When Anna Szerszen came to America, the first thing she noticed was how big everything was. Now, after four years at Ohio State, the only things that are “big” are her talent on the court and her aspirations off the court.
To say that Szerszen has seen a lot in her life is an understatement. She was born in Poland, raised in France and is pursuing athletics and academics at OSU.
“It’s been a long journey,” Szerszen said. “It’s very difficult but it’s also a very enriching experience.”
Szerszen’s uniqueness goes farther than fact that she’s a French transplant playing college volleyball in America. She is also in graduate school pursuing a master of business administration.
Her program in the Fisher College of Business combines a bachelor’s degree with an MBA in five years. At graduation, she will receives both diplomas.
“I’m a full time MBA student right now majoring in operations and logistics with a focus on international business,” Szerszen said.
Her family moved from Poland to France when she was 2 because her father, a professional volleyball at the time, joined a French team.
Szerszen grew up in a volleyball family, but it took some time for her to warm to the sport.
“At first I didn’t want to (play) because kids never want to do what their parents tell them,” she said.
After experimenting with gymnastics, basketball and track, Szerszen decided to give volleyball a try.
“Finally I tried volleyball, and I really loved it,” she said.
As Szerszen progressed with volleyball, she didn’t know what she was going to do after high school.
“In France the system is really different,” Szerszen said. “To study and play volleyball at a high level is extremely hard.”
That’s when OSU came calling.
“I got a scholarship offer from OSU and I was like, ‘Wow that’s so cool,'” Szerszen said. “I got in touch with the assistant coach. She came to visit my house in March of my senior year, and in April I committed.”
Anna had never visited OSU’s campus when she committed but knew that the academics OSU could provide her with were important.
“My parents pushed me to get a diploma because you can’t live off volleyball your whole life,” Szerszen said.
Once Szerszen was on campus, it didn’t take her long to figure out what she wanted to study.
“My freshman year I discovered” the MBA program, Szerszen said.
She is the first female athlete to go through the program and the second athlete behind Stan White Jr., who played football for the Buckeyes from 2002-2006.
“He helped me a lot with getting into it because basically nobody does the program. It’s really challenging,” Szerszen said.
The demanding workload takes a toll on Szerszen’s social life.
“The hard thing is the team, they all hang out together, go to the movies and go do fun stuff — and I’m just drowning in books,” Szerszen said.
Szerszen has also had to adapt to life in America.
“It was extremely hard in the beginning,” Szerszen said. “I grew up and I learned how to live independently and make decisions on my own and just adapt to whatever is coming at me by myself.”
On top of that, she gets to see her family only about a month out of each year.
“I go back whenever I can, meaning in the summer, two-ish weeks, at Christmas, two-ish weeks,” Szerszen said. “It’s hard, but this is my fifth year doing it and we’re all used to it.”
Szerszen also plays for the French national team. She has been a member since she was 14.
“I’m very proud to be on the national team because obviously not many people get to do that,” Szerszen said.
Being the lone fifth-year senior on the volleyball team, Szerszen is looked at as one of the main leaders.
“She is our oldest and most experienced player,” said teammate Allie Schwarzwalder. “She is a good leader on the court and off the court.”
Being around adults in her MBA classes all day, Szerszen brings maturity to the team. “She’s a grown-up,” OSU coach Geoff Carlston said. “She’s like the mother of the team.”
Szerszen realizes her time as a Buckeye is running out, and her final game as an OSU volleyball player looms on the horizon. But she said she will always appreciate her time as an OSU athlete.
“I think as athletes, when we go through this, we don’t realize how lucky we are,” she said. “When you get out into the world, you are never going to have that again.”