Jade Carey’s College Life Isn’t “Normal” — But Her Apartment Is
Let’s say you won an Olympic gold medal, had a whole day named after you in your hometown, and became one of the most decorated U.S. female gymnasts of all time … all before turning 22. If you’ve already achieved all of that, well, what do you do next? If you’re Jade Carey, you go to college, of course.
Attending Oregon State University as a student-athlete has been a long time coming for Carey. She was supposed to start at OSU in 2018, but deferred her enrollment for two years so she could compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Then, the Games were postponed to 2021 due to COVID, so while she started taking classes virtually, she had to wait yet *another* year to actually hit campus. Finally, in the fall 2021 semester — three years after she’d first planned to begin her college career — Carey started living out her student-athlete dreams, moving to Oregon, joining the OSU gymnastics team, and making college friends.
Oh, yeah, and training in hopes of once again making it onto Team USA for the 2024 Olympics.
After longing to be an OSU Beaver for the better part of a decade — she first visited campus nine years ago — Carey, who at 23 is just beginning her junior year, admits her college experience doesn’t quite match up to the one she initially imagined for herself.
“I think it’s a little bit different than what I envisioned when I first committed to coming here because the Olympics weren’t really on my mind [then]; I was just ready to come in as a normal college student,” Carey says. “But ever since being here and [now training] for another Olympics, I feel like it’s put — not really a stop to a normal college experience, it’s just different.”
Students stop her for selfies on campus, and at collegiate gymnastics meets, all eyes are on her — she’s a household name in the gymnastics world, after all. Due to her rigorous training and travel schedules, she’s actually never taken an in-person class, instead completing all her courses virtually. “That’s something I definitely didn’t think [would be the case] when I first signed up for school, but it’s just the way it works out; it’s a lot easier for me to get my stuff done,” she says.
Despite all this, when Carey joins me on Zoom one afternoon following an OSU gymnastics practice, she actually seems … super normal. Her casual white hoodie and no-makeup look stand in stark contrast to the glimmering leotard you see on TV and social media. In the background, her apartment is modestly decorated in neutral decor, with no sign of trophies, photos from the winners’ podium, or even athletic equipment in sight — nothing that screams “a famous gymnast lives here!”
Sure, she has a two-bedroom all to herself (not the most common college living situation), but she paid her dues the past two years, living in a house with three other student-athletes.
“I really enjoyed my time with them,” she says of living with roommates. “But I’m someone who likes to just be able to come home and have my own space. It’s been nice to have my own place and make it my own.”
Now that she has the opportunity to make her space what she wants it to be, Carey’s leaning into her self-described “modern farmhouse-y” decor style (think: Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Hearth & Hand products from Target) with lots of personal touches, too. “I’m also a big quotes girl, so I have lots of frames with quotes and positive affirmations that make my home uplifting,” she says. “I have this one frame that says ‘My way’ on it, from my dad. It’s from a Frank Sinatra song; it’s something we’ve always said together and, going into the Olympics, it was kind of our thing.”
Music plays a big role in Carey’s home. She has framed photos of album covers — including from artists like Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, The Beatles, and Panic! At The Disco — hanging on her wall, and in her second bedroom, which she uses as an “office-slash-hangout area,” she has a brand-new record player she’s excited to put to use in her free time.
Not that she has a ton of free time, though. Even when she’s not competing or doing press, Carey’s days are packed. She starts most mornings with a five-minute journaling session and a cup of tea. Up next is OSU gymnastic practice, followed by physical therapy or other treatments to take care of her body. Then, it’s time for schoolwork. Once the work ends, it’s time for play, and for Carey, that means fully leaning into all the student-athlete community has to offer, attending OSU sporting events and bonding with her gymnastics teammates as well as athletes in other sports. She also loves hosting her friends at her apartment, where she set up a wall-mounted projector for movie nights.
Perhaps one of the most relatable aspects of Carey’s college experience is that it’s her first time living far from home. Like many students who went away for school, she’s made it a point to incorporate elements of her native Phoenix, Arizona, into her space to ward off homesickness. “I have a little cactus, which is very Arizona, and some of my blankets are actually from home,” she says, adding these “little things throughout my space that remind me of home always makes me feel good.”
When I ask Carey whether she plans to display any reminders of her accomplishments in her home (you know, like her Olympic gold medal, which is currently in storage) she’s modest. “I was thinking of getting shadow boxes or something made — [I could] put the medal in there, or the leos that I competed in,” she says. “But I haven’t really figured that out yet.”
With nearly two full years left in her college career, Carey has plenty of time to finish decorating her place. But considering the Paris Olympics take place next year, she might be best served saving a little room — you know, for when she’s ready to add a few more gold medals to her collection.