Study away—domestic or international—is a unique, enriching experience and a great opportunity for personal growth, learning about a different culture, and experiencing life outside of Amherst. For student-athletes, it can be difficult to weigh the numerous benefits of studying away against the potential challenges of missing a semester or year of their sport at Amherst. There are also several misconceptions surrounding study away and athletics, and it is often assumed that study away is not an option for student-athletes. Fortunately, we know that it is possible to study away as a student-athlete!
It is important to note that each student-athlete's situation will look different, depending primarily on (1) the sport played, and (2) the locations being considered for study away. However, there are some common questions and considerations that all student-athletes should reflect on if considering a semester or year away from Amherst.
Deciding to Study Away as a Student-Athlete (or Not)
In addition to the questions below and meeting with a GEO adviser, the following infographic aims to provide student-athletes with a step-by-step guide on making the decision to study away or not.
Questions for Yourself
Considering Study Away
- Can I practice my sport abroad or at another U.S. institution? If not, what kind of alternative training methods can I use to stay in shape?
- Am I motivated and self-disciplined enough to adapt my training as needed when abroad? What kind of support systems do I need to have in place in order to maintain a training schedule away from Amherst?
- How will my coaches and teammates feel about me leaving campus for a semester or year? Are there conversations I need to have with them to help determine whether it is the right choice for me?
- Several other factors—a healthy diet and other particular nutritional needs, a regular sleep schedule, a daily routine, etc.—are important to me in terms of maintaining my overall fitness. Will I have access to these resources?
Planning Your Semester Off-Campus
- How will I choose a study away program? How much will athletics play a role in this decision? (Note: the program you choose—particularly in terms of location—is the single most influential factor that is in your control in terms of athletic options away from Amherst.)
- Which semester will I study off-campus? What exactly will I be absent for (work-outs, meetings, team bonding, etc.) and what can I do before, during, and after my semester away from campus to make up what I missed?
- What will my training look like? How much of my regimen can I plan out now, and how much of it will I have to organize or adapt to once I arrive?
- How will I keep in touch with coaches and teammates? Do I need to touch base with them about training, team news, etc.?
Questions for Your Program
Choosing a Program
The Office of Global Education has a wealth of information regarding all approved study away programs and can help you think through your individual needs and how they may or may not align with different programs. In addition, the majority of study away programs will have a representative that you can contact directly to ask about their specific offerings in terms of sports, exercise, diet, and overall fitness. Some questions you may consider include:
- Accessibility: What kind of safe, clean, affordable training facilities do I have access to through this program, if any? If not, what facilities exist in my host city and how do I gain access to them?
- Popularity: Is my sport played in my host city? Are there any teams—university, club, recreational, etc.—that I could join? Will I have to pay to join? What is my host city's culture or perspective surrounding sports and athletics, generally?
- Other athletic options: Outside of training, are there other ways I can stay in touch with my sport while abroad? Are there courses geared towards fitness that could count for academic credit? (Please confirm with the Registrar whether or not courses would count for credit.) Are there teams I could coach or intern for? (Note: Amherst does not award credit for internships, but students may participate above and beyond a full course load. Read more on our Academic Policies page.)
Utilizing Your Program While Away
As much thought as you may put into organizing your athletic plan before leaving campus, you will probably have additional questions or concerns upon arriving to your host city. Remember that your program or host university is there to support you throughout your entire semester, and you should reach out to advisers and program representatives as needed. If you're unsure who to contact, you may always reach out to GEO staff and we can help connect you with the appropriate contacts.
- On new perspectives
- "Revitalized my energy for one more season of my sport"
- "Gave perspective that athletics are not as important/relevant as [they may seem at] Amherst"
- "Made me appreciate my role in sports/the importance of sports in my life and have actually allowed me to appreciate my time playing...at Amherst even more"
- On confronting fears
- "You go to a DIII school where academics are prioritized, so don't let fear of a 'bad' season or missing a season keep you from going abroad"
- "You won’t workout as much as you think, I promise! But that’s ok!"
- "It requires open-mindedness and flexibility, but you do have enough time to settle into a new routine that will work for you for the semester. When I finally incorporated training into a weekly schedule that worked with everything else I had going on, the actual excercise was so much more helpful and less stressful!"
*These quotes were collected from an optional survey sent to all student-athletes in Fall 2018.
- GEO's "Beyond the Bubble" blog, particularly these posts from a women's lacrosse player and women's swimmer
- IFSA's "Unpacked," a collection of blog posts by IFSA students that features a section geared towards student-athletes
- Arcadia's student blog, particularly this article on playing tennis in Athens, Greece
- On communication
- “I would recommend talking things through with the coaching staff early and often.”
- "There are some athletic specific realities that I find with our kids and I think just talking with them about these before, during, and after can be helpful...And I think it’s crucial to talk with the kids about that reality and how it will likely impact them but that we’ll play catch-up as best we can."
- On support
- "If they need an online workout packet for the fall we will send it along, a method for re-integrating them into the team upon return, etc. We support the abroad experience...and believe our student-athletes are fully aware of the support in pursuing such an experience."
- "We really try to take our kids’ leads on what they want from us while there."
- "As long as you're doing it for the right reasons and really looking to get something meaningful out of your experience, we are really supportive of and excited for you."
*These quotes were collected from an email inquiry sent to coaches in the Athletics Department in Fall 2018.
Summer study away is another great option that Amherst student-athletes may consider. There are many options for language immersion, teaching programs, university summer schools, fellowships, and more for the summer. These short-term opportunities may be a particularly good fit for those who feel they cannot afford to miss a whole semester or year of on-campus athletics. Please note that the college does not award credit or financial aid for summer opportunities.
The Loeb Center also offers support and funding for opportunities to go abroad for a summer internship. Working abroad provides many of the same benefits that studying abroad does: cultural immersion, learning across difference, and access to new parts of the world. Learn more about how Loeb Center funding works for international internships, or read stories from Amherst students who have interned abroad.
Photo: Talia Land '20 (far right) with lacrosse team she joined in Copenhagen, Denmark in Fall 2018.
Photo: Julia Turner '19 post half-marathon in Milton Keynes, UK. Julia studied abroad in London, England in Fall 2018.
Photo: Kyra Naftel '19 after playing Hurling, a traditional Irish sport. Kyra studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland in Fall 2018.
Photo: Molly Pines '19 (third from right) celebrating with the swim team she joined in Cádiz, Spain in Fall 2018.