The beautiful state of Florida is usually a destination spot for many people, but for M’Balia Bangoura, pronounced “Balia Bangora,” it is her past. Bangoura grew up in a household with a hard-working professional tennis coach from West Africa and a mother from Georgia who works as an accountant. Let’s not forget her brother, Sekou Bangoura, who plays professional tennis on tour.

Bangoura, 21, is a 5-foot-3 African-American female at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she is majoring in sports media and communication with minors in sociology and ethnic studies.

What urged Bangoura to leave Florida to come to Nebraska in 2017 was tennis and new opportunities.

“I knew I wanted to play college tennis but never thought it would bring me to Nebraska of all places,” Bangoura said. “I mean, who in their right mind wants to go to Nebraska?”

Bangoura had been playing tennis since she could walk and practically was born with a racquet in her hand. However, after playing for two years at Nebraska, Bangoura said she couldn’t take it anymore.

“I quickly found out that the team and coaches just weren’t the right fit for me,” Bangoura said. “There was too much drama, and I don’t take any crap. I am confident in myself and tell people how it is, whether they like it or not.”

The members of Bangoura’s team were fake and didn’t care about her personally, she said; there was only one thing that mattered.

“All they cared about was me winning tennis matches, and it wasn’t healthy for me.”

Tennis had been Bangoura’s whole life, which left her wondering what was next.

“Being an athlete, I fell behind in school and missed out on so many opportunities to be in clubs and have a true college experience,” Bangoura said.

Bangoura couldn’t take classes or accept internships due to conflicts with practice and matches, and she couldn’t keep going.

“I didn’t want to miss out,” Bangoura said.

Now, without sports and practice, she can take fun and challenging classes.

“I want to be able to have the opportunity to work for ESPN one day, and I can’t do that by taking easy classes.”

In her sports media capstone, she is working on a podcast for the College of Journalism and Mass Communications’ first online sports website, UNLimitedSports.

Working at ESPN might not be an easy job to acquire, and it takes time and effort to reach the highest level of broadcasting and journalism. But Bangoura feels like she is ready for anything that gets thrown at her.

“I’m motivated and driven to do something I love,” Bangoura said. “I have already given up on tennis, and I’m not about to give up on a dream that I’ve had since high school just because it will be tough.”