NEW YORK— It all started with a wooden stick when she was five years old. Rebecca Pope has been playing field hockey since she can remember: From junior school to high school and now at Columbia. 

“It’s been a lifestyle,” Pope said.

The senior hails from South Africa, where field hockey rules the female athletic landscape. On Sunday, she will play her final game for Columbia. It will be the first college game that her parents will see in person.

“They were hesitant just because they were unfamiliar with the schooling system and had never been here,” Pope said of her parents' reaction when she chose Columbia. “But they were very happy to afford me the opportunity.”

Pope realized in 10th grade she could take her field hockey game and play division one at a college in the United States. She had never been to America before, and currently, she believes she’s the only field hockey player from her high school that is playing at an American college.

“At first you hear America and I was immediately on board,” Pope recalled. “Then you start taking a step back and thinking of the things that are actually going to go into it and hesitating, but ultimately I am very happy with my decision.”

As for why she chose Columbia, Pope said, “Columbia chooses itself.”

New York City, the academics and the caliber of players and people she met when she first came here made the decision pretty seamless.

"I've grown so much as a person because of it," Pope said on the decision that she made four years ago.