Photo Courtesy: Allen Rich
By Abby Bergman, Swimming World College Intern.
One of the most valuable aspects of collegiate athletics is the opportunity to experience the world while being part of an amazing college team. Yet this opportunity also presents tough choices for athletes who must balance their commitment to their teams with their choice to study abroad. To maximize both the study abroad and athletic experience, traveling athletes can work to stay connected to their team, even while on the other side of the world.
I spoke to several student athletes about their study abroad experience and compiled a list of five ways to stay connected to your team while studying abroad:
1. Join a team.
Living away from friends and family can sometimes feel jarring but seeking out a familiar place and rhythm can help. Smith college swimmer Sophie Shapiro describes how finding a masters team helped her adjust to life abroad as well as find a team atmosphere: “Swimming has definitely had a positive impact on my study abroad because I joined a team at my university. It wasn’t anything like the frequency or intensity I’m used to but it was a good way to get in the water and a great way to meet people who had a common interest with me.” Joining a team not only fosters team spirit, it also maintains structure and discipline for when an athlete returns to their college team.
2. Follow results.
While being abroad can mean missing out on team triumphs in person, technology can help bridge the distance. Especially because watching meets live can be challenging due to time difference, posted results can help you feel more a part of the team and cheer on your teammates. Former Smith College captain Hannah Francis describes, “I would follow the results of every meet. I generally knew what times my teammates were going for, and I tried to send messages whenever something cool happened during a meet.” By staying updated on the performances taking place at home, athletes who are abroad can feel connected and involved in their team’s success.
3. Stay in shape.
Swimming is a demanding sport that requires consistency and continuity. By finding ways to stay in shape while abroad, athletes can ensure a smooth reentry upon their return. “I found a local pool in Rome and enjoyed meeting local swimmers there, while staying in shape,” former Wellesley College swimmer Rebecca Nevitt detailed her experience. “My teammates welcomed me back in January and I picked up where I left off.” Even if structured swimming is not available in a particular locale, any type of exercise can help keep an athlete on the path to achieve their goals when they return to school.
4. Communicate with the team.
Something as simple as talking to the team can really improve an athlete’s engagement with teammates back at school. Simple things like text messages and emails can go a long way toward maintaining relationships. “Facebook is an awesome tool for keeping up with people and their important milestones while I’m away,”Smith College captain Maddy McDonnell explained. “I love hearing about my friends and what they’re up to while I’m away, but it also makes me miss them and the team immensely. I’m having a blast studying abroad, but I’m also super excited to come back to my favorite place and my favorite people.” By staying updated on the performances taking place at home, athletes who are abroad can feel connected and involved in their team’s success.
5. Show team spirit.
There is no better way to feel connected to your team while abroad than to unofficially represent your school by wearing team gear at every opportunity. Swimming in the team cap and taking photos in team apparel at exotic locales can be a fun way to feel a part of your team even though you are hundreds of miles away. Whenever I travel, I make a game of seeing how many international pools and beaches I can swim in wearing my team cap. By using these strategies, athletes abroad can feel a little closer to home.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.