Brenau Voices: Valentina Pabon

Mar. 28, 2022
Kelsey Podo

‘Here, I’m someone.’

Cheered on by her teammates, coach and brother, who traveled from Florida to see her, Valentina Pabon stepped onto the tennis court, racket in hand.

Even though she felt the pressure of playing the last match of the day, Pabon was in her element, neck-in-neck with her opponent. The match moved into a super tie break, meaning she needed to win 10 points to take the victory.

“That day was one of the days where I was playing really good,” the Brenau tennis player said. “I was so excited, and my brother was there. Then, at the end, I lost. But, I felt the support of my team, my coach and my brother, even though I didn’t win.”

Pabon, who is from Colombia, said this game in her freshman year proved one of the most memorable matches of her years of playing tennis for Brenau. She didn’t take the win, but gained something more.

“In that moment, I noticed no matter what, my team is going to be there for me,” she said. “That was very meaningful for me in terms of trusting myself and knowing that if I give my best, the team is going to see it as a positive, even if I win or lose.”

Pabon doesn’t view tennis as a sport, but more as a lifestyle. She relates aspects of playing tennis to daily life, including seeking opportunities and making quick decisions.

“Many times in a tennis match, it seems like you’re losing,” she said. “And, out of nowhere you come back and win. Sometimes life is like that. You can see that everything is lost, and there’s no light. Then, out of nowhere an opportunity appears that leads you to something you never expected.”

At the end of the spring 2022 semester, Pabon will graduate from Brenau as a triple major with bachelor degrees in marketing, operations management and finance. And, if the pieces fall into place, she’ll soon start her first full-time job in the U.S. Her dream career is to combine her educational background with her love of sports by landing a role with Nike, her favorite athleticwear brand.

“It’s so crazy to think that it’s going to be over,” she said. “These four-and-a-half years, they have helped me so much personally and professionally. I’ve learned so much from the people I’ve met, the faculty and staff, the tennis team. Even though I don’t have family there, the support they’ve given me has been everything.”

In addition to playing on Brenau’s tennis team, Pabon stays involved on campus with the International Club, Brenau Honors Program, Marketing Society and working as a marketing assistant for Aramark, who supplies the university’s dining options. Over the summer of 2021, Pabon studied abroad in France, accomplishing a childhood dream.

“Brenau has shown me that no matter the situation, there are always opportunities. You just have to go and look for them,” she said.

Pabon remembers her first time traveling from Colombia to Gainesville and all the butterflies that ensued. As she neared the exit for Brenau, reality sank in. She was a Golden Tiger, and this was her new home.

Pabon said she never expected the support system that awaited her.

“While the years went by, I was like, wow, you really matter at Brenau,” she said. “You are someone at Brenau. It’s not like at another university. ‘Oh, one more student. Yea, she’s from Colombia, but you know, whatever.’ Here, no. Here, I’m someone.”