When Johns Hopkins women's soccer defender Kyla Persky began her freshman year, she made herself a somewhat ambitious promise for a college student.
"I made a pact -- jokingly, but it stuck -- since the beginning of freshman year that I was going to survive college without Netflix or coffee," Persky said. "And I don't binge Netflix on my own, and I don't drink coffee. If I'm tired, I go to bed. You wake up the next morning and you start all over again."
Now entering her junior year, Persky said she's maintained that promise. The 20-year-old international studies major just came off a summer in which she spent about two months in Warsaw, Poland, interning with the White Star Real Estate Group. After that, she spent the rest of her summer visiting roughly 12 cities, mostly in Eastern Europe. The summer before that, she also interned in Warsaw and visited about six Eastern European cities.
"I am your Type-A daredevil," said Persky, who is also a certified scuba diver. "Ready to take advantage of any opportunity you throw at me."
When she's not traveling the world, Persky dedicates her time to the Blue Jays' soccer team, where she has been a member of two Centennial Conference championship squads. Persky has played in 35 of 42 games during her career.
Last year, Hopkins went 17-3-2 overall and 8-1 in the conference. This year, the Blue Jays enter the season ranked 13th overall in Division II by the United Soccer Coaches and first overall in the Centennial Conference preseason poll.
"It's fantastic to show up to a program you know you are giving so much of your time to and that you know you care so much about and every single player on the team matches that same level of enthusiasm, energy and commitment to the program," Persky said.
" ... That's the kind of energy you want to be surrounded with."
While only a junior, this season will be Persky's last with the Blue Jays. As part of the five-year BA/MA program with Hopkins, the New Canaan, Conn., native will start a two-year graduate program next year in Italy. She will study in Italy for one year and finish her degree in Washington, D.C.
"It's a great opportunity for her," Hopkins head coach Leo Weil said. "We hate to lose her as a player, but it's a great opportunity."
Persky's passion for travel began at an early age. When she was 13 she attended a two-week Spanish immersion camp in Costa Rica. Speaking very little Spanish at the time, Persky said she basically got off a plane in Costa Rica by herself and found her host family.
"I give a lot of credit to my parents, because ever since I was young it's been balancing a busy schedule and trying to find way to prioritize," she said.
In high school, she volunteered with the Build On program in Connecticut. She worked with a small group of peers to raise funds and awareness for various mission trips. With the organization, Persky went on three separate 10-day trips to Malawi and Nicaragua where she worked to build schools in villages that have historically had no adequate school structure.
Persky hopes all of her efforts abroad eventually lead to a job consulting with nonprofits. She said she had originally thought about a career in the CIA but now wants to gain experience in the private sector -- still abroad, of course.
Her ambitious career path doesn't come without sacrifice, though. The BA/MA program will cost Persky her final year of college soccer.
"I don't take lightly the fact that I'm giving up a year of my eligibility and a year of my opportunity to be with this team," Persky said. "To me, soccer has always been so much more than just a sport. I've made some tremendous friends. I've had some incredible experiences, and I think the families and friends that I have
met along the way is what makes this experience all worth it."
Weil said the team will certainly miss Persky, who he called a "very physical player."
"She asks a lot of questions -- always wondering what she can do to get better or making sure she's doing the right thing," Weil said. " ... She's a typical Hopkins student. I think the school attracts people that like to be busy. I just get tired listening to what they do sometimes. She's obviously very busy but does everything well."
Before she leaves, Persky has one particular goal in mind -- a national championship.
"I think Coach Weil, in particular, having been with this program from start to finish, has been hungry to win a national championship for a long time now," Persky said of the program's lone head coach since its inception in 1992. "And I think the group that we have, we've constantly reiterated that we take it one drill at a time, one game at a time. And we're hopeful that each and every day we're getting one step closer to our goals. But at the end of the day we want the success that we've had and more."
Photo Credit: Jay VanRensselaer/Johns Hopkins Athletics
Issue 237: September 2017