On March 13, 2020, Tara Bettle ‘21 and her teammates on the UNC Greensboro Women’s Golf team were in Arizona for a tournament when they were sent home due to COVID-19. Pausing in the middle of their practice round, Bettle and her teammates packed up their clubs and headed back to Greensboro.
“I remember thinking, ‘Oh wow, a two week break? That’ll be awesome,’” she said.
Little did Bettle know that a few weeks later, she’d be on a plane back to her hometown of Berlin, Germany. In a sharp turn of events, she would finish out the remainder of her junior year on another side of the globe.
“It was crazy. All of my assignments were due at 6 a.m. all of the sudden because of the time difference,” she said. “When we had group projects, I would be up until 5 or 6 a.m. to submit things with my group and my dad would be going to work.”
For some student athletes, the pandemic interrupted their first season playing a sport at the collegiate level. For others, it interrupted their senior – and final – season. As a then-junior, Bettle fell in the middle.
When the NCAA announced they’d extend athletic eligibility for an additional year for those who missed a season in 2020, there was no question as to whether or not Bettle would take the fifth year as a Spartan. Her only issue? She was still on track to complete her undergraduate degree in four years.
“I knew I wanted to get my master’s at some point,” she said. “I just didn’t realize it’d be so soon. But, it was my only option if I wanted to play.”
With a bachelor’s in Marketing from the Bryan School of Business and Economics in tow, Bettle put her problem solving skills to the test and began exploring graduate program options in the Bryan School. She eventually decided on an MS in Retail Studies.
“I’d always been interested in fashion and following trends, but I never really thought about working in it,” said Bettle.
On top of sticking around campus next year to complete her degree, Bettle hopes to stay in the U.S. a little longer after graduation. Because her status as a student athlete has restricted her schedule a bit, it’s been harder to find time for internships as a student. Now, her goal is to obtain an extension on her student visa, put her degrees to work, and pursue an internship in New York City.
“Had I not been pushed to do my research and jump into grad school, I wouldn’t have found the MS in Retail Studies program, and I wouldn’t have discovered what direction I wanted to go in,” Bettle said.
In the meantime, she is making the most of her first year as a graduate student and final year as a member of the golf team. In the past six months alone, Bettle set her career-best score on the links, was named SoCon student athlete of the week, and took on a leadership role as a Bryan School Graduate Ambassador.
“Being a student athlete is stressful and the pandemic made it even more stressful, but the professors in the Bryan School have always pushed me to be the most successful version of myself — from the moment I came in as an international student until now,” she said. “There’s a personal touch to this school that’s very special.”