There is a common misconception that student athletes cannot study abroad. Being a student athlete has been an integral part of shaping my college experience, but I did not want this to inhibit me from going abroad. Being a student athlete did mean that I had some limitations as to which semester I could go abroad, but the limitations stop there!
I studied abroad at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand during the fall semester of my junior year. I loved my time at Vic and completely fell in love with New Zealand and am already planning a trip back, but I did have some concerns in the beginning. Beyond the typical worries of adjusting to living and studying in a new country and culture, some of my biggest concerns were how I was going to keep up with my off-season training. I play lacrosse at my home university, so I had to be ready to come back from abroad and jump into a rigorous pre-season for spring sports. Here are my best tips on managing being a student athlete abroad.
Plan Plan Plan!
Tackling your off-season training while on your home campus can be difficult on its own! When you compound that with all the new experiences brought forth from being abroad, keeping up with your training can seem like an impossible task. To help make it all more manageable, have a flexible training schedule and general training goals. This planning starts before you depart for abroad. Work with your teammates, coaches, and trainers to develop a training schedule for your time abroad. I was lucky that Victoria University had a student gym that I joined for my semester abroad, but if you are unsure about having access to a gym, plan ahead and develop a body weight workout regime that you can do yourself in your room. Not having access to a gym shouldn’t inhibit where you can go abroad as there are so many bodyweight and alternative workouts that are just as functional as a gym. After you have developed a flexible training schedule, try and set training goals for yourself both throughout your time abroad and training goals for when you return home. I broke up my semester into 3-week chunks and set different goals every 3 weeks. These goals served as my motivation in similar ways to how my teammates motivate me when I am training at home. By planning out my training goals for my time abroad I was able to tackle the difficult off-season workouts and came home prepared to jump into my upcoming season.
Find New Workouts
I knew that I had to keep up with my training but I didn’t want to spend every afternoon stuck in the gym, so I found new ways to integrate workouts using some of the natural resources that New Zealand had to offer. I opted for challenging hikes or bike rides instead of just running on the treadmill. Wellington had so many different hikes throughout the city and surrounding areas that each weekend a group of friends and I were able to explore new trails. Towards the end of the semester we rented bikes through the tramping club at Victoria University and went on day trips out to different beaches surrounding Wellington. I kayaked or swam instead of lifting on some of the nicer days too. By changing up my workouts I avoided getting burnt out in the gym and got to experience so much of what New Zealand had to offer. The tramping club was an amazing resource! Not only did they facilitate different outdoors activities every weekend, they also had gear available to rent for students at a reasonable price. Your time abroad is so limited that taking advantage of every afternoon is important. Finding fun and new ways to workout outside of the gym allowed me to maximize my time abroad! These new workouts also led me on some of my best adventures while abroad and opened my eyes to new workout ideas for when I was back at home.
It’s Okay to Take Days Off
Your schedule throughout your time abroad will be anything but normal. Traveling and exploring your host country are essential parts of making your abroad experience the best it can be, and your training shouldn’t hold you back from any of these experiences. I found that when planning trips, I often worried about how I was going to get my workout in for the day, but I soon learned that it is okay to take some days off! Study abroad is not meant to be a training trip and if you can fit in a quick workout when traveling with friends it’s great, but if there is no time or you are too tired that is just as fine! The trips that I took with my friends are some of my favorite memories from abroad, and when I look back missing that one workout is irrelevant to all the amazing experiences I had. However, I did find that traveling is also a great way to integrate some non-traditional workouts, so I would encourage my friends to try and schedule some challenging hikes or bike rides throughout our trips!
In the end, my study abroad experience was filled with workouts that turned into amazing memories and helped to prepare me for transitioning into preseason back home. I found that although I had to train a bit harder over winter break, I managed to stay in relatively good shape and felt prepared heading into preseason. Study abroad was an incredible experience that is truly indescribable and being a student athlete shouldn’t prohibit you from this epic life changing experience. Overall with some thoughtful organization, planning, and time management skills you can master being a student athlete abroad!