Every year Whitman students travel the globe participating in the Off-Campus Studies program, focusing on a wide expanse of topics that suit their interests. For athletes, this can be somewhat of a hassle: They are apart from the sport for half a year and then return to Whitman with the expectations to pick the sport up again immediately. Nonetheless, many Whitman athletes studying abroad are resourceful and find ways to answer this dilemma.
Some sports, such as golf and tennis, start in the fall but really pick up in the spring. These athletes are left with a semester to play their sport, requiring them to find ways to practice while abroad in order to be prepared for the upcoming season.
Some athletes, like junior golfer Jonathan Standen, selected their study abroad program specifically for the sports and the academic opportunities offered there. This fall Standen is studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
“I [chose] St. Andrews primarily for the golf, so while I’m missing a competitive season at Whitman, I am still able to play quite a bit at St. Andrews. However, most of the time I’m playing, not practicing. I would much rather go out and play 18 [holes] than practice hitting 500 shots on the range,” said Standen in an email.
With opportunities like playing at St. Andrews, athletes have little to worry about when they return for the season in the spring.
“Needless to say, I do miss my teammates and the competitive atmosphere. I don’t foresee many problems with rejoining the team in the spring,” said Standen.
Some athletes even believe that the new environment helps them with their sport, as practicing abroad can sharpen their skills in ways they couldn’t have imagined.
“As a golfer in Scotland, I would say that in some ways being over here is helping my game. A lot of people say that you need to ‘relearn’ how to play golf in the UK as courses and conditions are totally different than [in] the United States. Courses are shorter here. But to make up for that, fairways are much tighter, rough is thicker and wind is incomparable to the [United States]. You need to learn how to hit different shots and control the golf ball more,” said junior Andrew Welch in an email. Welch is studying math and economics in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Not all athletes have such luck with their location. Regardless, they still focus on maintaining their endurance and their strength by working out on a regular basis.
“I haven’t been playing any tennis here in New Zealand, but I’ve been going to the gym pretty regularly. I’m trying to maintain (and hopefully improve) fitness so I’ll be ready for the season. It’s been a long time since I’ve had this long of a break from tennis, and I think it’s been good for me both physically and mentally. I’m definitely eager and excited for the spring season,” said junior tennis player Maggie Eismeier in an email, who is at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Whitman athletes know that they have to find time to practice while abroad, so they will be prepared for the upcoming season.
“While studying abroad, I’m lucky enough to be located on a university campus, which means I have access to a gym and tennis courts. So I am able to keep up with my [workouts] and lifting and get an occasional hit in. However, a good amount of my time this semester is in the jungle/field doing homestays. This means runs through the rice paddies and [plyometrics] and stretching late at night when my host family is asleep. So, I guess I consider myself taking somewhat of a break, but I really try to incorporate fitness into my schedule,” said junior tennis player Hannah Palkowitz, an environmental-sociology major who is spending the semester in Thailand, via email.
Some athletes have the opportunity to take advantage of the teams that play at their location abroad.
“I have also been spending time with the golf club––which is essentially the Varsity Golf Team––to stay competitive. I’ve been getting out to the course regularly and have already made a trip to St. Andrews to play both the New and Old Courses,” said Welch.
The time that the athletes have spent abroad has only added to their excitement for playing in the spring.
“I’m still expecting a conference championship and a trip to nationals for this spring. If anything, taking this semester off from tennis has made me more hungry to compete and has reminded me how much tennis and my team mean to me. I am also reminded about how lucky I am to play alongside such wonderful teammates and coaches,” said Palkowitz.