Every team has stories of rookies emerging when it matters most to make an impact. In another successful year for the Dalhousie Tigers women’s volleyball team, this player was transatlantic transfer student Desirée Nouwen.
Nouwen, originally from Weert, a city of about 50,000 in the southeast Netherlands, came to Halifax to study abroad. “My expectations for myself was to study in an English environment as it is not my first language,” she says. “It was interesting and a new experience.”
Adjustments occurred for the 25-year-old both off and on the court, where Nouwen also had to adapt to playing left side hitter, a new position for her.
“Playing on this team in a new position was like a challenge for me, something personal, a new experience for me,” says the eight-year veteran of semiprofessional volleyball.
Although this is Nouwen’s first year playing for the Tigers, it is not her first university experience. “I’ve already been to university. I graduated already, so I’ve been through being in a big school,” she says. “Now I’m starting all over again in the first year.”
“I had already wanted to go abroad for three years and they came up with an idea to come to Canada,” reflects Nouwen on her desire to go abroad. “I thought it is a beautiful country and a really amazing opportunity and I took it.”
Not only did Nouwen take the opportunity to come to Dalhousie University and play for the Tigers, she excelled in the Tigers’ successful Atlantic University Sport (AUS) title defense. She was named an AUS first team all-star for her performance throughout the season and earned AUS championship MVP honours.
“I’m not really used to individual awards, because we don’t do anything like that [back home],” says Nouwen. “I feel a little bit guilty, because I know everybody is there in practice everyday and everybody puts in the same hours and not everybody gets to show it. I guess it’s extra effort for some people but for me awards don’t say that much.”
Taking little away from her individual awards and more from the team’s strong performance, the humble Nouwen looks back on her first year in Halifax fondly, even if it ended without a national championship.
“After analyzing everything, thinking about the whole year and everything we did and all the things we achieved, we are really proud and really happy,” she says. “But obviously at the moment and at the time, you are disappointed because you know you are so close.”
Outside school and sports, Nouwen stayed with a host family near campus. Having already had the residence experience, she feels living with a family was the best thing for her.
“I’m a little older, I probably wouldn’t have been happy staying in residence. I’ve been through that already and know what it is like,” she says. “For me it was a good decision but maybe for somebody else it isn’t.”
Nouwen believes that not only did living with a family suit her better, it helped her cope with being far away from home and the time difference between Canada and the Netherlands.
“In the first few weeks you miss your friends and family obviously, in your evenings when you are done everything you don’t have anybody to contact,” Nouwen says. “But staying with a family it was much easier to adapt.”
Focusing on volleyball and her studies, Nouwen says she was still able to experience parts of Nova Scotia. “We were busy with volleyball and didn’t get to see many things but I did go to Peggy’s Cove, Digby, Bay of Fundy and do whale watching, which was incredible,” she says.
Nouwen has also made a list with her host family of things to do when they can. “We made a list of to-do things and to-eat things and every week we are checking things off.”
Now that the volleyball season is over and the academic year nears its end, Nouwen plans to have her mother come visit and discover more of Nova Scotia and the rest of the country as well.
“I will explore Canada for sure and will travel around this summer.”