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Tips for Student Athletes Studying Abroad

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One of my worries about going abroad was how I was going to continue athletics in another country. I play on the women’s lacrosse team at my home university. Because lacrosse is a spring sport, we have a set plan of workouts to complete throughout the fall semester. The workouts consist of lifts in the gym, conditioning, and practices three times a week. With all of the sightseeing and the excitement that comes with being in a different country, I was concerned about finding time to keep up with all of the workouts I would need to complete to be in shape for the spring lacrosse season back home. On top of worrying about gym time I also had to figure out how I was going to keep up my stick skills since I wouldn’t be practicing with my team. With some research into the athletics program at the University of Edinburgh, I was able to find a club lacrosse team I could sign up for. I had the amazing opportunity to play for the University of Edinburgh’s club lacrosse team. It is reassuring to be able to continue playing while studying abroad so that my skills don’t get rusty while I’m away. 

Adjusting to playing lacrosse in Scotland: A learning curve

There was a bit of a learning curve with playing lacrosse in Scotland, however, which I was not expecting. There are different rules for lacrosse in Scotland than in the US. For starters they play with only nine players on the field while we play with eleven. There also isn’t a shot clock at the college level which I had grown accustomed, so the game is a little slower in pace. The game is also overall less aggressive and more sportsman-like than in US. Checks and defensive plays which would normally be fine back home are being called as penalties which can get frustrating at times. With all these little changes to the game I thought I knew, I found myself a little lost for the first few days. But through talking to my teammates and experiencing the new rules first-hand helped me adjust to the new way of playing. Everyone on my team was so nice and welcoming and made me feel like I belonged on the field with them. They gave me pointers on how to adjust to their game while I also gave them tips from the US on how to improve their skills as well. The team also has socials almost every week where I got the chance to meet my teammates off the field and form lasting friendships with them which helped me feel more at home in Edinburgh.  

Finding motivation to practice while abroad

Edinburgh wins Lacrosse It can also be hard to find the motivation to complete workouts without my home team with me to push you. At my home university, we normally do our workouts together as a team so there are structured times of when to be at the gym or on the field. Because I am on my own there is more accountability on me in order to get the workouts done and stay in shape for when I get back to my home university. Without my team, there can be less of a team mentality and more responsibility on me  to get my workouts done. Not only is there a challenge of motivating myself, there is also the physical challenge of learning the new equipment at the gym.

Unanticipated challenges

There were so many little changes that I didn’t anticipate, such as having to convert what I would normally lift from pounds to kilograms and changing from miles to kilometers when running. Although these may seem like daunting tasks, there are ways to help get through these challenges. Asking for help is always a reliable option and really helped me. By asking some fellow students at the gym about the conversion from kilometers to miles, I was able to discover a section of treadmills that were set up specifically for international students that were switched to miles instead of kilometers. I also talked to my coach at home who was very accommodating and gave me what she believes I should be lifting in kilograms. For the issue of motivation I find it is helpful to create goals for myself. For example, I would tell myself if I do all my workouts for the week and push myself to do better I will reward myself with ice cream. It also helps me to think about my teammates back home and use them as motivation by running faster or lifting more so that you can be the best teammate for them. 

Final tips

When planning out where to go to study abroad definitely look up the university’s athletic department and clubs to see if they have the sport you play. If they do have your sport I would reach out to either the coach or the captains of the team, before you leave for university, to see if they allow semester students to join their team and to discuss the level of commitment the sport has. For me I wanted to be able to continue playing lacrosse at a competitive level, but I also didn’t want lacrosse to take up a lot of my time since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I wanted to be able to have free time to travel and explore Scotland. I didn’t want my whole experience abroad to be about sports and I was able to find a balance between lacrosse, school, and travel.  Hannah Marino is a History student at Colby College, and studied abroad with IFSA at University of Edinburgh in Scotland in fall 2019.