Written Senior Perspectives: Aliya Itzkowitz

Written Senior Perspectives: Aliya Itzkowitz

The 2016 Senior Perspectives is the 11th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.

For a complete listing of 2016 Senior Perspectives, click here.


Aliya Itzkowitz, Women's Fencing
Hometown: London, England
Concentration: South Asian Studies
House Affiliation: Kirkland

What an incredible way to go out. In my fourth and final season on the Harvard fencing team, we finally got a taste of Ivy League victory. For the first time since 2009, we are Ivy League champions. In my 10 years as a competitive international fencer, and four years on the collegiate circuit, I have never felt such joy as I did when we won that championship this February.  But, it wasn’t lifting the trophy that made my heart soar. It was the feeling of scoring my last point for a team that I love. As my teammates rushed the strip to hug me, tears started to well up in my eyes. I had been so focused on practices and the task at hand I had almost forgotten this would be my last season fencing for the Crimson. The realization made me want to do it all over again.

There is something special about the Harvard fencing team. I remember feeling it when I came to visit as a recruit.  This team is a family with “Uncle Peter” (Coach Brand) at its helm. Coach Brand convinced me that coming to Harvard would be a great life decision. He was right. At Harvard I’ve made friendships for life and had experiences that will stay with me forever.

In many ways, the fencing team represents the pinnacle of my Harvard experience. I will never forget standing on the NCAA podium next to my teammate Adrienne when we came first and second in the country. I’ll never forget nightly team dinners in Dunster House – the most fun and relaxing part of my daily routine. As the only senior woman on the team, the four male fencers in my year have been like my brothers for four years. On the women’s side, I’ve been a leader and an older sister figure for my younger teammates.

Every semester at Harvard has been different. While my friends and classes changed year to year, the fencing team stayed constant.  As Ivy League student-athletes we do our sport by choice. There was nothing binding me to continue fencing once I got here. When I came to practice in the fencing room every day it was because I wanted to. I shared a common passion and a common goal with my teammates. I looked forward to practices every day. They were a chance to unwind and have fun with my best friends.

College fencing made me re-fall in love with a sport I have been doing since I was 10. Fencing is a very individual sport. When you’re out there on the strip, with your mask on, you are totally alone. Your decisions are yours alone to make. Yet, at Harvard I felt the support of a team behind me. That kind of positive energy propels you to new heights. There is something uniquely exhilarating about collegiate fencing and the feeling of winning as a team. I feel extremely lucky and grateful that I will be carrying that feeling with me as I embark on my next adventure.