Change is good, or so we have all been told.
But when a freshman first enters a college campus, the transition can be frightening.
For an international student brand new to the United States, the challenges are even greater - especially when that college has its home in New York City.
Dahlia Miranda Monteiro encountered numerous obstacles early in her college experience. There have been more since, and she has overcome them all. In fact, she has become an inspiration.
The Journey Begins
The path to becoming an inspiration starts where? For Dahlia Miranda Monteiro it began uniquely - in Switzerland with Cape Verdean parents.
While growing up in Geneva, she worked hard to turn herself into a sneaky point guard. Though a mere 5' 6'', she played for Switzerland’s three-on-three team and took gold in the skills contest. She also made their 2014, 2016 and 2017 FIBA U16/U18 Women’s European Championship teams.
After graduating high school at 19 years old, Miranda Monteiro attended the University of Geneva for her first year of college. While playing for a club basketball team ("Geneva Elite Basket"- Geneva's Women's A League team) she continued to pursue a goal:
“I wanted to go to the United States,” Miranda Monteiro said. “I wanted to go to one of the top schools.”
Then adversity arrived.
She tore her ACL.
It seemed so far away, yet she always held onto the dream of going to the United States and playing as a student athlete.
While working her way back to the court, Miranda Monteiro also proved she can be, certainly, more than just an athlete. She strives for excellence in the classroom and boasts a wide range of talents. From her self-proclaimed title as the best piano player in her family to speaking six different languages, including Creole, English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and German, it seems like she can do it all.
New York University took notice of both her basketball skills and her wide array of other talents. About 3,860 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, Miranda Monteiro’s recruitment consisted of multiple FaceTime calls with the NYU coaching staff. After those calls, and a good amount of independent research, she signed on to become a Violet.
Yet she had to do so without meeting anyone in person or stepping foot on the campus; then things got even more difficult when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down so much of the world.
For any freshman, it can be hard to connect with teammates. When on Zoom, it only became even more difficult to create relationships. Dahlia could never get to campus that entire first year.
“I met all my teammates online, even the coaches online,” Miranda Monteiro said. “It was a bit weird because we were talking for about 15-30 minutes and then I just shut down my laptop and there was nothing, nobody.”
NYU head coach, Meg Barber, however, thinks she handled it quite well. “Some of my favorite memories are actually being on Zoom and seeing her family, how close they were as a family unit, how much they are all cheering for her and supportive of her. You could just tell that, not only was she a special person, but this was a special family.”
Welcome To New York
The eventual move to New York proved utterly life altering for Miranda Monteiro. Coming from Geneva, a city with a population of roughly 200,000, the relocation to a city with 8.4 million people changed her perspective quickly.
“My first impression was ‘Wow, this is huge.’ It’s extreme,” Miranda Monteiro said. “I can say it’s true: it’s a town that never sleeps… I had the feeling that ‘here things happen.’ A lot of adaptation with a big city, but also that feeling that some great things can happen here.”
Moving away from parents for the first time remains never easy. The move for Miranda Monteiro proved to be particularly hard for an athlete who has a deep bond with her parents.
Miranda Monteiro’s parents used to come to every game of hers. Now, it seems nearly impossible. Not seeing her family in the stands has been a difficult change to cope with.
“[My family is] extremely important to me. We talk everyday,” Miranda Monteiro said. “We FaceTime every day, we have a group on WhatsApp, so they are part of me everyday.”
With more hard work, she learned how to live in New York City. And she managed to mesh her new teammates. Everything, amazingly, appeared great - for one week.
Miranda Monteiro tore her meniscus in the first week of practice. She contemplated not attempting another comeback.
“To be honest here, I was thinking that perhaps I will not play again,” Miranda Monteiro said. “I really think that it’s okay. I came here in New York, but perhaps it’s not my path to play basketball again… But, when I knew that I would be able to come back, perhaps after two months after surgery, I just kept pushing… Adaptation, humility, relentless.”
And, with this relentless attitude, she made it back.
Having overcome all this hardship Miranda Monteiro’s story appeared in the book “Geneva: At the Heart of the World,” a sort of Swiss “hall of fame." The book features her story, highlighting her spirit and all that she has overcome.
“There isn’t a lot of women, especially black women in the hall of fame,” Miranda Monteiro said. “Being the first one means a lot. Having that support from my town and that my experience, my life can also resonate to other people from Geneva is just a big honor.”
While basketball has been Miranda Monteiro’s life, she wants to use her platform to share her experiences with others.
“I really want to use basketball as a tool to really have an impact on society,” Miranda Monteiro said. “There is a lot of things that I want to do in regards of politics, but also individually with everything that I speak about producing because I also love producing films and articles… To bring everything together and use basketball to just have an impact on the world and this society.”
Miranda Monteiro produced a short film called “We Rise, Women Bball” about women in sports. Her main message through it all involved the need for equality for both men’s and women’s basketball.
“We have to be treated as much as men's basketball,” she said. “But just take women's basketball and enjoy it… We deserve really much more.”
Miranda Monteiro’s top goal continues to be sharing this message of hope and equality with young women.
“We can accomplish whatever we want if we put the work in,” Miranda Monteiro said. “Having that smile, always being grateful in the pain, but also with the win, and always learning from every experience that is good or bad in order for us to be better… Every struggle, every pain is temporary. At the end, there is a light. During that struggle, we just have to remember that there is really a light at the end of the path and that we just have to keep pushing, always keep pushing and seeing that even if we are struggling, we have to talk about it… It’s okay to not be okay.”
Miranda Monteiro preaches always having a positive attitude, even during practice with her teammates. That glowing smile lights up the room.
“Being a college athlete is grueling, it’s a grind,” Barber said. “Having that upbeat and positive personality just even on the bench and in the huddle and people seeing her smiling face when she walks in the door, no matter if it’s the film room, pregame meal, the second game on a road weekend that you’re trying to battle through, she just has it’s consistent positivity.”
Miranda Monteiro shows off her confidence and positivity on every level, including in her choice of hair styles.
“There is always that code: look good, play good,” she said. “For me, my hair is my personality. The braids, this is part of my culture… And, yeah, I play good with it too.”
As Miranda Monteiro works back into shape and builds up her minutes, she continues to try to play into the rotation. In her first game, her first collegiate shot produced an “and-one” layup.
“That was really neat to see,” Barber said of the basket. “The players' reaction, our team’s reaction to her getting in the game spoke volumes for who she is. They were jumping up and down.”
Although she has already impacted so many lives, her head coach knows this shows only the beginning.
“This story is ongoing and really the best is yet to come,” Barber said of Miranda Monteiro. “This young adult has touched the lives of so many people through the sport of basketball. I’m really excited to see where she is in 10, 15 and 20 years. I think she’s going to make a major impact on this world.”
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