SHE'S packed up her bags and her tennis kit to jet out for an adventure of a lifetime in the USA.
Emerson Banning left Lithgow in August along with everything she knows behind, to embark on a journey to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she will pursue her love of tennis and study psychology.
The 19 year-old La Salle Academy graduate has been playing tennis for 11 years representing at high levels and it wasn't until high school that she knew she wanted to enter the college circuit.
"Since day one all I wanted to do was play tennis and be successful within the sport," she said.
"At the start of my career I was coached by local legend, Rob Hawes, he taught me the importance of maintaining the correct technique and shared with me all the different opportunities that tennis can offer if I stuck with it."
Banning indeed "stuck with it" and played around the region gaining different opportunities and eventually trained with a squad in Sydney where she met her current coach John Thompson. "John helped me improve my technique and learnt many different strategies to make me a better player," she said.
She kept succeeding and was able to secure her college dream through Study and Play USA, a program that recruits high school students into the college system.
"I had seen signs at tournaments advertising Study and Play USA so I applied. Through them I came into contact with coaches from multiple different colleges in the USA and I ended up choosing Cardinal Stritch where I was able to receive a sports and academic scholarship," she said.
"It's Roman Catholic University and the division they compete in is the National Allegiant of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) which has two divisions with 6500 students across 25 different sports."
Banning will be in Milwaukee for four years to finish her degree but said it could be longer depending on what opportunities arise.
"I am planning on playing some pro tournaments around the US after I graduate, which is another goal of mine that I am planning on achieving," she said.
She also said the reason behind studying psychology was to use her degree to her advantage when stepping out on the court.
"By having different skills and techniques used from the course I will be able to control the mental side of tennis a little easier therefore performing at my best," she said.
"I also wanted to study it to help with my coaching qualifications as well. It will allow me to understand the person I am, coaching better and giving tips or strategies specific to others which will allow me to be a more effective and efficient coach."
Banning said she was nervous about COVID putting a stop to her college adventure but was satisfied knowing other students were fully vaccinated.
"It also helped that I was able to receive the Pfizer vaccine before I left," she said.
She said she was most looking forward to improving her tennis and meeting a diverse range of students.
"I want to be the best I can be while playing college tennis and I'm very excited to engage in the full college experience," she said.
"My room mate is from Ecuador along with my new first year team mates from Spain, Germany and the Dominican Republic."
Banning said she loved that tennis gave her independence and she knew she worked hard to be where she was today.
"Everything you have earned is based on your dedication and performance, it's personal. I have learned a lot from playing this game and I appreciate every life lesson it has shown me along the way," she said.
She wanted to thank those in her life who have supported her in achieving her goals.
"I'd like to start off with my family. They are the reason why I do what I do and at an elite level. They have pushed and guided me the whole way and no words can explain the appreciation I have for all of them," she said.
"We have shared so many great moments together that I will cherish each day and I'm glad you stuck by me on this very emotional rollercoaster."
"I'd also like to thank my coaches Rob Hawes and John Thompson along with my hitting partner during the COVID restrictions Craig Straney.
"I'm also very thankful for the help from Tracey Green, Janene Graham and Sue Metcalf to put my coaching ideas into action with some of the local kids from Lithgow which I enjoyed very much and look forward to coming back and catching up with them all when I return after my first year at College."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content: