We at Global Learning would first like to congratulate you on taking the first step on a life-changing journey! Student athletes face unique challenges that may be confusing to navigate including figuring out the best time to go abroad/away that doesn’t conflict with your athletic schedule, juggling pre-season training, attending seasonal commitments, and practicing your sport during off-season months. However, with just a little work, any obstacle that might present itself can be overcome. Whether on the field or off, we know that student-athletes like to give it their all, and we are ready to cheer you on!
Discussing Study Abroad/Away with your Coach, Teammates, and Trainers
Being a student-athlete abroad comes with the unique challenge of having an organization rely on your presence. While some other students may have to communicate with loved ones, peers, and academic advisors, you have the extra field (pun intended) of communicating your study abroad/away goals to your coach, trainers, and teammates. As excited as you might be about studying abroad/away, making the decision to leave impacts everyone on your team. This is why it is important to relay your athletic and academic aspirations to them and work together to develop a training schedule while you’re away. Here are some tips and tricks to effectively communicate with your coaches, teammates, and trainers.
Listen to Understand
While it may seem that your coach, teammates, and trainers may not be as excited as you are about your study abroad/away experience, they also have their own worries concerning your athletics. From their perspective, studying abroad could mean losing your conditioning, changing team dynamics, and the possibility of injury while away. Their hesitation comes from a place of care. Having a conversation and listening to their concerns will be an effective way to ease any potential worries.
Explain your Plan
Many fears and anxieties from your coach, teammates, or trainers may also stem from not knowing what your training plan is while you are abroad/away. You might want to sit down with them and show that you have a plan of where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing. If there is a possibility that you can continue to train for the season while abroad/away, make sure to communicate that clearly with them. They will appreciate you speaking to them and may even be able to work with you to identify the best times to be away from campus. Be ready for frequently asked questions like “How long is the program?” “When will you be back?” “How will you continue your conditioning while away?”
Considerations for a Student Athlete while Studying Abroad
Regardless of where you choose to study abroad/away, there are still certain responsibilities that you should be aware of as a student-athlete.
When is the best time to Study Abroad/Away?
As with all students, the first thing you should do when considering participation in a global learning program is talk to your major advisor about what terms are the best to study abroad/away for your major. If there is a class that you need to take, or your season/pre-season commitments make it difficult to study abroad/away during the academic year, you could consider summer programs. You might find you need to consider choosing a shorter program (a quarter program vs. a semester program). Remember that most immersion programs where you would be at a host university will likely be on the semester system.
Another aspect to take into consideration is your pre and post-season commitments. While it may not be possible to study abroad/away during the height of your athletic season, you may consider going between seasons. Ask yourself: Is there a possibility that your season lasts longer than originally intended? Is there a mandatory ceremony that you will need to attend? Will you be back in time for conditioning for the next season?
Staying in Shape while Abroad/Away
One question that you may want to ask yourself is what athletic and training facilities are available to you in your host community. Compounding this question, do these facilities have the equipment necessary for you to stay in shape. For example, does your host university gym have pool access? Does the host university have a soccer field? Are there facilities where you can rent out sports gear such as balls, bats, helmets, etc? Some aspects of the student-athlete lifestyle require physical locations and physical items. Make sure what you need is available to you. Another aspect of staying in shape is your dietary and nutritional needs. Research the availability of food in your host community to make sure you have access to your dietary needs.
Intramural, Team, and Club Sports
A way for you to remain involved in your sport is to experiment with intramural and club sports in your host community. You might consider getting in contact with your host university’s athletic department. Remember that some sports also require fees and equipment so be sure to take that into account when planning your budget. If your host university or program does not offer intramural or club sports, you may also find local club teams to join.
If being an athlete is a non-negotiable during your study abroad/away experience, you may consider participating in an independent program that focuses on sports. However, if you do decide to go down this route, some concessions will have to be made. For example, in an independent program, you cannot use your UCSC financial aid to pay for the program costs. Also on independent programs, all credits you receive will be transfer credits. There are some notable study abroad programs that focus specifically on sports such as Student Athletes Abroad and Play the Globe.
- 3 Reasons Student Athletes Should Go Abroad
- How to Study Abroad as a College Athlete
- Competing While Abroad