Studying abroad as a student athlete seems challenging. Depending on the schedule of your specific sport, one semester of the year is spent actively in season and the other is typically spent training for that season. If you plan on playing your sport all four years of college, how can you fit in a semester abroad? Back at my home university, I have several friends who are student athletes and have worked out a way to still experience studying abroad. Of course there are other factors that play a role in this, such as your major, financial situation, dedication to your sport and so on. However, I would like to make it very clear that just because you’re a student athlete doesn’t mean that you can’t study abroad. For example, Emma Stacy (Scripps College, c/o 2019) is a competitive swimmer who decided to study abroad during the summer between sophomore and junior year of college. That’s always an opportunity if you have the free time during summer vacation and would prefer to stay at your home university during the school year, but that’s far from your only option as a student athlete.
What Are Your Options?
First of all, you are faced with deciding to forgo a semester of training, of playing in season, or planning around studying abroad during your summer vacation. The latter choice of studying abroad in the summer is a good option for those who can’t miss a semester of playing their sport, which may come in handy for those relying on stu
dent athlete scholarships to study at their home university. In addition to this, summer scholarships tend to go hand in hand with internship opportunities. However, there are many opportunities to find funding for studying abroad, whether it’s from your home university, organizations that plan study abroad experiences (such as IFSA Butler), or even individual sources that offer scholarships for student athletes. This means that you not only get that amazing adventure of going abroad, but you can receive helpful work experience as well. For swimmer Emma Stacy, this allowed her to practice her Spanish while studying in Ecuador during her summer vacation.
However, the option of choosing to go abroad during the school year is still achievable for student athletes. The easiest way to do this is to meet with your sport coordinator or coach and discuss which option would be best for you. Ultimately, it is your decision so it depends on what you want and if you’re willing to be away from your home university for a spring or fall semester. You could also look at a study abroad experience as getting a brief break from the strain of being a student athlete so that you are rested up and ready to return to the grind once you go back home from this amazing time abroad! Even with all of these options, not many students realize that they are often able to join a club or intramural team whilst abroad, allowing them to still enjoy participating in their sport during their semester abroad.
Just because you might be studying or working in a foreign country for a semester or a few months doesn’t mean that you must give up practicing your sport completely during that time. For example, I have met several student athletes who are also study abroad students here at University of Queensland in Australia. They made the decision to study here for their spring semester even though it means they don’t participate in their sport back home during this time. However, many of them have made up for it by participating in intramural sports, which not only allow you to play the sport you love, but also help you form friendships with many other student athletes from around the world.
In addition to participating in your sport in an amazing foreign setting with people from all over the world, you have the option of trying new sports. As someone studying in Australia, it was almost a kind of initiation to give some Australian sports a shot. As someone who has little exposure to sports past typical ones played in America, it has been exciting to learn all about rugby, cricket, netball, and even Australian football. Upon arriving at the University of Queensland, I immediately got in touch with the Tae Kwon Do club so that I can continue to practice and train while I’m here for the semester. This was a wonderful decision as I’ve had a blast meeting international students who share my passion for martial arts, as well as giving me a chance to really feel like I’m participating in events on campus and making the most of the resources available at this large university. Opportunities like clubs and intramural sports give student athletes, as well as non-athletes, a chance to both continue an activity they enjoy back home and try something totally new and foreign to them while abroad!
Soncy Kaahui was a Biology student at Scripps College and studied abroad with IFSA at the University of Queensland in Australia in Spring 2018. She was an International Correspondent for IFSA through the Work-To-Study Program.