Student-Athletes Should Explore Studying Abroad

Photo courtesy: Crystal Medrano

Thomas Gibbons

Staff Writer

Opinion Piece

Missing one practice is not a big deal. But missing a whole semester? Now that’s different.

Being part of a sport at any school is a big commitment. Students dedicate many hours to practices, meetings, strength training, and the rigors that happen during a season. In the offseason, student-athletes work on their game individually and with their teammates.

During a student’s time at Dominican, they have a chance to study abroad. There are 10 semester long programs in addition to 7 short term programs and requirements such as a certain GPA and pre-requisite classes.

Studying abroad separates the athlete from the team and for cross-country runner Crystal Medrano, it was worth the sacrifice.

“It was absolutely amazing spending a semester in Salamanca,” Medrano said. “But when you get back, it’s going to be difficult to get back into it and your body is going to feel the challenge of trying to get back into shape.”

Even though Medrano had a big challenge ahead of her, getting ready all summer to prepare for the season in the fall is not something she regrets.

“I miss it every day,” she said. “When you are studying abroad, you are not worried about anything. You’re over there living life and enjoying yourself.”

Athletes dedicate a lot of time to their sport. But the opportunity to study abroad and be immersed in another country’s culture is an opportunity to consider. It requires the willingness to get outside your comfort zone and be a part of a once in a lifetime experience.

Mike Buckley, a baseball player at Dominican, has always wanted to see the world but does not want to risk missing time away from his sport. “I don’t think I would be able to study abroad in fear of not being able to prepare for the season,” Buckley said. “If there were facilities where I could work on my skills and lift weights on these trips, I’d strongly consider.”

The narrative seems to be that because student athletes have dedicated themselves to a sport, some that have year-long training, that they cannot study abroad.

Yet, Erik Bauman, Athletic Director of Dominican, encourages his soccer players to get said opportunity. “We have a department philosophy where if one of our students wants to study abroad and the experience, they want to get out of it, we will support that,” said Baumann, who is also the head men’s soccer coach. “We have had two men’s soccer players study abroad during the spring season, which is not nearly involved as the fall season, and they have been excused from the spring season to get that opportunity.”

In addition, athletes would not necessarily have access to training facilities to keep up with their conditioning and strength while away. It is a sacrifice athletes would have to make in exchange for a unique opportunity.

Dominican’s director of Study Abroad Alison Healy highly suggests studying abroad in college because it may be the only chance you have to see another country.

“If you choose a semester away, this will be the only time in your life when you can live in another country for a signi cant amount of time,” Healy said. “Once you graduate, you are going to have to get a job and it’s going to be hard to get away. You can go and have this life changing experience and the opportunity to immerse yourself in another culture that would not have after being a student.” Douglas Keberlein-Gutierrez, the Director of the service learning trip to Guatemala and an overseer to student-athletes at Dominican, stresses the opportunity studying abroad gives a student. “If you are going to be taking a Spanish class while you are in Spain and once you get out of class, the Spanish will still be there,” said Keberlein- Gutierrez, an Interim Associate Dean and Professor at Dominican. “It’s not three or four hours of studying Spanish literature, it’s studying that subject in the context of that language being around you all the time.”

Keberlein-Gutierrez said, “I’m a big proponent of study abroad and it’s among the many high-impact practices in education and study abroad is at the top of the list in terms of the bene ts you get as a student. You get to experience it through all your senses in ways that you cannot in the classroom.”

Students-athletes are going to miss training when they go away; and yet with the abundance of programs o ered, there is something for everyone.

“About 99% percent of the encounters I’ve had with people about their study abroad experiences, they say it was the best experience of their life, said Keberlein-Gutierrez. “I’ve never heard someone say it was a bad idea.”

tgibbons@my.dom.edu

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