After graduating from high school, I devoted one year to just focusing on my climbing career, simultaneously traveling the world for both international competitions and to climb outside. The year was amazing. I learned a lot, both about myself and about the world that we live in. For example, the world is huge (I’ve learned from accumulating thousands of frequent flier miles), but there are also many cultural parallels and social intersections that shrink the scope of it all. I have found these overlapping similarities most intriguing. Within the climbing community, I have been thousands of miles away from a crag, discussing the intricate beta of some five-meter section of a route that's 70-plus moves long, with the exact detailing of the holds and rock composition. Sometimes I wonder: if our brains can so easily (in this case) store thousands of moves from cliffs around the world, what else are we capable of? A lot, I think -- as long as what we are trying to learn is what we are most passionate about.
Sasha DiGiulian climbing in the Great Arch, Petzl RocTrip China. Photo: © John Evans / Petzl
I’ve been raised to appreciate education and have had an incredibly enriching high school experience at The Potomac School, so I decided that I wanted to continue my studies at the university level, and sooner rather than later. This was a tough decision for me because during my year off of school, I've seen progression in my performance and have been able to totally focus on my climbing-related goals; however, while I feel truly blessed to be successfully climbing professionally, I want to be intellectually challenged as well and to explore the depth of my mind in conjunction with my athletic pursuits.
So, alas… here I am: excited, nervous, enthusiastic, ready, uncertain, overwhelmed, and optimistic!
This past week has been the start of a completely new chapter in my life.
After first moving in to my new “home” for the next four years, I attended the Columbia New Student Orientation Program (NSOP). This program is organized to facilitate the transition to the University and to familiarize students with the curriculum, lifestyle, and standards at Columbia and in NYC. During this time I had my first opportunity to meet some of my fellow COLUMBIAN LIONS! There have been so many new faces and interesting people—I feel so privileged to be a part of such a diversified and intellectual student body, but, moreover, privileged for the opportunity to make so many new friends! And being in THE BEST CITY IN THE WORLD (in my unbiased opinion…) certainly is an added bonus.
Sasha with her mom outside of Columbia University, New York City.
During my studies at Columbia I have no plans of putting climbing on the back-burner. As ready as I feel to return to my studies, I also feel really psyched to train and to continue to push my limits in the sport. Navigating NYC and scheduling time to train will be difficult with a rigorous academic schedule and growing social life, but I am enthusiastic to make ends meet and to find my groove.
Which brings me to ITALY! I was just there to receive the Arco Rock Legend Award, which I was nominated for alongside Adam Ondra, Iker Pou, Daniel Woods, and Dave Graham. It is an honor to have won this award and I have nothing but gratitude for the international jury who selected me, as well as the deepest respect for my fellow nominees. I was also invited to compete in the prestigious international RockMaster Competition; unfortunately I had to pull out of Finals because I further ruptured my tendon during Semifinals. Fingers crossed for good news with the recovery process and my new classes at Columbia!