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Davis, California

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Who’s that Aggie?

Out-of-state students are a rare breed here at UC Davis. Last year 867 out-of-state students accounted for only 4.5 percent of all admitted first-year students. Victoria Marcus, a first-year from Arizona, is part of that 4.5 percent.

Marcus, an international relations and economics double major, is a double black belt martial arts expert with her first black belt in Okinawan Kempo and her second in Shotokan Nidan. She has lived in France, Arizona and now California — helping her stand out here at UC Davis.

Marcus was born in France and lived there with her parents until she was 5, when her dad got a job that moved the family to Arizona. She says she loved what she remembers of her five years living in Grasse, a town in southern France that, as Marcus pointed out, is known for its perfume industry and is considered the world’s reigning capital of perfume.

“I loved living in Grasse. Sometimes I remember you could actually smell the perfume. I miss France, especially the food, when I’m here. But I’m lucky in that I get to go back often, over the summers,” Marcus said.

Moving from France to Arizona was at first challenging for Marcus, mostly because she didn’t speak any English. But when she started school, she picked up English quickly, which made transitioning much easier.

“When I first started school, I used to get into arguments with my classmates because I didn’t know any English. But I caught on pretty quick, so learning English wasn’t that hard,” Marcus said.

Even today, Marcus loves learning about other cultures and customs. As an international relations major, she chose Asia as her region of focus and is hoping to study there (hopefully Hong Kong) sometime in the next four years of her undergraduate career.

Catherine Nguyen, a first-year international relations major, thinks that Marcus’ interest in other languages and cultures is impressive.

“Victoria told me that she wants to learn Mandarin Chinese. I think she is so ambitious,” Nguyen said in an e-mail interview.

Throughout Marcus’ childhood and still now in college, martial arts has been a huge part of her life. Her parents were the ones who got her involved the sport, but Marcus was the one who took the initiative to keep it up.

“My parents wanted me to be able to defend myself, so that’s why they first got me into it. But by the time I received my first blue belt (about halfway till black belt) I fell in love with the sport,” Marcus said.

Marcus first started martial arts with Okinawan Kempo, a specific type of Japanese karate, and under the guidance of her sensei (meaning “master” or “teacher” in Japanese) in Arizona, Santiago Armstrong, worked her way up to a black belt.

“I was really happy and proud when I got my first black belt — it only made me want to continue with martial arts,” Marcus said.

When Marcus’ sensei left her martial arts school, Marcus followed him to his new school in which he was teaching a different system of martial arts, called the Hoteikan system.

“My sensei is a 10th dan, which is a 10th degree black belt. He taught me almost everything I know and is my mentor, so I wanted to stay with him when he changed schools,” Marcus said.

Within the Hoteikan system, there are three areas of study: Shotokan karate, Jujitsu and Judo. Marcus quickly immersed herself in this system and soon earned her second black belt in Shotokan karate. She is still working toward her black belt in Jujitsu. Marcus acknowledges that within the Hoteikan system, Judo is her weakness, though this didn’t stop Marcus from continuing with it.

“I joined the Judo Team here at UC Davis specifically because it was my weakness and I wanted to get better at it so I could become more well-rounded at martial arts,” Marcus said.

She joined the team this Winter quarter and is already competing with other members. This past weekend Marcus competed with the team at the Collegiate Nationals in San Jose and placed second.

Marcus is happy to be on the Davis Judo Team because it is so successful, but also because she enjoys the camaraderie it brings.

“The UC Davis Judo Team was ranked number two in the nation in 2009. I love being part of such a successful team. Practices are really fun and challenging and the people are so nice. The sensei is very talented, too, and pushes us in a good way,” Marcus said.

Marcus’ friend Lani Viet, a first-year biochemistry and molecular biology major, said that even though Marcus may seem shy, she is competitive at heart.

“I imagine her room being covered from top to bottom in plaques and medals. Despite her shy and quiet impression, she is fiercely competitive and hates to lose,” Viet said in an e-mail interview.

As for being one of the few out-of-state students at UC Davis, Marcus says that she loves being at Davis and is very happy she chose to attend school in California.

“Arizona, especially my high school, was very white and conservative. But Davis is so diverse and that’s one of the things I love about it,” Marcus said.

She added that Arizona is not all desert and full of scorpions as many have come to believe and often ask about when she says she is from the state.

“I have never been bit by a scorpion. But it is true about the heat. In July and August it can reach 125 degrees,” Marcus said. “But California has perfect weather, which I really appreciate.”

CLAIRE MALDARELLI can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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