Studying abroad can be one of the most meaningful experiences as an Oberlin student. But what does that mean varsity who may be faced with giving up precious off-season training time with the team?
For some students, bringing their sport to another country wasn’t only a way to stay in shape in the off-season, but it was an integral part of their study abroad experience.
Fourth-year student Matt Tunzi has always found sports to be an integral part of his social life and knew it would be the same abroad. “I’ve always found my group of friends through soccer, so I knew I wanted to play in Spain even before I left,” said Tunzi, who went on the Oberlin Sponsored PRESHCO Program in Córdoba, Spain. With this in mind, he contacted the director of his program, who helped set him up with a host brother who played intramural soccer.
Soccer also added to his immersion experience. “On these programs, it can be difficult to break away from the American group and immerse yourself in the culture,” Tunzi said. “Soccer really helped me break the ice. My Spanish wasn’t fabulous, so it was great practice and I was lucky that the team incorporated me in so easily.”
Like Tunzi, third-year student Kate Hanick made sports a key part of her abroad experience. Captain of Oberlin's lacrosse team, she joined the team at King’s College in London, where she studied last fall. “King’s College is very spread out, with five campuses, so it was difficult to make friends in the city. Once I joined the lacrosse team, it was easy. It really made my experience.” Coached by the goalie on the Scottish Women’s National Team, Chloe Hunt, the squad practiced once a week and played games once a week.
“It was awesome to see my sport in a different culture,” Hanick said. “They have different names for positions and are so much more polite.”
It also led her to reflect on her time with the Yeowomen. “The commitment level isn’t the same in London, so it made me appreciate my team here even more.”
Fourth-year Brenna Sheldon had experience playing abroad before she even matriculated at Oberlin. From playing in Barcelona in high school to Paraguay during her gap year, her most recent experience brought her to Berlin after receiving a grant from Oberlin’s department of German language and literatures to take classes there over the summer. “It’s the aspect of taking your sport abroad, and making a unique connection with someone in another country, that matters to me. It brings you together in a way that is really difficult for internationals to do normally.”
Oberlin’s Athletics Department realizes the importance of studying away and even encourages such experiences. “Studying abroad is a transformative experience and is an opportunity our department supports,” said Delta Lodge Director of Athletics Natalie Winkelfoos. "It gives athletes a global perspective which they can bring back and share with others.”
Emmanuel Lewis, also a fourth-year, plays basketball at Oberlin and experienced this growth first hand. Last summer, he participated in the Basketball Beyond Borders program, which took him on a six-week long trip to Costa Rica. After training for four weeks, he spent the last two weeks traveling the country and playing games against professional teams in Costa Rica.
“Even though basketball is very similar throughout the world, there were some definite differences,” Lewis noted. “Outside of the U.S. the game is very team-oriented. It’s about working as a whole, whereas in the U.S. it is more about the individual. I thought it was great to see that.”
While Tunzi and Lewis have now wrapped up their senior seasons, Hanick and Sheldon are back with the Yeowomen for spring competition.