When Chyna Balonick first arrived at Humboldt State in 2008 she was miserable. “My first two years in Humboldt were difficult for me because I was homesick a lot,” said the Sunland, Calif. native, who moved to Humboldt County from Los Angeles in 2008 to study pre-physical therapy.
Although Balonick considered transferring on several occasions, she never did. A choice she is glad for.
Balonick worked hard during her freshman and sophomore years to put her homesickness behind her. She channeled all of her energy into her studies and the Women’s Rowing team — which she joined on a whim her freshman year after hanging up her soccer jersey in high school. Without crew, Balonick doesn’t think she would have stayed at HSU. “I love being part of a team, and when I was done with soccer I needed something to be a part of. I stuck with crew because I ended up really loving it. After four years of racing, crew means so much to me. It was one of the hardest things I did, but I kept doing it because I love the sport and I love my teammates.”
Balonick also worked hard to pay for her education. In addition to practicing with her team six days a week — often twice a day — Balonick worked full-time in the Financial Aid Office.
A back injury several years ago left her father unemployed and her parents unable to support her financially.
But the first generation college student was determined to succeed — even if it meant doing so on her own. “I think those hardships pushed me to do so well in school,” Balonick said. “Although we were fine while my dad was able to work, a lot of the comforts disappeared once we no longer had an income. That made me determined to be successful in school, so I could get into graduate school and then start working toward my career.”
Balonick balanced her work, school and crew schedule while maintaining good grades. In her free time she attended Kinesiology Club meetings and volunteered.
“I did all that because I felt it was what I was supposed to do,” she said. “I have always had high expectations for myself.”
By her senior year, Balonick’s high expectations were paying off. In May, HSU honored the graduating senior as an Outstanding Student of the Year. The award recognized Balonick’s many accomplishments over her four years at HSU as a scholar, volunteer, mentor and student-athlete. “I was shocked to get the award,” said Balonick, who will be entering Chapman University’s Doctorate in Physical Therapy program in August. “I always expect that there are people out there that are better than me. But the fact that I won that award, out of all the other amazing students that were considered is still surprising to me. It tells me that all my work I have done has made an impact of my peers and my superiors.”
But being named Outstanding Student of the Year wasn’t Balonick’s last accomplishment at HSU. That same month, the HSU Women’s Crew team took home its first-ever national win at the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II Rowing Championships, sweeping Western Washington’s seven-year reign out of the water.
Balonick said the crew team and the friendships she built around it are what she will miss most about HSU. During her senior year at Humboldt State, Balonick said she started referring to Arcata as “home.”
“I think it is because I really started to appreciate what was around me,” Balonick said. “It was hard at first, coming from a big city, but now I really like the small-town feel in Humboldt. I will definitely miss that.”