In Fall 2015, Anna Bauman walked onto the University of Oklahoma campus as a freshman majoring in environmental engineering, set on helping the world become better.
Bauman was about 360 miles, about a five and a half hours, from home — a self-described introvert missing home and needing a new place to call her own. And she found it with OU’s club rowing team.
Siandhara Bonnet (SB): What was it like moving from a small all-girls private school to a public university and finding a niche pretty quickly?
Anna Bauman (AB): I think I got really lucky because I made some really close friends pretty fast, so once I had that core group of people to do college with and get through missing home, it was fine. The jump from small school to big school was weird. It was like ‘why are there boys in my class?’ I think I just got really lucky and met some really awesome people right away.
SB: How’d you get involved with the club rowing team?
AB: I met my friend Andrea freshman year at the very beginning of the year. Actually, the three people that would become my best friends in college and still to this day are my best friends in college, we went to lunch the first day and mentioned, casually, ‘Yeah, I used to row. There’s a club rowing team here at OU — you guys should totally come out to practice.’ … There was a carpool that met at 5:30 a.m. outside The Huff. I was like, ‘that’s ridiculous,’ but for whatever reason, I got up at five that next day and met them outside at The Huff and went to practice. … I never expected to join the rowing team, it wasn’t something I intentionally set out to do, but it was the people that I met that got me into it. Then we became really good friends through that and I kind of just kept going because I liked the sport and enjoyed spending the time with them.
SB: How often did you guys practice?
AB: We practiced four times a week — it was Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Looking back, I have no idea how I did that. It was a huge commitment because we had to wake up at 5 every single morning for those days that we had practice. I’m not a morning person, I never have been and I never will be, as much as I try. Somehow I just got out of bed every single day because I knew…one of the girls that was on the team, my friend Melissa, she lived across the hall from me in the dorms — she was very reliable. She would always get up for practice and so I knew if I didn’t wake up, she would come and knock on my door. I did not want to let them down, so I was like, ‘Gotta go, gotta get up.’
SB: Did the people play more of a part than the actual rowing?
AB: (Rowing) was a lot of what our friendship was based on. We do this thing together four times a week every single week, so that really brought us together a lot. I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have those friends on the team and didn’t enjoy the people. … But we had these cool little boats that we would carry down to the water and you had the oars and everything — there was definitely a steep learning curve. It took a while to get it and figure out little things: how to get in the boat; how to hold an oar; there’s a coxswain, they call out commands, and you have to know what everything means. It was a lot of fun just jumping into something new that I had never done before and figuring out how to do it. After a year, we got pretty good, and that was a lot of fun just to be able to get out on the water and know what you’re doing and row in a boat with other people. You have to be completely in sync with everyone else and once you do get that, it’s the most amazing feeling.
SB: Can you talk about being in sync with everyone a little bit more and how that felt?
AB: Probably the first couple of months, honestly, you’re in the boat and everyone is kind of just doing their own thing, so you’re rocking back and forth and, ‘oh my god, are we going to flip? I don’t want to fall into this river, it’s disgusting and cold.’ It’s really, really difficult to get the hang of and everyone’s frustrated — it’s kind of miserable, just a little bit. But then you kind of start to pick it up and get the hang of it, and then the people around you start to figure it out as well. Then you’re in this thing together. … You’re all moving in the same exact way, we’ve all been taught the same motion of how to pull an oar through the water and it’s really dependent on the mechanics of rowing. You have to place the oar in the water this exact way and get enough resistance. Everyone has to drop their oar in at the exact same time in order to move forward. If you’re timing is off, it’ll be rocky — you can feel it, it just doesn’t feel right. If someone’s not pulling hard enough, you’ll stall or go the wrong way. It requires so much…Everyone has to be perfect and once you do get there and get to as perfect as you can because it’s never going to be exactly perfect, once you get close to that, that boat just flies. You don’t even really feel like you’re doing anything because everyone is working just as hard as you are and everyone just moves. You’re just flying across the water.
SB: What kind of role did rowing play during your freshman year when you were going through major changes from engineering to literature?
AB: Whenever I was stressed about school or worried about a test, or whatever it was, I always knew I could go to practice and the second I would get out on the water everything was just… (it was) this place where I could just be with my friends out in a beautiful place on the water. … You’re so focused on what you’re doing in the boat, you don’t feel the stress, you don’t feel anything else. … Being at this huge university, I found this little home that gave me purpose and let me have fun.
SB: Did you continue with the rowing club into your sophomore year?
AB: I think I did it at the beginning of sophomore year first semester, but that was when I started working at The Daily and as I got more involved in that, I found myself having less and less time. At the same time, the team dynamic sort of shifted: we got a new coach, some people left. … It wasn’t what it was my freshman year, it wasn’t the same — then it wasn’t really worth it for what I was putting into it. I just didn’t have the commitment and it wasn’t necessarily something I wanted to spend my time doing as I got more involved in The Daily.
SB: What was it like to see the change in the team not being as cohesive as it was and turning into something more competitive?
AB: I felt like it was what it was when I needed it and when it changed and I changed, I just no longer really had room in my life for that. Of course I miss it, I still miss rowing itself and that team dynamic we had, but I’m glad that it happened when it did. Now I’m just moving on.
SB: How close are you to your friends that were on the rowing team?
AB: That was the beginning of our friendship, but since then. We moved in together (my sophomore year) and I see them all the time. Our friendship started with rowing, but went beyond that. We became friends in all aspects.
SB: Do you still live together?
AB: We still live together and we’re about as close as I’ve ever been with friends. We try to eat dinner together and that kind of stuff. I don’t see them all the time or for the day-to-day, but they’re my best friends.