From The Balkans To The Beach

Lara Luka’s journey from Serbia, to playing Hungarian first division, to the shores of Hawaii.

Like many others before her, Lara has come face to face with the different style of water polo along with the vast lifestyle change that comes with signing a college scholarship. Luka started at the University of Hawaii Spring 2020, in January and was thrown into the deep end as their college season began the same month as her arrival. After not meeting any of her teammates, settling into a country she had never been in and starting her university degree, it was time to play.

“I love that water polo has given me the opportunity to live in Hawaii, I have the beach! But more importantly, there is no winter. It is much easier to go outside and train when it is sunny every day rather than snowing.”

Lara Luka on her initial transition to Hawaii

Lara has represented the Serbian national team, as well as Hungarian club Dunaújváros before signing with Hawaii and has found many differences between life in Serbia & Hungary to her new home of Honolulu, Hawaii.

“The main difference between life in Hungary and here in college, is that in Hungary, Water Polo is the only focus. My only friends are teammates, what I thought about and talked about was Water Polo. There were 7 hours of practice in Hungary, I was always really tired, more mentally. Sports are really fun, but for me, that is too much.”

Lara Luka on the polarisation between Hungary and college
Luka in action for Serbia

Even though Luka is loving her new home in Honolulu, she does believe that Hungary are doing some things that the college system could potentially do to match the water polo standard in top European leagues, such as the demand for multiple games per day and overall organization.

“The better side of Hungarian and European Water Polo in general is that we only play one game per day, which I believe is important. Volleyball, Soccer, Baseball & Football athletes all only have one game per day in college, so why not Water Polo?”

Luka also emphasized the potential that college Water Polo has, given how supportive and die-hard college students are for their respective colleges, and how amazing even a small percentage of the fans that sports such as Volleyball & Football receive at the University of Hawaii would be for the Water Polo program.

“Volleyball & Basketball are having crowds of 10,000 at all of their games, and I believe that Water Polo should be receiving crowds similar to this, given the level we are playing at. In Hungary, more people are following it, there is a lot of fun support, it’s crazy.”

Luka has only been in Hawaii and the college system for 2 months but is already realizing and appreciating the differences and similarities between the different countries which she has been lucky enough to play in and encourages all people that are able, to experience both college Water Polo and European Water Polo.

“I believe that everyone should experience both college and European Water Polo. In Hawaii, I like it much more, I have more time for learning and school. I have met a lot of international students and athletes. In a way, it is similar to an olympic village, I really like it, meeting people from all over the world. I like that college water polo is a different style, and that I have been given the opportunity to learn, it is really challenging.”

“It is a very healthy atmosphere for a young person to be a part of.”

Lara Luka on her new home at the University of Hawaii

Lara and the University of Hawaii are currently 11-2 with the best record in the Big West Conference with impressive wins, including a commanding 15-5 win against #5 Arizona State and a narrow 12-9 loss to #1 Stanford. We wish Lara all the best with the rest of her freshman season and look forward to keeping up with her throughout her collegiate career!

Lara Luka in action for Serbia against Germany