Student to Student
Sports and Study Abroad in England
Combine the Two for a Full Cultural Experience
The idea of trying out for a team in a foreign country may seem daunting at first, but it is well worth the effort. Playing on a sports team is a terrific way to enhance a study abroad experience. Students who join a team participate in the social and cultural life and meet people with similar interests. Sports also give a student an opportunity to see the country as they compete with other schools. Finally, sports can lead to a profitable part-time job on the side.
I spent my junior year abroad at the Univ. of Sussex in Brighton, England and returned to the U.K. to do a masters degree at the Univ. of Cambridge. While athletic programs are not organized as obsessively as they are here in the U.S., schools in England offer students plenty of opportunities to play sports.
Teams are run mainly by students, on small budgets supplied by the school and additional money provided by the players themselves. No March Madness, no Rose Bowl, and forget about homecoming: the only college sporting event of national interest in the U.K. is the Oxford/Cambridge boat race each year. But the friendly and relaxed atmosphere is great for ordinary folks who play for fun. Average athletes have a very strong chance of getting on the team. Travel expenses are generally picked up by the school. International students on opposing teams are often eager to network and exchange visits.
When I arrived at Sussex I went to the campus sports federation (a student-run body that organizes all of the sports teams) to find out if they had a tennis team. They gave me the name of the team captain and told me to give him a ring. Before the season began we had one team meeting and a handful of practices. Not long after, we were in full swing-literally. Each weekend we had either home or away matches. Each match was followed by a free dinner and trip to the pub. Mid-year, the sports federation offered me a job giving tennis lessons to other students. When I returned to go to graduate school at Cambridge, I promptly signed up for my college's tennis and squash teams-a great way to meet people from around the world and always a great excuse for a study break.
If you're interested in playing a sport during your year abroad, log on to your prospective school's web site to find their campus-wide sports organization. Most sports programs will have a home page with email addresses of people to contact. If you are interested in giving lessons on the side, bring a resume and letters of reference with you. And don't forget to bring your gear. In some countries, sports equipment can be very expensive or difficult to find. Schools offer plenty of opportunities, including atypical sports such as ultimate frisbee, martial arts, trampolining, and even darts.
For More Info
The British Universities Sports Association promotes student involvement in sports. Check their web site for information on specific universities in the U.K. Contact: British Universities Sports Association, 8 Union St., London SE1 1SZ; 011-44-20 7357-8555, fax 011-44-20-7403-0127; www.busa.org.uk.
The United Kingdom Sports Council focuses on high performance sport. Their site offers links with other sports organizations in the U.K. Contact: UK Sports, 40 Bernard St., London WC1N 1ST; 011-44-20-7841-9500; www.uksport.gov.uk.
Sports Coach UK. Their home page contains links for information on what it takes to coach as well as current employment opportunities: www.sportscoachuk.org.