Jacqueline Burke's parents insisted she leave Alaska for college.
Jacqueline (Jac) Burke
(2,894 miles from Crookston)
How did you make your way to Minnesota Crookston?
It’s actually a funny story. I had never heard of Crookston before. What guided me here was soccer. In Alaska, it’s kind of hard to get recruited for sports being away from the world. Most athletes have recruiting websites. My coach, scouted through a recruiting website, and I was originally going to play at a college in San Diego. But last minute in May, my coach contacted me and said,” Just come here, we want to give you a tour. Just take a look. Maybe you’ll change your mind.” Because this is a really good opportunity, I said I’ll end up coming to check it out. I ended up falling in love with it. The team was very good to me. I came here on a very nice day in the summer. I liked the college, the atmosphere, the small classes. I can build relationships with my professors. I could not go to a school filled with hundreds of students. That’s kind of what sold me. I was able to experience Grand Forks, so I knew we were close to a city.
Did living in Alaska make the weather here seem more tolerable?
Believe it or not, Crookston’s way worse than Alaska. It really is. Here, there’s no trees, which I’m not used to. No trees, no mountains, barely any buildings. So the wind destroys this place, and we have blizzards all the time. In Alaska, we have trees everywhere. We’re surrounded by mountains. We’re surrounded by buildings. So I had never experienced wind like this, and it always feels like negative 60. It gets pretty cold in Alaska, but I think it’s the wind that gets me here.
How does planning games and locations work in Alaska? Do you get to play outside often?
Here, the games are played in the fall. In Alaska, my soccer games were played in the spring. We have this huge indoor dome, and we usually start there until the snow melts away.
Were there any other schools in the mix?
There was also Wisconsin-Lake Superior. There was Oregon Institute of Technology. There was one in Port Angeles, Washington I was also thinking about going to. That was one of the first schools that scouted me, so I wanted to wait to see what other opportunities would open up. I wanted to play with a DII school. That was my goal. I really like the level, it’s competitive, you’re able to get scholarships.
Were you looking to go out of Alaska for school?
Oh, 100%. My parents would not let me stay in Alaska. They actually got angry when I said I don’t have to play college soccer, because we don’t have soccer teams there. It was really hard to leave home, but they were like, “No. You are going out and experiencing the world. You need to go to school out of state.”
You mentioned you were looking for a smaller college. How large was your high school graduating class?
I graduated with a class of 500 something. Anchorage has 300,000 people, so I feel like I came from a big city. I wanted something different so I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to live in a big city, and I know what it’s like to be in a small town.
How often do you get to visit your hometown?
I try to go back home any chance I get. As much as I love Crookston, the holidays need to be spent with family for me. I go home winter break, Thanksgiving, this was the first time I went home for spring break and I spend the summers at home. My mom works for Alaska Airlines, so that definitely helps.
Has your family visited you in Crookston yet?
They were the ones to drop me off here. My brother hasn’t been back since freshman year, but my mom tries to pop in whenever she can, because, you know, she can just kind of jump on a flight on her day off. My dad hasn’t been back since freshman year either.
How long have you been playing soccer?
Since I was like three years old. I tried everything: ballet, flag football, swimming, gymnastics. None of them worked out for me. The only one that seemed to work out was soccer. I was a wild child, so I had a lot of energy when I was young. So in ballet, I got put on the wall all the time. I wasn’t allowed to be in The Nutcracker, I was too much trouble. Gymnastics just didn’t click for me, and neither did swimming. Soccer was kind of perfect to get my energy out, and I just kind of fell in love with the sport. My parents [Brian and Teisha Burke] are all about you at least have to try. Just try once, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to do it. Same with food. They want me to try everything.
When did it occur to you to try to play soccer collegiately?
That’s been the goal the entire time. The goal the entire time was to be able to make my way to a college level where I can receive scholarships, and it came true. This is what I’ve been working for since before high school.
Why did you want so badly to play a college sport?
It makes me feel different. Not everybody can do this. Not everybody can balance the athlete life and the student life and still succeed while doing both. So it makes me feel on top of the world being able to be a college athlete. Another big reason is I really wanted to make my parents proud of me.
What was your program like at your high school?
We have a lot of competitive leagues, and our high schools are very competitive. We won state championships three years in a row, and then the fourth year, we placed fourth or fifth.
What do you see as the biggest difference between the program here and the one at your high school?
They’re very different. High school is only in the spring, and for college, we’re all year. The only time we’re not playing is during Christmas break or Thanksgiving break. We’re constantly playing here every morning. So it’s just a lot more competitive here. I thought I was in a competitive area, but once you get to the DII level, it really changes, because you compete against a lot of really good schools.
Why do you feel it is important to explore new places away from home?
Because people like to make opinions about things they’ve never tried before. They’ll say, “I don’t want to do this,” yet, they haven’t ever tried it. It’s just important to branch out so you have a variety of opinions so you can really find yourself, and you can know what you like, and what you don’t like. That’ just kind of how I was raised. I’m the kind of person who’s friends with everyone, a love everyone kind of person. I was definitely raised right for sure.
What do you think you would have missed had you stayed in Alaska?
Everything. Everything. I feel like I would’ve missed out on everything. I’m really glad that I left Alaska for college. I do love Alaska a lot. It’s really important to me being a college athlete. I’m very, very proud of that. I wouldn’t have been able to do that. I probably wouldn’t be succeeding as well in school, because I’m so driven here. Academics is a priority here. Who know if I would even be in the degree I’m in now? I really didn’t figure it out until I got here. I’d probably just be going to the University of Alaska Anchorage probably working a job and living at home.
Did you encounter any Alaska stereotypes when you moved here?
It’s really funny. Everybody knows what Alaska is like from the shows. I’ve never watched any of these Alaska shows. People ask if it’s dark 24/7, or is it light 24/7. In summers, it really is light 24/7, but the sun goes down, but the sky’s still kind of lit up. That’s only for, like, two months. In the winter time, it does get very dark. There is a very depressing time, and it’s usually for a month straight where it’s just pitch dark. I get asked if we have restaurants. I’ve been asked if we have cable. A lot of people think we’re part of Canada, or they ask if I can see Russia from my house.
How long did it take you getting comfortable saying Crookston is your home?
It’s kind of funny, because it really is home. When I’m out somewhere, I say, “I’m going home.” That’s funny. Freshman year was the hardest year to adjust. It was my first time out of the nest being on my own. It was just a hard adjustment, because my parents are my best friends. I love them so much, and I love spending all my time with them. So it was super weird being away from them and my normal atmosphere. Here, I do love the small area, but eventually, you’re like, “What should I do now?” It took me a while to connect with my teammates. I came here not knowing anyone. I didn’t even know Lindsey [Daml], the other Alaskan [on the team]. We got really close, and now, I have made lifelong friendships. Some of my best friends are on the soccer team.
Who assisted you in getting acclimated to living in Crookston?
Something funny is, I did not live in my dorm freshman year. I lived in an apartment, because I just wanted to come in on my own. I don’t know why. I just had that mindset where I want to live in an apartment. I don’t want to live on campus. I want my own space. I want to be able to be messy when I want to be messy. I’m really happy I did. I adjusted to living on my own. Now, I live in a different apartment, and my soccer team lives above me. It’s perfect. I have my whole place to myself, but then I can go upstairs and hang out with them whenever I want. [I first bonded with] Paige Petit, and then, Lindsey [Daml] and Olivia [Puttin]. Now we are called the Starbucks Club. That was kind of back in freshman and sophomore year. I don’t really know why.
What do you see for yourself after college?
It’s funny. I love to travel, and I love to see new places and to venture out. Right now, I really miss my family, so I think I’m going to move back home and start my first real, out-of-college, full-time job there. My brother, Grant, is also one of my best friends, and he’s there too. I’m sure eventually, I will end up moving somewhere else. My parents want to move to Arizona, but I can’t see myself living there.
What is your career hope?
Human resources. I love working with people. My goal is to work with one of our oil companies back at home.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving far away for school?
I would say do it, 100% do it. Because you can always change your mind and move back home. You always have that option. If you don’t like it, try it at least a year, and you always have the option to go back home. At least you can say you tried.
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