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From Durham to Durham

A two-time British University champion during her time at Durham University, Cherry Seaborn already has five goals for Duke.
A two-time British University champion during her time at Durham University, Cherry Seaborn already has five goals for Duke.

She may be from across the pond, but Durham is not an unfamiliar place for Cherry Seaborn.

The graduate student joined the Duke field hockey team after spending three years at Durham University in the United Kingdom.

“I obviously like my Durhams,” she said.

When Seaborn graduated from the English university in 2013 after three years, she wasn’t ready to stop playing field hockey just yet. Armed with an extra year of eligibility and a desire to travel to America, Seaborn began to contact schools across the Atlantic.

“Ever since I was in high school I’ve always wanted to… study in the United States,” she said. “I looked into different schools that were good academically and also at hockey, and Duke was one that really jumped out at me.”

Yet Seaborn had never been to the United States before, except for a three-day trip to San Francisco. She knew little about most American colleges and was in the middle of her final exams during the formal recruitment process. Instead, she had to rely on emailing and calling interested schools herself and found out about many of them through word of mouth. Duke eventually emerged as her top choice due to its reputation, as many people in the United Kingdom recommended the school.

“I made my decision purely based on recommendations,” Seaborn said. “Duke has such a good name in England, and there were a lot of people who told me to go there. There were also some English girls [at Duke], so I talked to them too.”

After exchanging emails with head coach Pam Bustin, Seaborn arrived in Durham, North Carolina in time for preseason in August. Although her trip to the Bull City marked only her second time on American soil, Seaborn came as no stranger to field hockey. At Durham University, she led her team to back-to-back British University championships in 2012 and 2013. Seaborn was also named to England’s under-21 national team for each of her three years at university, and she earned a bronze medal with the team at the European Championships in 2012.

Seaborn's extensive experience has allowed her to make an immediate impact on Duke field hockey. The forward has started all 15 games so far this season and ranks third on the team with five goals, including three she scored during her first three games in Duke blue. Seaborn is one of the most accurate Blue Devil shooters, and she is tied for third with a .714 shots-on-goal percentage. Seaborn has especially been a key player late in games, as she is tied for the team lead with two game-winning goals, both in overtime.

“It’s been incredible,” she said. “It still feels surreal, the whole American college thing. I still have to pinch myself every time I go play.”

Seaborn, however, recognizes many differences between Duke field hockey and the teams she played on in England, yet she says that those differences are all positive. She especially points to the higher quality of the facilities in the United States and how they enable a greater focus on athletic training.

“Americans tend to focus more on fitness, and we didn’t do much weights [in England],” Seaborn said. “Just the facilities and opportunities and coaching staff are incredible and incomparable to anything back home. It was such a shock actually… we didn’t have our own locker room, even.”

Seaborn is currently part of a Duke team that’s experiencing its best season since 2008 when it had a 12-3 record entering the second-to-last weekend of regular season play. Of the 11 victories this year, Seaborn’s favorite moment as a Blue Devil was Duke’s shootout victory against North Carolina—although she had no idea about the rivalry before coming to Tobacco Road.

“I didn’t really feel the rivalry because I’ve only been here a couple of months,” she said. “But I’ve gotten really close to the team, and just to play a game that meant so much to them… that was something really special to be a part of.”

But Seaborn’s number one highlight came before she put on a Blue Devil uniform—stepping off the plane at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

“Just getting off the plane and arriving here, I can’t say how incredible it is to be in a place like this,” she said. “Just in terms of… how friendly everyone is, it’s really been a magical experience.”

As Duke’s season and her final year of collegiate field hockey draw to a close, Seaborn is beginning to think about the future. A candidate for a Master in Management Studies degree from Fuqua’s one-year program, Seaborn hopes to get a job somewhere in the United States. Luckily for her, there are 10 other cities named Durham across the country—although the chances are slim she’ll pick her next destination based off its name.

“[The name Durham] didn’t factor into my college decision, but it did make it seem like the right decision when I walked up and entered Durham after just having left Durham,” Seaborn said. “It made me feel a little bit more at home. I definitely like my Durhams.”

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