Morehead-Cain Scholars build community . . . by practicing ‘physical vigor,’ with Virginie Ruest ’25

Written by Sarah Chocron ’25, Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team member. The following story, the third in a four-part series, highlights the many ways that the scholar body creates community and connection as college students at UNC–Chapel Hill. 

Establishing a sense of belonging in a new university abroad is a challenge that many international students face. For Virginie Ruest ’25 of Québec City, Québec, Canada, she’s always found connection through the camaraderie of team sports. 

At Cégep Champlain St. Lawrence, the first-year scholar stayed active by competing on the cross country team. In 2019, she was named “Rookie of the Year” after participating in the Provincial Collegiate Cross-Country Championships. 

When she began college this fall, Virginie was surprised by the sheer variety of team sports offered at Carolina. She decided to make her mark by joining the UNC–Chapel Hill Women’s Water Polo Club. 

Although she’d never played—or even known the rules of water polo—she made her way through try-and-play sessions and two informal practices that gave her a sense of the game. Although last year (during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic) the team didn’t have enough participants for even a scrimmage, this year’s team has 30 members. She practices twice a week, from 8:30 to 10:00 p.m. Despite the late hours, she’s motivated to participate by the community she’s found through the group.

She shared that water polo has provided her with a positive and healthy outlet from the, at times, heavy academic load. The “positive spirit” of the team is welcoming to all and makes team building an activity for both in and outside of the practice pool. The club hosts mixers, tournament watch parties, and other gatherings. The group chat is always buzzing with invites to eat together at the dining hall, go for group walks, or simply to talk. 

Despite entering an unfamiliar space and sport, Virginie’s found a second home that’s helped her disconnect from the intensity of school work and its many pressures. You can learn more about Carolina’s water polo team on Instagram or Heel Life. Opportunities to join the club are held each semester and, as Virginie found, all are welcome—regardless of level of experience. 

About the author


Sarah Chocron ’25 of Wichita, Kansas, is a writer, freelance web designer, and musician. On the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team, Sarah covers the selections and alumni beats, with a focus on tech.

The first-year scholar graduated in spring 2021 from Wichita Collegiate School, where she served as editor-in-chief of her school’s literary magazine and led programming and marketing for the robotics team.

Sarah is a co-founder of Griatitude Coffee co., a pop-up coffee shop (led by Ria Patel ’25 and also co-founded by Sasha Surkin, UNC–Chapel Hill ’25) with affordable specialty drinks for students in the Chapel Hill area. She plans to pursue a double major in information science and history with a minor in cognitive science. 

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