Contributed by Lareeca Rucker
Smilla Sønderby, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student, is an example of how international students enrich Ole Miss’s programs.
Sønderby is a member of the Ole Miss Women’s Golf team, which recently defeated Oklahoma State 4-1 to win the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship. The team competed May 21-26 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at Grayhawk Golf Club.
International students’ “lived experiences help open others’ eyes to the global nature of journalism and integrated marketing communications,” said Debora Wenger, interim dean of the UM School of Journalism and New Media. “One of the things we’d love to do is offer more scholarships for international students, and we hope to make that a priority in the coming years.”
After flying home to Denmark following the tournament, Sønderby went to bed early, woke up the next day, worked out at the gym, and played 18 holes, proving her dedication to the sport.
The freshmen journalism major with plans to minor in psychology has been a member of the Danish Ladies’ National Team since 2019. She joined the Danish Girls’ National Team in 2017 and has competed in two European Girls’ Team Championships and one European Nations’ Cup. Sønderby has had 17 Top 10 finishes in 32 events from 2017 to 2019, according to her Ole Miss Athletics bio.
Sønderby competed in her first golf tournament at age 10. She attended the Danish Golf Academy and at 15, she became part of the national team and the junior squad in Denmark, playing in two European team championships. After finishing primary school, through grade nine in Denmark, she attended a sports boarding school.
“I basically moved out when I was 16,” she said.
While attending high school, she became part of the ladies golf team in Denmark and played in European team championships and many international tournaments.
She admired a fellow player, who attended college at Oregon State University, so Sønderby began thinking about moving to the United States to attend college.
“I wrote to, I think, 25 colleges in the states,” she said. “Some colleges reached out to me because they had seen me play out in Europe.”
Head coach Kory Henkes traveled to watch Sønderby play in a Portugal tournament. Then Sønderby visited the University of Mississippi and three other schools before choosing UM.
For the next two and a half months, Sønderby said she will be in Denmark and playing in three or four international tournaments.
“I have a tournament this week,” she said. “So I’m going to Copenhagen tomorrow to play in a tournament over the weekend.”
She will continue to compete in tournaments every weekend this summer except for five days when she will take a break and visit a friend in Poland. She practices every day. On the day of this interview, she had practiced with her coach for four hours.
“Students in our school are always doing amazing things — earning the highest of academic honors or launching great careers — but we don’t get too many winning NCAA championships,” Wenger said with a laugh. “Of course, we are proud of Smilla and her talents both on and off the course.”
Sønderby said she has always been interested in writing to express herself and reflect on her life and experiences. She hopes to have a golf career for the next 20 years, then become a sports writer, so she is pursuing that goal in the UM School of Journalism and New Media.
“I was actually really good at writing in Danish, and my teacher told me when I graduated, that she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw me in one of the big newspapers one day as a journalist,” she said. “I was like, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a golf player. But then, you know, I just kept writing.”
Since English is her second language, Sønderby said she was initially concerned about choosing journalism as a major.
“I was a little worried, you know, my freshman year if I could express myself in the same way writing in another language,” she said. “But I think I’m doing OK.”
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