Kansas State sophomore Laura Galvan’s transition to college life in the fall of 2011 was a little different than most.
Coming from the mountainous Guonajuato, Mexico, Galvan had to overcome language barriers, new levels of training and a new culture — all while settling into life as a busy college student.
“She had to come from another country and speak another language,” K-State cross country coach Michael Smith said. “When I first met her she didn’t speak English.”
Galvan said when she decided to come to K-State, she would have to take the SATs in English first.
“I started studying it for about 17 hours a week,” Galvan said, “just English — English all the time.”
The language barrier wasn’t all Galvan faced in the transition. Making the adjustment to being away from home and growing accustomed to her new training program as a freshman was a challenge.
“It’s a very different lifestyle than what I’m used to at home,” said Galvan, who has led the women’s cross country team in each of the first two races this season. “You’re by yourself, you have to take care of bills, school, everything, and I’m here without my family, so it was really different.”
Galvan ran in only three events last year as a freshman, but it was all part of her growth. Now, though, she’s turning heads.
“When she was a freshman, she was overwhelmed,” Smith said. “Now she’s not a freshman, that’s the biggest difference — experience and maturity. She’s able to tolerate the work now, and she’s adapted.”
Galvan opened the season with a second-place finish at the JK Gold Classic Sept. 1 in Wichita with a time of of 13:42.52.
The following weekend Galvan saw more success, placing first at the Woody Greeno Invitational with a time of 21:10, helping the Wildcats to a third-place team finish.
“If I win the race, that’s one more step,” Galvan said. “It gives me motivation, confidence. The races are hard, really hard, so it’s good to be motivated, you need that motivation.”
Her motivation is strong. Smith said Galvan is training at a high level.
“We’ve had some good girls come through here over the years,” Smith said, “And I’ve been here 19 years, and she’s training at the same level as some of the best ones who have come through here.”
Despite her current success, Galvan said she remembers what it took to get to this point.
“Believe me, it’s been the hardest experience that I’ve lived,” Galvan said, followed by a sigh. “I knew my freshman year was going to be hard, it was going to be different, but I didn’t expect it to be that hard.
“When I came here it was the different language, the training, the school — it was all just so different that it took me a long time, almost a year to adjust.”
Galvan is modest about her accomplishments, but Smith said by the way she practices, there is no reason Galvan shouldn’t place among the top five, if not place first, at Saturday’s competition in Lawrence.
“I try to remind myself I’m getting good, but there are thousands of girls who are really good,” Galvan said. “It’s not easy, nothing is easy, so I just try to do my best all the time.”