Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Making the transition from high school to college is a life changing experience for every student. Moving a couple hours away from home, only seeing your family and friends during the holidays and the notion of being on your own for the first time is a tough task. Imagine making the move from an entirely different country on the other side of the world. Welcome to the life of West Virginia University’s Ikttesh Chahal, a junior women’s tennis player from Chandigarh, India.
Ikttesh started playing tennis when she was just nine years old, and contrary to popular belief, it happens to be a very popular sport in India. Chahal was recruited by former Mountaineer coach Tina Samara.
“I chose WVU because of tennis,” stated Chahal. “The coach (Tina Samara) recruited me here and I really liked what West Virginia University had to offer as far as conference and the whole academic aspect of it.”
Ikttesh will enter her senior season with her head held high and ready to put in the work necessary to help the tennis team succeed, but she will also be preparing for her academic future, in which her dreams are to enter medical school upon getting her degree in exercise physiology. On pursuing medical school, Chahal laughed, “WVU is looking like a good option.”
Ikttesh has earned three academic honors since starting here at West Virginia, including being named a Big East Academic All-Star, Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll and the Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Roll.
“Being an athlete and coming to a university in the United States is a full-time job. Being on a team teaches you so much as far as the aspect of just being an athlete and managing academics along with the sport,” Chahal explained. “It requires a lot of time management and it builds up many skills. I was not very good at time management my freshman year, and now I’ve pretty much mastered it.”
Ikttesh is not only be seen as a role model on the tennis court, but also off. West Virginia’s tennis team has multiple international students, one being freshman Kaja Mrgole, a native of Jesenice, Slovenia, and Kaja had the same experience this season that Ikttesh went through her freshman year - new country, new people, basically a whole new world.
“Ikttesh was great when I first got here,” said Mrgole. “She showed me the ropes. She went through the same thing I did traveling here to the states to play tennis. She helped make the move as easy as possible and made me feel right at home immediately. She has a way of just making you feel comfortable.”
Current Mountaineer coach Miha Lisac added, “Ikttesh is a big part of helping younger players settle in and adjust. It’s not an easy transition to come to the United States for college. Many players struggle with getting settled in. That is where Ikttesh will have a big role in helping the players find their way around, figure out their academic portion, getting used to the tennis program and settle in to their life in general here at West Virginia.”
Settling in to a new home is tough, but being part of a sports team can really make the transition a smooth one with the support and help of teammates and coaches.
“It seems that Ikttesh was able to find a good place for her tennis and academics here at West Virginia. She has settled in well and will be a part of the group this year and next that will kick start this program to the upper levels in the Big 12,” said Lisac.
As Ikttesh wraps up her junior season, she knows that she will be a key player on the team and will need to set herself as a role model for the younger student-athletes.
“Ikttesh will be someone who will provide a direction and leadership. It is important that the established players provide leadership for the incoming freshman to help us take steps forward,” Lisac stated.
Chahal couldn’t agree more with her coach’s thoughts on needing leadership from the older, more experienced student-athletes to help take the program to new heights. She can see major improvement coming in the future for the Mountaineers.
“Definitely, I want to make sure the juniors and underclassmen learn from the work I will be putting in,” she said.
Ikttesh Chahal’s journey in Morgantown is not quite over yet, but there’s one word she used to describe the past three years here - unbelievable. While she still has a year of undergraduate school remaining and potentially a few years of medical school ahead, her journey is far from over and one could only image how much better it will become and the memories that will be made.