Most university students would agree that the key to having a fulfilling college experience amid endless assignments and exams is finding balance. Balance might look like studying hard during weekdays and relaxing on weekends or learning to set boundaries so you don’t overwhelm yourself. To Christian Bond-Flasza, balance looks like doing the things he loves: playing soccer and immersing himself in video games. Bond-Flasza, a computer game science student and four-year member of the UCI men’s soccer team, says his journey to UCI was unlike any other student’s.
Bond-Flasza says he didn’t know what his life was going to look like when he was a senior in high school. “Going into the year 2017 (my senior year of high school), I had made no decision on which school I wanted to go to, if I wanted to continue playing soccer in college, what I wanted to study, or if I wanted to first go to community college and find out more about what I wanted to do in my post-high school education,” he says.
While Bond-Flasza applied to a number of colleges, he didn’t consider attending UCI and didn’t include the Irvine campus on his UC application. That all changed when he was contacted by Yossi Raz, the head coach of the UCI men’s soccer team.
“I had met Yossi before at one of my academy soccer games when he was the head coach of Cal Poly Pomona. He had started the recruiting process with me then, but I told him very quickly that I had no intention of playing Division II soccer and had my sights set on the Division I level,” Bond-Flasza says. “Now as the head coach at Irvine, Yossi began recruiting me again.”
The recruitment process with Raz introduced Bond-Flasza to everything UCI had to offer him, from athletes to academics. Bond-Flasza says he “really liked everything that was presented to [him] and decided to commit to UCI” to play soccer.
“I prioritized my education and was not going to commit to a school’s soccer program that was not going to fulfill my requirements for my education,” Bond-Flasza says. “With UCI, I did not have to compromise either my education or my soccer. It was one of the main recruiting points Yossi had used when recruiting me.”
Attending one of California’s top public universities and playing for a Division I soccer team “was truly the best of both worlds” for Bond-Flasza. “I had never seen a coach more organized and filled with intention than Yossi Raz,” Bond-Flasza says. “His plans for the program and myself excited me for the future.”
When it was time for him to choose his major, Bond-Flasza debated between studying computer science and political science or opting to go in with an undeclared major. The courses he took in high school piqued his interest in computer science and political science, but being an undeclared major would give him more time to test the waters.
In the end, Bond-Flasza decided computer game science (now the game design and interactive media program) was the right major for him. “When scrolling through the majors I saw computer game science and knew right away that it was going to be my major. I had spent a lot of my time growing up playing video games and wanted to learn more about how they are made,” he says.
Bond-Flasza says it can be difficult to juggle sports, school and his personal life. He practices with his team daily throughout the year, excluding summers, and has to make his way to class once practice is over. “I would say the most challenging part is finding the energy to stay focused during my classes or even attend my classes after physically exhausting myself not even an hour before,” Bond-Flasza says. “However, there were a lot of resources given to us to help us keep up with our studies.”
Despite the challenges of being a student athlete, Bond-Flasza appreciates his experiences because they’ve introduced him to people he has formed close relationships with, “from [his] team to the coaching staff to the people [he] met outside of athletes.”
He says his favorite moments at UCI revolve around his friends and his athletic accomplishments. “I have to shout out Axel, Lawrence and Michael for being so supportive as friends and going through our college experience together,” he says. “My favorite moments during my time here at UCI would definitely be winning the Big West Conference regular season in 2018 and 2021 and participating in the NCAA tournament in 2018.”
Bond-Flasza says his soccer career has come to an end. He graduated during the winter 2022 quarter and spent the past few months traveling, and he plans to pursue a job in the technology industry. Last summer, he interned at Amazon in Seattle.
“I learned so much about the workplace, the industry, new tech skills and most importantly myself. I had an overall great time but sometimes felt the pressure of working full time, preparing for my senior soccer season and having an enjoyable experience outside of work,” Bond-Flasza says. “I definitely pushed myself to new [heights] and am proud of what I accomplished.”
As he looks back on his college career, Bond-Flasza has some words of wisdom to share with current UCI students. “My advice for all students at UCI is to be present in the moment and try your best to enjoy your time in college even if that means making a drastic change,” he says. “As a freshman, I was told that these four years would go by fast and they did. So, I am just passing along that message to anyone who needs to hear it.”
— Karen Phan