For me, my college experience was largely defined by my role as a DI women’s soccer player at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Every fall, my semester was dominated by traveling for games, multiple practices a day, and meetings. In the spring, we still trained multiple times a day and had a few games and tournaments. All of that, plus two on campus jobs on top of the normal educational responsibilities of a college student, meant that my schedule pretty much looked like eat, sleep, soccer, school, repeat, 24/7. However, despite that, I still decided to study abroad in Seville, Spain, and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Most student-athletes don’t even consider going abroad, and that is something I would really like to try to change by sharing my own personal experience.
|I was able to go rowing on this part of the Guadalquivir, where many Olympic teams train.|
The first problem that many student-athletes run into when studying abroad is trying to find the time to fit a program into their schedule. However, I think that many people forget that summer is also an option for studying abroad. For example, CEA offers summer programs that vary from 2 weeks to 8+ weeks. Luckily for me, women’s soccer is a fall sport. That said, since my collegiate soccer career wrapped up in November, I had my spring semester open to go abroad. It was still a hard decision, since it was my last semester of undergrad and it was the one undergrad semester where I had freedom from my time-consuming soccer schedule. Despite this, I realized that experiencing something new would be more fulfilling to me and that the friendships I was leaving behind in the U.S. would still be there when I got back.
Photo from the bike tour on one of my first days in Seville.
The second problem that comes to mind for student-athletes is being able to still train to compete at high level when abroad. Although I was done with my collegiate career, I wasn’t done with my love and passion for soccer. Besides the fact that I was a Spanish major in undergrad (and now a MAT-Spanish student at UIC), one of the factors that drew me to Spain was my love for the Spanish soccer league, La Liga. Also, since soccer is such a popular sport in Europe, there were plenty of opportunities to play a pick-up game with locals or to just find an open field or court and train on my own. Not only that, but I could study the game firsthand and experience the Spanish culture by watching a Real Betis game in person or heading to a local bar and watching it with the locals. For those who participate in a sport that isn’t as apparent in their study abroad destination, I was able to find a very affordable gym (it even had a pool!) to join while abroad. I also bought a pair of running shoes once I got there. Running through Seville was definitely a fun (and healthy!) way to explore the city. Lastly, the CEA Seville staff also offered a few activities to help the students get active. Getting to experience rowing in the Guadalquivir (where many Olympic teams train) and having the opportunity to learn the local dance, sevillanas, were fun ways to stay fit while abroad.
|At Feria in Seville.|
Overall, my experience that I had in Seville this past spring was one I will never forget, and I wish that I could go back already. I’m very grateful that I was able to find the space in my schedule to go abroad. I hope my blog post can help encourage other student-athletes to go abroad, whether it be for two weeks, an entire semester like me, or even longer. The opportunity to study abroad is a great one, and if planned accordingly, it won’t affect your ability to compete in your sport at a high level.
Photo I took while watching Barça play Real Betis at the Betis Stadium, the Benito Villamarín, in Seville.
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