Nicole Byl '15

Grand Rapids, Mich.

Balance is the name of the game for Nicole Byl. During the competitive rowing season, as a member of the varsity crew team she balances the demands of training and competing with her other interests, which include music, backpacking and hiking. In the classroom, she balances her interests in the sciences with her interests in Spanish language and culture.

“Rowing consumes a lot of my life here, but I love it,” she says. “The training is very, very intense, but it’s really nice to be part of the team. We have a great dynamic. We all have the same mind set in that we are all really competitive and have similar goals, and we push each other really hard.”

The training is pretty much year-round. In the spring and fall, you will see Byl on Lake Carnegie every afternoon and every Saturday morning. The workouts on the water are about two hours. In the winter, the training moves indoors to 90-minutes of rowing on ergonomic machines for strength and endurance. She also lifts weights two to three times a week, and once a week she rows in the indoor tank to maintain her stroke technique.

“We push each other hard, but it’s also a stress reliever because it’s good to be able to put aside your school work and go to the boathouse where you can focus on your workout and row,” she says. “It’s nice to have that break from the fast-paced life of our classes.”

Her academic schedule is intense as well. She is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and has her mind set on going to medical school. She did an internship at Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C., managing high school volunteers. Through that internship, she had an opportunity to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama, who reads to children in the hospital once a year.

Byl also wants to graduate with fluency in Spanish and is pursuing a certificate in the language. She lives in a community where the Hispanic population is growing, so she understands the value of being bilingual in a hospital setting. To that end, in the summer after her sophomore she participated in a Princeton-sponsored international internship in La Paz, Bolivia, shadowing pediatricians in rural and urban health clinics.

Aside from rowing, another stress reliever for Byl is music. She grew up in a family that values music and has one sister who composes music and another who plays in her college’s orchestra. So Byl sings in an a cappella group called Off the Record, which performs rhythm and blues and hip-hop tunes. “This is a totally different pace from my rowing,” she says. She also is involved as a leader in Outdoor Action, a student organization that arranges camping, hiking and wilderness trips.

Through all of these activities, the one constant for Byl has been the opportunity to meet students from all walks of life. “Obviously a lot of the people here are smart, but there’s so much more than that,” she says. “It’s fun getting to know everybody because everyone has this amazing past. And you know they are going to do great things in the future, too.”