m. I don’t stay up too late these days.
RW: Is the experience what you expected so far?
BH: The experience is what I expected and so much more. I can’t explain how happy I am that I took a leap of faith. Coming to Europe has totally changed my perspective on everything. I value the small things so much more than I ever did and I know once I return to America I will be so grateful for this opportunity. The friendships I have made and the places I’ve been are truly special. I wake up every day and really feel like I am living the dream.
RW: Where do you live and describe the neighborhood.
BH: I have an odd living situation but it totally works. It’s hard to explain so no one panic after reading. I live at the gym I play at! There is a small flat there with a kitchen and bedroom. It was a serious adjustment at first. I have to go down two flights of stairs to the bathroom. Down three flights to a dungeon like room for laundry and there are no dryer so I hang dry everything. I’ve learned to make it work and it’s become home. It’s cozy and small, and I’ve hung pictures and quotes everywhere so it looks like my home. The neighborhood is great! I’m a 10 minute tram ride to the city center, which is beautiful. I’m right on the Danube River which is incredible. I take long walks and runs down the river park and it’s so awesome.
RW: What is the hardest and best part of living and playing there?
BH: The hardest part is being so far away obviously. The six hour time difference was tough on my communicating at first. But if you want to talk to someone regularly and bad enough you make it work! The best part is the total experience – volleyball, new friendships, exploring and growing as a person. I will be forever changed for the better from this experience in my short time living here.
RW: What do you do for fun?
BH: For fun I site see and run around the town. I explore and go on adventures with teammates or alone. I’m learning to get out of my comfort zone and take risks (always good and safe risks of course). Every day is fun and every experience is a new memory. I am so lucky to have this opportunity!