- Emma Buis
Alumna of the Month: March
This month's featured alumna is Francine Penikis! Since graduating and leaving the team last spring, Francine has traveled much before settling down in her current residence and work. Read more about Francine's travels and experiences here!
Years of Rugby Experience:
What have you been up to since graduation?
I took a 5 month break before starting my new job! I went to LA and worked in Hollywood as a production assistant on commercials, since working in film is something I've always wanted to do. I lived in a crazy co-op in South Central LA which was an adventure to say the least. After that, I traveled Southeast Asia and went to Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, and the Philippines where I met up with other UMWRFC ruggers Jayna Sames, Jeethi Nair, and Sophie Dubey! I'm now in Austin, Texas working as an Applications Engineer at National Instruments. I work in support, which means I help people troubleshoot issues with their hardware and software program, and my go-to line is "sir, have you tried turning on and off your device?" which obviously works every time. I'm also playing rugby on the Austin Valkyries! The team is awesome and the girls are wild (you thought college rugby was as crazy as it gets... think again). During my second game with the team, I proudly busted open my forehead and got 6 stitches, and less-proudly received the nickname "Baby." The stitches came out but the nickname stuck.
Are there any lessons, skills, or memories from your time on the team that have been helpful to you since then?
Your rugby family isn't just the girls you play with at Michigan--it's a group of women all over the globe. Every time I run into someone who plays rugby we immediately hit it off, because it takes a certain type of down-to-earth, badass, and all-around fun person to play the sport. I was really nervous about moving to Austin because I didn't know anyone here, but as soon as I found a rugby team here I knew that I would have friends, and that everything would be okay. I realized that wherever I go in the world, as long as I find a rugby team, things will be okay. And things are okay, they're amazing actually--I love my Austin team!
What is your favorite Michigan rugby experience?
My freshman year when I was a rookie and just starting to get to know the team, Deycha invited me to have a joint birthday party with her at the rugby house, since her birthday was the day before mine. She surprised me with a birthday care package full of goodies and brought out a cake with candles at midnight for me. It was a simple gesture but one of the nicest things someone's done for me. I'll always remember how caring rugby girls are.
Do you have any advice for current ruggers?
Be proactive if you're ever feeling in a rut. Talk to your coach about how you can improve and don't be afraid to ask to try a new position. Also, keep playing after college if you can! You learn a lot practicing with a new team because every team has a different playing style, and you'll make awesome new friendships.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Come visit me in Austin! Even if you don't know me. We can get some Texas barbecue and you can come to practice and meet my team :)
Here are some pictures that Francine has shared! (Please note that the last picture below shows Francine after busting open her forehead and this picture contains a lot of blood.)
Francine with the UMWRFC team at the Las Vegas Invitational in 2016.
Francine on her travels, including visiting Jayna Sames ('15) in the Philippines.
Francine looking good in her new Austin Valkyries jersey!