STORRS, Conn. -- Once known as a small-town girl from Hebron, Conn., Nicole Wechsler now has the big-city feeling due to her college experience bringing her nearly 7,000 miles away before circling her back home to UConn and the rowing team.
Wechsler, a first-year walk-on with the Huskies, has experienced anything but a typical college education to this point. Spending one year in both Dubai and London has shaped her as a person, giving her a clear picture of what she wants to pursue academically.
Her travels have taken her from Connecticut to Dubai (roughly 14 to 17 hours by plane), then from Dubai to London (roughly 6 to 7 hours by plane) and an internship in the British Parliament.
Had it not been for her father, William, who taught at the American University in Dubai, Wechsler may have never known the opportunities awaiting her on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
"I knew nothing about that area of the world (Dubai) before going there. I went because it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to the Middle East," said Wechsler. "It was definitely different than Hebron."
A political science major at UConn, Wechsler's focus is on Middle Eastern/Arabic studies -- a new found interest of hers after spending her freshman year at the International Horizons College in Dubai.
Dubai, a city of nearly three million people in the United Arab Emirates, provided Wechsler with the opportunity of experiencing Middle Eastern culture in a unique way -- mainly in the fact that she was the only American student in her classes.
"Students were from all over: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Emirates, Somalia and other parts of Africa and a bunch from Europe," said Wechsler. "The Islamic culture is a huge part of life there. I wasn't familiar with the practices."
She recalled going to the local mall and watching her friends pray, as is custom in the Muslim religion. Wechsler's ability to adapt to a new environment served her well, as a new destination was on tap the following year.
"The school in Dubai had a partnership with Regent's University in London, so I went there for my sophomore year with an opportunity to intern in Parliament," said Wechsler. "I interned during the Brexit -- when the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union."
Wechsler worked for MP Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) and some of his constituents, assisting in any issues that arose -- giving her experience in working with people to find solutions in a fast-paced setting.
During her time in London, Wechsler's vision for the future was solidified as she prepared to return to the United States for her final two years of college. She applied to UConn and Rutgers, but chose to join the Huskies beginning this past fall.
Though she currently studies political science, her area of focus is on Middle Eastern and Arabic studies, with the hope of working for the U.S. government in its branch of Middle East relations and foreign affairs.
"I never had any intentions of studying Arabic in high school; I planned to major in international affairs, but not Middle Eastern studies until I spent time in Dubai," said Wechsler. "I want to help American relations in that area of the world."
When it comes to rowing, her father also had an influence on her there, as he was a former student-athlete on the Dartmouth crew team. Prior to UConn though, she had no previous experience.
"I played lacrosse for 10 years and got into powerlifting, so I have always had an athletic mindset," said Wechsler. "Rowing was a new sport for me. I love it so far with my welcoming teammates. My coaches are amazing too, being patient with the walk-ons and teaching us well."
She has applied to study in Oman next summer -- the country next to the United Arab Emirates -- and will find out her application status over the next few months.
Before her next adventure, Wechsler enjoys her time in Storrs as she recently completed her first semester. She reflected on the whirlwind of the past three years.
"My dad is the reason I went to Dubai and London and he inspired my studies and future career goals. I am really thankful for him, as well as my mom (Jean Olson) and brothers (Max and Christophe)" said Wechsler.
Tens of thousands of miles later, this UConn rower and Hebron native has learned something about herself, and her experiences have paved the road for her to have a positive impact on the world.