Study Abroad While Being A Student-Athlete!
By: Milana Hrudka (Grade 12 International Business)
Most student-athletes believe that they do not have time to fit a study abroad experience into their college career. This includes myself! I definitely would like to study abroad in college but I just love playing my sport tennis so much more! I have been playing tennis for 10 years now and competitively for the last 5 years now. I recently signed with a college in California, San Diego Christian College! I made the decision that moving to San Diego CA by myself would be a huge leap already and that I should just soak up all the time living in San Diego instead of traveling to countries even farther away from home…. Not that California isn’t already 4,153.09 km away from home! But like I said above, I would love to study abroad. I have always wanted to go back home to meet my family in Slovakia! Studying abroad would give me the opportunity to ! After thinking about this situation for student athletes studying abroad I noticed that there must be thousands of other athletes having to choose one or the other, and that’s just not fair! Just because I choose my sport and to play competitively in college instead of studying abroad does not mean that YOU have to choose one or the other I found out after doing a ton of research! I choose this because it’s what works best for me and I don’t want to be even farther away from my family.
According to the NCAA ( National Collegiate Athletic Association ), student athletes work an extra 20 hours per week compared to the average college student. This is 20 hours dedicated to your sport on top of your normal school work load! I think most people understand why studying abroad does not land on the top of a student athletes priority list. I’d like to look at some of the reasons that have made it so impossible for student athletes to go explore the world by studying abroad, and help other student athletes by recognizing these nonexistent issues and the misconceptions that they cannot!
“The 2017 NCAA Eligibility Rule”
Previously to 2017 and before the NCAA eligibility rule, it was significantly harder for an athlete to study abroad without damaging his or her eligibility. Due to the five year rule, student athletes have a period of 5 calendar years to use their 4 seasons of eligibility. So if an athlete redshirted as a freshman or used a year of medical redshirting, he or she would only have 4 years to use 4 seasons of eligibility. That would make it impossible to go abroad for a year, unless the athlete decided to give up a season of eligibility. Thankfully, the NCAA has been making several efforts recently to make sure student athletes are given the same opportunities as non athletes. In 2017, a new rule came in place, which establishes that if a student athlete decides to go abroad, the five year clock will stop until he or she returns from the program abroad.
“I don’t have the time”
Student athletes definitely do have a tighter schedule than other average college students. Instead of staying up late… partying, sleeping in, or hanging out with friends for half of the day, they hit the weight room or gym for the second practice of the day. But this is only true for part of the academic year. There is a distinct period where a college athlete will have a more relaxed schedule and this will be whenever their sports “off” season takes place.
Make it your goal to find a study abroad program that targets your “off” season time frame. If you really cannot commit to a full semester abroad then check out alternative programs abroad for student athletes like internships or volunteering. Whether your “off” season is in the fall, winter, spring or summer, explore those alternative study abroad options like a January program or a Summer study abroad program to nevertheless embrace the experience of living abroad.
“There are no study abroad programs for student athletes”
Actually, there are quite a few programs that cater specifically to student athletes who want to study abroad! You will have to find out whether you have to go directly through your international office or through an external provider. Certain universities have distinguished themselves by sharing successful stories of student athletes studying abroad and this can be a good indicator to do a study abroad program through your universities international admissions. Some external study abroad programs for student athletes are provided by private companies and here are just a few that provide this service:
Athletes in Action
So if you are a student athlete looking to study abroad these companies are a good place to start the process or are a good resource to help you out!
“Financing Your Student Athlete Abroad Program”
The financial burden of study abroad programs is typically the biggest obstacle to overcome for students. This is a large barrier that is often a reason why students do not study abroad. I personally really understand the financial aspect associated with going to college. When I was searching for a college in the United States I had to look at the total price because this determines whether or not you can attend. I was very fortunate to receive a great athletic scholarship offer. But unfortunately not everyone can receive a reasonable offer and then all their finances go towards paying for school, buying a car, etc. This issue stops student athletes from being able to study abroad. Luckily there are a few ways for student athletes to get financial support and here is how:
University Scholarships: Reach out to your Financial Aid and International Education offices to start your search for study abroad funding directly through your university. Many schools have internal scholarships or grants that you may be eligible for. Check with your athletic department as well, in case there is specific funding available for athletes wishing to go abroad.
External Scholarships: There are hundreds of private and public organizations ready to invest in your experience abroad! Here are a few scholarship databases and additional information to get you started:
Federal Financial Aid: You’re eligible for federal financial aid for the cost of studying abroad as long as the program is approved by your university.
NCAA eligibility requirements for student-athletes. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.ncsasports.org/ncaa-eligibility-center/eligibility-requirements