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Global Citizens - Ailin McCullough and Kat Weiss

Men's Swimmer Ailin McCullough and Women's Soccer player Kat Weiss
Men's Swimmer Ailin McCullough and Women's Soccer player Kat Weiss

By Daniel Paulling '08

Ailin McCullough's alarm goes off each weekday at 5:20 a.m., leading him to jump out of bed. He doesn't press snooze, he jokes, because he doesn't want to have PTSD later.

Long before most other college students begin their day, McCullough goes to an early-morning weight lifting session and then a quick swim practice before breakfast. Such is life for a college student who swims while majoring in both political science and environmental studies.

The life of a college athlete is one Kat Weiss also knows well. She wakes up about 20 minutes after McCullough each morning and is at the soccer field at 6:30 a.m. for practice that starts 30 minutes later. The international relations major then begins the rest of her day.

"Being a college athlete is very time consuming and difficult, but I wouldn't have traded it for anything," says Weiss, who appeared in 71 games for the Tars. "I think it just shows a lot of passion and dedication to something because a lot of people don't make it all four years."

The two Rollins College seniors have taken similar paths—having had to balance academics and athletics, the activities they've participated in—and will continue to follow the same route. McCullough and Weiss plan to join the Peace Corps once they graduate this year.

The decision to spend 27 months working for the volunteer organization—McCullough in Peru, Weiss in Madagascar—isn't surprising considering their four years at Rollins. 

McCullough has been a part of the Rollins Immersion volunteer program, doing a beach cleanup his freshman year and then spending spring break of his sophomore year in Utah. He's one of two student coordinators, which takes eight to 10 hours of work each week.

"Immersion is one of the more defining aspects of what I've done in college," McCullough says. "A lot of what Immersion does is issues of social justice. It pushed me to want to apply for the Peace Corps. It definitely made me a much more politically and civically active person."

He did a field study in Tanzania last summer with about a dozen other Rollins students, which included Weiss. Part of the trip, Weiss recalls, involved building living facilities for teachers at an elementary school. She also did a field study in the summer of 2015 in Vietnam.

"Four years ago, I never would've thought that I would've been to as many places as I've been able to travel to," Weiss says. "I realized how passionate I was about traveling and learning about other people. I love studying history."

After their morning practices, McCullough and Weiss spend their days going to classes as they pursue careers in environmental policy and working with foreign aid, respectively. They try to mix in homework assignments before heading to afternoon practice, a busy schedule that leads McCullough to joke the only way he makes it through the day is "copious amounts of coffee."

Still, the two finish most of their days at the library. There's always another paper to write or another reading assignment to complete, which leads to late nights.

"I'm considering a good night is [leaving] around 10," McCullough says. "You're excited for that. There's a good number of times [I leave] around midnight, which is not a huge problem. But when it starts getting past 1 a.m. is when I'm dreading getting up the next morning."

No matter what, his alarm is set to go off in a few hours. Another day is about to begin.