The first challenge Cal Poly Freshman Kimberley Bhunu faced coming from Mouratoglou Tennis Academy, was learning to be both a full-time student and athlete. At the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in France, it was easier to balance the school and tennis, but at Cal Poly, “you have to do the same amount to school work as every other student, but on top of that you have many hours of practice,” Bhunu said.
“[My schedule] is really tiring but exciting. Like right now that I’m not playing [due to an injury] I have like way more time, and I do not know what to do with myself, so its always keeps you on your feet.”Kimberley Bhunu
“Eventually I want to go to Zimbabwe to help out with the crisis there. Because there is a lot of corruption, and yeah, it’s really hard to make a change, so I just want to try somehow,” Bhunu said.
The average GPA to get into one of the top law schools is above a 3.7 according to usnews.com. The added stakes of maintaining high grades to get into law school places even more pressure on Bhunu.
MacKenzie Wornsop, a sophomore member on the tennis team, shared that the team acknowledges what Bhunu is going though, “You experience a lot of change in college, especially as a first year student. I think this is the case for Kim especially, as she had to make a lot of adjustments from her previous life. Having two adjust from living over seas is a change on its own, but alongside the many other challenges being a student athlete brings definitely can be a tough transition.”
Bhunu’s parents attended college in Zimbabwe but shared a different struggle from her. “For me it was struggling between sports and school. For them, at that time there was still racism and segregation in Zimbabwe. It was really hard for them to grow up. It was different. They didn’t come from a well-off background, like my dad had to work at the same time as going to university while also playing for his younger siblings to go to school, so yeah it was a different struggle. I would say I got the better end of it.”
Bhunu’s parents not only placed a strong importance on education, but also their children leading healthy lifestyles. Her father placed her older siblings in tennis lessons at a young age.
Watching her older sister play inspired her to take up the sport as well. “When I was younger, I was a copycat, so I would just copy everything she did. So, if she said ‘tennis’ I would be like ‘Okay! Let’s do tennis,” she said.
Bhunu was able to play Serena Williams younger self at the Mouratoglou Tennis Academy. She had many encounters with top athletes there, giving her more inspiration to keep playing.
When it was time to pick a college, she decided on Cal Poly, because of its academic rigor. She also said the temperature played a big role in her decision, “I wouldn’t be able to survive where it’s like freezing cold, because in Zimbabwe temperatures never go below 60 so I’m not used to the cold.”
Although tennis created many great opportunities, like coming to Cal Poly, Bhunu shared the hardships she experienced being so far from home. She has distant family in England, so it was easier to visit them from France. Being in California places her across the world from her parents who live in Zimbabwe. When she tore her ACL in February she realized, “It’s really hard to be so far away from home and my parents” she said. Luckily her mother came to Cal Poly to be with her during surgery.
“I don’t get to see [my sister] a lot. The last time I actually lived with her was when she was 12 and I was 7. Sometimes I’ve gone a year and a half without seeing it, so its hard to travel around a lot.”Kimberley Bhunu on not seeing her sister as much due to them both being athletes.
The tennis team has helped Kim find a family away from home. She said, “When I came here it was like an automatic family. I’m really lucky I had a really good team. Even when I hurt myself, they’d be like ‘do you need help with that?’ and they’re always there. It is nice to have that kind of community and family especially when you’re so far away from yours.”
“It is nice to have that kind of community and family especially when you’re so far away from yours.”Kimberley Bhunu