The Punahou graduate left her comfort zone and now feels comfortable at DePauw University in Indiana
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Apr 20, 2011
DePauw University in Indiana was everything Janelle Arita wanted in a college.
It was a chance to experience something completely different in a part of the country where she knew absolutely nobody.
And it allowed her an opportunity to continue her tennis career.
But on the long drive from the airport to the campus located in a town called Greencastle, even Arita was questioning her decision.
"I was thinking what did I get myself into?" Arita recalled. "I decided a day before the deadline which school to go to and when I got there, it was really scary."
Four short years later, the decision has changed Arita in ways she never thought imaginable.
Now, the 2007 Punahou graduate considers herself an adventurous type of person, evidenced by her decision to teach English in Japan for a year after she graduates next month.
"It's all because of DePauw's influence on me and stepping out of my comfort zone to go to school here," Arita said. "It's given me the confidence that I could adapt to a new environment and try new things."
Confidence has never been an issue with her tennis game, which has been instrumental in the Tigers winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship every year she's been there.
Arita stepped right in at the No. 1 singles position and started winning immediately, posting a 26-9 record her freshman year.
She is 19-9 as a senior, but has won seven in a row as the Tigers prepare to defend their conference title on Friday.
"We've had a tougher schedule this year than in previous years, so we've lost a few more games, but I think we've progressed since the start of the year and are getting better," Arita said.
A conference championship would secure a spot in the NCAA Division III tournament and would give Arita one final chance to accomplish her main goal at the start of the season.
"Our goal every year is always to make the final eight and we've come up one or two rounds shy every year," she said. "That's what we're playing for."
Part of what has made attending DePauw such an eye-opening experience has also been the team's road trips.
Each year, Arita says the most fun trip is playing a tournament in Hilton Head, S.C. during spring break.
"It's business but it's also a little bit of a vacation at the same time," she said. "All the girls on the team get to stay in the same house and we cook for each other and go to the beach and get a lot of time to hang out and become tight like a family."
The team was scheduled to leave today for Little Rock, Ark., where the conference tournament is being held.