Meet undergraduate student Erin Flajnik

Erin Flajnik
Erin Flajnik

As a college student, Massachusetts native Erin Flajnik knew she was interested in a medical field. Her sports background led her to exercise science, ultimately choosing physical therapy as a career. She hopes to work in the medical community surrounding Boston and plans to specialize in pediatric physical therapy. Read more about Erin’s experiences as a UConn student.

Why did you choose your particular major?

From fourth grade to my sophomore year in college, I accumulated a long list of injuries. I fractured my back twice and suffered two fractured heels and a major head injury. Additionally, I had two ankle fractures and ankle surgery. My injuries have undoubtedly influenced me and supported my personal growth and development as a patient, leader and student. My injuries also sparked an interest in the healthcare field.

The exercise science major provides a comprehensive understanding of exercise, human performance and healthy living and allows students to follow their interests in the medical field. This major creates the opportunity for students to become a doctor, nurse, physician’s assistant, physical therapist, occupational therapist or athletic trainer, along with other options. The focus on the human body and the flexibility of career opportunities with this major was perfect for me and my interests.

What attracted you to UConn? 

I choose to enroll in UConn’s exercise science program because the Department of Kinesiology is regarded as one of the best in the country and has been ranked in the top ten by the National Academy of Kinesiology. The faculty is composed of many successful professionals who continue to advance research and continue to adapt the curriculum so that the students are learning information that hasn’t even been published in textbooks yet.

Which one of your UConn activities, internships or jobs was the most memorable? Why?

My freshman year at UConn I cheered for the football season and the men’s and women’s basketball seasons for 2016–2017. This gave me the opportunity to explore the UConn community and understand what being a Husky meant to me.

As part of the Spirit Pride Tradition program, I supported UConn’s Division I teams from seats better than front row seats. Our outstanding basketball teams allowed me to travel to AAC and NCAA Tournaments. I was selected to be one of ten out of forty cheerleaders at UConn to travel to the 2017 women’s basketball Final Four in Dallas. I participated in other organized UConn events, banquets and conferences to support our Husky coaching staff, fans, students, families, alumni and other donors. This team also gave me the opportunity to volunteer at a camp for future Husky cheerleaders, HuskyThon, and volunteer at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children.

Not only did cheer leading provide me with many memories, but it provided me with a second family. As a freshman on any large campus, finding your support system can be difficult, and for that reason I am blessed to have been a part of the 2016–2017 team. The friendships I made on this team will last me a lifetime.

 Name two other experiences that have enriched your studies.

First, When I shared a room with Asaka Saito from Yamagata, Japan, in my sophomore year at UConn (2017–2018), I took on a new role as more than just a roommate and friend; I was also a mentor and supporter. I was sensitive to her cultural and academic obstacles and felt a responsibility to help her in her transition and experience at UConn and to serve as a representative of the students who appreciate diversity and sympathize with cultural struggles of our diverse and talented colleagues. However, in the process of helping her, I learned many transferable skills that are difficult to learn in a lecture setting.

The lessons Asaka shared with me in college will continue to guide me through my journey into the medical field. Asaka and I came from two different worlds and didn’t have a lot in common, but we coalesced into friends that could never truly be separated by 6,517 miles due to our ability to appreciate our differences.

Second, my professors in Kinesiology have made me aware of the New England American College of Sports Medicine. The NEACSM is a resource for exercise science, sports medicine, health and fitness information and networking opportunities in the New England Area. Semi-annual conferences are held by nationally and internationally recognized researchers and experts in the field. Together they provide workshops and lectures to discuss current information and research. Attending these conferences have attributed to learning in all of my courses.

What has been the biggest challenge in your UConn career?

During my freshman year at UConn, when I dedicated more than fourteen hours a week to NCAA Division I cheerleading, my academic performance suffered. Since understanding what was in my control was very crucial in managing every injury, I soon realized how crucial it was in managing my academic potential. When my dreams of getting into the exercise science program seemed at risk, I chose not to return to cheerleading. I was quick to reevaluate my goals and adapt to college so that I could be one of the less than ten percent of students to be accepted into the competitive exercise science program.

When do you expect to graduate? What then?

Once I graduate from UConn in May 2020, my dedication to my academic and professional goals of becoming a physical therapist will continue as I attend a doctorate of physical therapy program.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

From 2012 to 2017, I was able to link my skills as a cheerleader and my passion for volunteering when I was able to become a coach within the Arlington Pop Warner Cheerleading organization. I volunteered to coach dance and gymnastics skills, cheerleading safety and routines for football games and competitions. We held weekly practices, supervised weekend games and supervised and traveled to competitions. I also volunteered during the off-season to help cheerleaders gain new skills for the upcoming season and skills necessary for all-star cheerleading tryouts.

Coaching girls ages five to fifteen is incredibly challenging in many ways and requires mindfulness, sensitivity and compassion. Rather than simply taking on the role as an instructor of new skills routines, I felt I was a leader dedicated to building a team environment that would inspire trust, develop self-esteem, ignite passion and diligence and most importantly, foster a sense of community and compassion for diversity among colleagues and teammates. I could see the difference I made in the lives of these adolescents, just as I experienced in this same program as volunteers inspired me when I was a little girl in the Pop Warner program. It was these impacts that I made that only strengthened my commitment towards a lifelong of volunteering.

My experiences as a leader and coach are something I aspire to develop and practice as a graduate trainee and as a professional. I hope that I will be accepted into a graduate school located in Boston so I can continue volunteering for this amazing program.

By Kim Colavito Markesich