By | Lam Lai ’16

Given their practices, training, and game schedules, it’s not always easy for varsity athletes to study abroad. Yet plenty of them make the sacrifices to do just that.

Soccer player Kovas Zygas ’16 (La Grange, Ill.) debated between studying in Chile and Argentina—two South American countries known for their soccer culture. The geology and physics major ultimately selected the IFSA-Butler program in Santiago, Chile, where he took classes at the Universidad de Chile and Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Adjusting to the South American nation initially proved challenging. “The Chilean accent was hard for me to understand at first, but after two months I was pretty comfortable,” says Zygas. “As for sports, I just figured something would happen.” Soon enough the Mac Scot defender found himself playing futbol on weekends at the university.

Because Zygas’s host father manages the soccer team at the bank where he works, Zygas played on that team occasionally as well. Playing soccer in Chile not only allowed Zygas to keep up with his sport, it also helped him to meet new people and immerse himself more thoroughly in local life.

It was a great time for a soccer player to be in Chile, as the country hosted the 2015 Copa América in June and July. Zygas attended a few matches, watching stadium soccer superstars play live whom he had previously seen only on TV. “It was on a different level, the intensity and excitement of the tournament,” he says.

When Chile ended up winning the championship against rival Argentina, the whole country erupted in celebration. ‘There were people on the streets dancing, celebrating… My camera actually broke halfway through the program, but I was there and I saw it,” says Zygas.

Women’s golf team member and psychology major Jessica Stone ’16 (Granada Hills, Calif.) took part in the DIS: Danish Institute for Study Abroad program in Copenhagen last spring. Unlike most varsity athletes, the women’s golf team members compete during both terms, which meant that Stone missed one semester of play.

Her coach, however, “was really supportive and excited for me to go abroad,” says Stone. Because golf isn’t popular in Denmark’s capital city, Stone learned other sports, such as kayaking and polo. Like so many Danes, she also bicycled regularly. And when the daughter of her host family invited Stone to play handball, she soon mastered that sport as well.

Stone enrolled in four courses at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad. One of them focused on positive psychology, the study of how people create meaningful experiences for themselves and thrive on positivity. Apparently the lesson took: “Having to miss the spring golf season was bittersweet,” says Stone. “But looking back on my study abroad experience, I am grateful for everything. It was absolutely worth it.”

 

March 28 2016

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