Inside the Shell with Diana Donnarumma

Inside the Shell with Diana Donnarumma

April 18, 2012


CORAL GABLES, Fla.–Diana Donnarumma spent most of her life swimming, until an injury changed her athletic career forever. Now, as a student-athlete at the University of Miami, she wouldn’t have changed a thing. Here is her story…

I was a swimmer for 14 years of my life, and I was most likely going to swim in college. Then I tore my labrum and had to get reconstructive surgery, so I could lift my arms over my head but couldn’t go into the streamline position. Rowing was the perfect option because it’s below the 90-degree mark, but still has the intensity I need for a competitive sport.

I knew I wanted to come to UM as soon as I visited the campus. I loved the weather; I’m from Buffalo, and we see snow eight out of 12 months of the year. I applied to a bunch of schools up north, but I knew that sun makes people happy, and I wanted to study somewhere that would make me happy. Plus, my tour was fantastic.

To me, the U is unity. It brings all student-athletes together. Even though we’re on different teams, we’re all one big athletic family—and student family.

The person I look up to the most on a personal level is my dad. I never fully grasped what he did as a surgeon, but I started working with him last summer and saw how much stress he endures, how he can keep such a calm face in extreme situations and how he is always on the go. For example, he was relaxing in the airport going home from Miami one weekend and gave someone CPR until the paramedics arrived. To just be able to go into action like that without even knowing the person, it gave me a lot of respect for him.

When I look back on my childhood I will always think of going to my brother’s swim practices in a swimsuit just in case they needed another swimmer for practice. I went through this every single day he had practice when I was 3 or 4 years old. I wanted to be just like my older brother.

My brother is 23, and he recently graduated from Boston College. He swam there. Now he works for an auditing square in New York City, right in Times Square. I think he likes it, but now that I’m in Miami I also think he’s a little jealous. But he can come visit.

After a stressful day of rowing I like to listen to spa music. It slows down my heartbeat and helps me fall asleep.  

If I had one superpower I would want to jump from place to place. I really like to travel, but I would also really like not having to sit on a plane for eight hours at a time by myself. I always get stuck next to the weirdest people on flights.

Most people don’t know that I’m fluent in Spanish. I studied in Spain when I was in high school for two months. Living with the host family I could only speak Spanish. This factored into my decision to come to Miami. I’m a double major in Spanish and marketing. I like being in a place where I can practice my Spanish all the time.

My pet peeve is when someone speaks really loud on the phone next to you. I get really annoyed and think, “can you just do that somewhere else?”

Rowing has given me the opportunity to travel to places I’ve never been before. It’s also allowed me to have a stronger mental ability. Being an athlete and a student is difficult, but rowing has helped me handle it.

My guilty pleasure is getting massages. I don’t get them that often, but when I can I’m completely in love with them.

In 10 years I see myself married with kids and a successful job. My dream job is to be part of a marketing firm where I get to travel and use my Spanish. Over the summer I’m interning with a medical sales company, so maybe I’ll be interested in medical sales.

If I had a time machine, I would go to Spain either in the 1400s with the Arabic influence before they were expelled or 40 years ago, in the 1970s. I have no reason; I just really like Spain and going back in time.

People here were most surprised to find out that I’m Middle Eastern. I’m very white and Irish looking, but my grandma escaped from Baghdad to New York City when she was 16. She was Catholic, and they were killing Catholics and Jews to create a Musilm society. I’m also Italian, Canadian, French, Irish and British.

Our team is very dynamic. There’s not one way to group a person or a team.

I’ve mastered the Canadian accent, since I’m right on the border. After a set I like to scream out, “Let’s do that a-gain!” and copy Coach Carter’s accent. He gets kind of mad, but it’s definitely worth it.