Competing Against the World: How to Successfully Study Abroad as a College Athlete

Today I bring you a guest post from a former study abroad student (and student athlete), Nate Schrader. 

Nate Schrader, Wabash College, Class of 2010

Nate Schrader, Wabash College, Class of 2010

As a Division III college baseball player at Wabash College, Nate had the audacity to consider studying abroad, seemingly unheard of on most college campuses. However, with planning, a supportive coach/team, and some creativity, he was able to make his study abroad goals a reality...and make it to the playoffs too. Here's his story and advice for other college athletes ready to take on the world on and off the field.

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“Well,” he said reluctantly, “I guess it is a great opportunity for you. You’ll have to earn your spot. We’ll see you when you get back.”

I couldn’t believe it - my baseball coach actually letting me go abroad! Thoughts of Rome and Italian food and architecture filled my thoughts until reality set in. Where will I work out? How will I stay motivated? How will I experience culture if I have to work out? Can I still be a leader on the team when I’m not with them? The doubts went on and on.

If you’re like me, you need a plan with some answers (somewhat). Hopefully the following tips will encourage you to study abroad and make your trip more worthwhile and encourage you to study abroad. My advice? A steady combo of discipline, culture, and a little creativity.

Find Others in the Same Boat

It’s much easier to find a place to work out and stick to it when you have other people to train with. Ask your program if there’s a discount gym membership, find some friends, and push each other!

Keep in Contact

Separation from the team hurts that team chemistry all coaches love. Make an effort to email and chat your teammates on their off-season progress. Stories of talented freshmen, improving players, and team success motivated me and can help you push through those last few weeks.

Make it Cultural!

Don’t seclude your athletic training from your abroad experience, celebrate it! There are a few great ways to do this. Find local athletes and play against them. With the help of my program, I managed to find some Italian friends and played softball in a park. Not only did I play, but I taught them about the game and learned how they approached baseball. That cultural bonding over the game I love was irreplaceable.

Playing catcher in the local park with some Italian friends

Playing catcher in the local park with some Italian friends

Make Your Workouts Work for You

Dream up a way to use your workouts as something more. My anthropology class required a research paper, and what do you think I chose? Contrasting Italian & American gym culture, of course! Perhaps that’s another blog in itself, but overall it pushed me to chat with Italians and learn their culture more.

Weightroom and spinning/aerobics room at Center Line gym, one of three gyms where I would sweat it out with Italians.

Weightroom and spinning/aerobics room at Center Line gym, one of three gyms where I would sweat it out with Italians.

Get Creative With Your Workouts

Treadmills? Boring. Gyms? Stuffy and cramped. Why not explore cities while you run? I count the nighttime mad dash from Piazzale Michelangelo with three friends as a top five European moment hands down. You see more places, get that workout in, and maybe escape a Motorini or two along the way!

The view atop Piazzale before our nighttime sprint to the bottom

The view atop Piazzale before our nighttime sprint to the bottom

Return a Better Athlete

Returning with a positive attitude is crucial to your season’s success. Expect to shake off the rust, but know it comes quickly. Remember the experiences abroad are something untradeable in America. I ended up with a great junior season, and our team made the playoffs.

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

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After studying in Rome and playing baseball at Wabash College, Nate Schrader uses his experiences to write for TravelProducts.com about anything to help you get the most out of your travels.

Big props to the Wabash College study abroad office for supporting Nate! Do you have a study abroad student athlete success story? Tell us about it in the comments!