Path to Success: UK International Tennis Player Grows From Studying Abroad

Emily Fanning
Emily Fanning

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 19, 2017) Through hard work and perseverance, Emily Fanning left the picturesque farmlands of Timaru, New Zealand, to pursue her tennis career in the United States where she now plays as a University of Kentucky senior.

Fanning began playing tennis at the age of 4. Years later, in primary school, a coach noticed Fanning’s athletic talent and helped ignite her ongoing tennis career.

“New Zealand is really big on sports. At home we had a bunch of tennis balls and rackets, which I played around with to pass the time,” Fanning said.

Fanning achieved numerous accomplishments throughout her athletic career, including receiving the New Zealand Player of the Year award in both 2011 and 2012 and playing in four major junior U.S. Open tournaments.

“I felt very lucky to play in the junior tournaments,” Fanning said. “The experience of being around the pros was really awesome.”

Fanning went on to play at Florida State University for two years before transferring to UK. Now, Fanning is completing her bachelor’s degree in dietetics and nutrition, in the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, as she plays for the UK women’s tennis program.

Fanning described how welcomed she felt when she arrived at UK. “People are so friendly here. For example, as an international student, so many people invited me to their house for Thanksgiving. The coaches are really warm and inviting,” Fanning said.

Fanning also mentioned the struggles she faced when she settled into Lexington. “I came during spring semester, and I had never experienced a cold winter until then. Truthfully, it was a bit of a shock,” Fanning said with a laugh.

When asked about her major takeaways from living abroad, Fanning lit up with expression. “The biggest thing was growing up and maturing,” Fanning said. ”I’m here by myself and my family is a long way away, so I learned to make my own decisions and deal with my own matters. It’s been such a great experience for me.”

To students thinking of studying abroad and taking their athletic career overseas, Fanning strongly encourages them to “go and do it.”

“It’s scary, but you learn so much,” she said. “Also, it helps you gain confidence and sets you up really well for life. It’s worth it.”

Once Fanning graduates, she will move back to Florida to play professional tennis. After finishing her tennis career, she hopes to move back to New Zealand or Australia and enter medicine or become a sports dietitian for top-level athletes. 

UK is the University for Kentucky. At UK, we are educating more students, treating more patients with complex illnesses and conducting more research and service than at any time in our 150-year history. To read more about the UK story and how you can support continued investment in your university and the Commonwealth, go to: uky.edu/uk4ky. #uk4ky #seeblue