Being a student-athlete can be hard. Between the team lifts, practices, regular season, pre-season, games, championships, team dinners, award ceremonies, and team meetings, it’s hard to find room for academics and a social life, let alone studying abroad in another country. But take it from me – you can do it! I play varsity softball for Susquehanna University and was of four players on my team alone that was able to study abroad this past fall in Gold Coast, Australia. It was undoubtedly the best experience of my life, and I encourage everyone to study abroad if they have the chance. Don’t let your sport get in the way.
Whether you are a division one, two, or three athlete, you have an offseason. Let’s face it; most of us are not going to become professional athletes so missing some offseason won’t be the end of the world. Take advantage of this time to take part in the experience of a lifetime and go see the world. Before you are able to go abroad, there will be some steps you need to take to get there. The first step to take is to talk with your coach about the benefits of studying abroad. Chances are they will understand and encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. When you talk to your coach, tell him/her why you want to go abroad and how it will benefit you. Most importantly, let them know that this won’t affect how you will play when you get back. Let your coach know that you will do everything you can to stay in shape. Ask them to send you the off season lift and then take it abroad with you, join a gym and lift like you normally would! If you talk to your coach and assure them that you will be working just as hard abroad as you would at home (and mean it) they will understand and encourage you take this opportunity. Once you are abroad, make sure you keep in touch with your coach and your teammates so you can keep up to date on everything that is happening at home as well as update them on how things are going abroad.
If you’re worried about staying in shape or falling behind while you’re abroad, have no fear! Many universities abroad have on-campus gyms and workout classes for a reduced price if you are a student. Aside from a weight room, many universities will have workout classes such as body pump, yoga, and boot camp. The gym also may offer free classes once or twice a week that you can take advantage of. Not only that, but there are many club sports that you could join.
While I was at Griffith University on the Gold Coast, they hosted the “Australian Uni-Games”. Any student was able to try out for a team participating in the games. There was a wide range of sports including ultimate Frisbee, basketball, soccer, baseball/softball, rugby, and more. Weekly practices were held in preparation for the week-long tournament during the mid-semester break. Imagine how awesome it would be to join a club sport abroad. This is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the host culture. By joining a club sport you will meet many natives and students from other countries. And what better way to meet people of the host culture and make lasting friendships. All of us athletes can agree that there isn’t much stronger than the bond between teammates. There aren’t many people out there that can say they were part of a team and played a sport they love while they were in another country. Keep in mind you could play any club sport for fun, not necessarily your sport. No matter what, you will be able to stay in shape.
If for some reason you can’t find it in your budget to join a gym or to become a part of a club sport at your host university, there are still ways you can stay in shape. If you are in a country where the weather is nice most of the time, like Australia, you can still stay active. Take a chance to explore the town around you and go for a run. This is a great way to get acquainted with your surroundings while still getting in shape. In most places there are also plenty of hiking trails or national parks that you can visit. Going to places such as this gives you a way to exercise while still getting to enjoy what your host country has to offer.
These are great ways to get lots of cardio in, but what about building muscle and staying strong? You can also pick up some free weights at the local store for a reasonable price. If you don’t want to spend money at all, body weight exercises are just as effective! Before you go abroad, you could purchase a workout video such as P90X or Insanity. If you have a Pinterest, there are tons of great body weight exercises available if you look for them. You could even look for body weight exercises on YouTube. Better yet, take advantage of your strength and conditioning coach at school. Ask if they know of any exercises that require little to no weight. They will be able to provide you with some exercises and show you how to do them the correct way before you go abroad.
Studying abroad is an incredible opportunity that everyone should take advantage of. Don’t let the fact that you are a college athlete hinder you from gaining this experience. So take a leap of faith and talk to your coach. First make sure they are okay with your decision to study abroad, and then do as much as you can to stay in shape while you are away. Join a club sport, it is a great way to stay in shape and share the love of your sport with others around the world. Check out the beauty around you by going on sunrise hikes or taking a jog around town. No matter what, basketball, softball, swimming – whatever your sport may be – it will still be there when you return.
Cierra Omlor is a student at Susquehanna University and studied with IFSA at Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia.