Over the weekend, junior Džemila Hadžić became the first Panther this season to notch 100 kills and 100 digs. Prior to this season, the Bosnian had compiled 129 kills in her first two years in a Georgia State uniform.
Hadžić began playing volleyball when she was eight years old. She continued to play throughout her adolescence. When it came time for Hadžić to look into colleges, she was interested in the opportunity to play and continue her education, which is an opportunity more commonly found in America than in her home country.
Since many American collegiate volleyball coaches do not recruit in Bosnia, Hadžić had to put in extra effort to play volleyball in the States. She researched the different conferences. She found the Sun Belt Conference, which led her to head coach Sally Polhamus and the GSU volleyball program.
“I made highlight videos and sent them,” said Hadžić. “Sally came to visit in Bosnia, and I just loved it.”
Once she came to Atlanta Hadžić had plenty of adjustments to make. Although she learned English throughout schooling, putting her English to daily use was a challenge initially. She struggled to communicate, but now she sometimes forgets Bosnian when she speaks to her family on the phone.
“With English being a 3rd language she did a fantastic job transitioning to a fully English speaking environment,” said Polhamus. “She arrived 3 days before our season began and jumped right into our culture, food and style of play. She has demonstrated incredibility maturity while learning how to navigate academics and athletics.”
Besides the language barrier, Hadžić was shocked by the size of Atlanta. Most of the towns in her home country are much smaller and take a mere twenty minutes to travel through. Even simple things like food choices were a big change to Hadžić, who had not had Mexican food, now one of her favorite foods, before coming to the States. She was surprised to find Bosnian restaurants that remind her of her home cooking.
Her favorite memory as a Panther came in the Fordham match this season. She posted a career high 19 kills in the match.
“I know I have put the work in, and I feel like my teammates have confidence in me. I have more confidence in myself,” said Hadžić. “This season I have had a different mindset. I just love to compete.”
After Hadžić obtains her degree in entrepreneurship and finishes her Georgia State career, she plans to stay in the States. She would like to coach or open a healthy food business in the future.