In February, the Susquehanna University athletic communications department will debut a series of stories highlighting several of the University's student-athletes and their study abroad and/or international playing experiences. The GO (Global Opportunities) program at Susquehanna ensures that each student will have a meaningful cross-cultural experience abroad or in the U.S. during their four years at Susquehanna.
While it can be tricky to balance studying abroad and athletics, as you'll see in this series, Susquehanna's student-athletes are doing just that while still others are opting to extend that experience by returning abroad to play their respective sport.
The series will begin with a Q&A with junior cross country and track & field athlete and business major Pat Brown, who spent the 2013 fall semester in London. Brown was the source of inspiration for this series as he strongly believes in the GO experience and wanted to get the word out about the benefits of his time abroad.
When and where did you complete your GO experience?
I completed my GO experience in the fall semester of my junior year, 2013. I went to London with the SWSB London Program.
Why did you decide on that particular trip? Why did you choose a semester program over a GO Short program, knowing you'd miss cross country season?
I decided to participate in this trip my sophomore year. This program allowed me to continue on the track toward graduation and gain credits that would transfer directly back to Susquehanna. I chose a GO Long program because I realized that life is not all about the sport you are involved in. A GO Long program was the perfect fit for me and allowed me to learn so much about myself. I talked to my coach, Marty Owens, and he supported my decision and was nothing but excited for me to experience the world.
What were you hoping to get out of the trip on both a personal and academic level?
Personally, I wanted to learn about myself and see the world. I was able to do both of these. Traveling to places such as Normandy, Germany, Prague and Barcelona to Ireland where my great grandparents were from taught me how to be independent and also showed me just how big the world really is. Selinsgrove is a great small town and perfect for my college experience, but going abroad showed me that there is so much more to offer in the world. I was able to see how other people lived and that was very valuable to me.
Academically, I wanted to expand my business knowledge and see how business was conducted on the international scale. This happened week in and week out with our business tours. We visited places such as Wimbledon, Chelsea Football Club, Lego in Prague and Fullers Brewery. These tours gave insight into how business differed outside the United States and that was very beneficial for me because I am a global economics emphasis. Our Prague projects were also a great experience to be able to present to companies abroad and get feedback on our recommendations from the board of the company themselves.
What did you study/what classes did you take and was there a reason you took the particular classes you did?
I took five classes while abroad in London. They were Seminar in European Business, Management and Organizational Behavior, Operations Management, British Theater and British History and Culture. These courses were all very valuable and taught me more than I could have expected. All of the lessons are applicable to the real world which is a testament to just how good our business school is here at SU.
Can you pick out one or two memorable moments, explain them and talk about why they were memorable/significant to you?
I will pick two stories that are significant to me from abroad. I have so many memories, including my family coming to visit, meeting new people, and all of my travels, but these two events stand out to me.
My first memory is presenting our team project in Prague to the board of Marks and Spencer, a multi-national department store. This presentation was the culmination of months of hard work and endless pages of writing and hours of practice. We did a very good job and the board loved our presentation. This was such a satisfying feeling knowing that all of our hard work had paid off and we were rewarded for it.
Another moment that stands out to me is the sporting venues and events we saw. I am an avid Arsenal supporter and was able to get a membership package for when I was abroad. I was able to go to three games and see my favorite team play in person. This was an amazing experience and really showed me just how passionate the fans really are. If you think an NFL game is crazy, go to a football match in the EPL and you will be astounded at the enthusiasm the supporters have for their teams. Another moment at a sporting venue that stood out to me was standing in the stands of Centre Court at Wimbledon. For years and years I have watched this event on TV, and it was surreal to actually stand in the stadium and picture all of the greats who have played there.
As a runner, you may have been better able to train better than someone from another sport. Did you do any running over there? If so, what was that experience like? Did you run with others, use it as a way to see different places, etc.?
Being a runner gave me the freedom to train on my own time. Running is very much a team sport, yet also individual at the same time. In the beginning of the semester it was still light out after classes, and I was able to run through Hyde Park and explore parts of the city. Running in a city is very different then the roads we run on here in Central PA. There was always something to see. My favorite run was down through Hyde Park and then to Buckingham Palace. It was amazing to be able to see so many landmarks during my runs.
London is a very exercise-oriented city, and that being said, it was host to a global triathlon event. I was able to run a few nights in a row with some of the athletes who were participating in the race. This was amazing to be able to talk with elite level athletes and see what it is like to be a professional athlete who travels the world. I was able to join the YMCA at the end of the semester because it gets very dark early in London. This allowed me to not only run on the treadmill but also lift and swim. Many others in our program including Shawn Entenmann (Swimming, '15), Tyler Patrick (Swimming, '15) and Lexi Cole (Swimming, '15) also joined the gym. This was good to have other people to go to the gym with and motivate each other.
What would be your advice for a student-athlete who is afraid to "miss" a semester of their sport, be it in-season or offseason?
I would implore to student-athletes to think about what they really want. It comes down to what you decide, but I would suggest a GO Long program. I thought long and hard about my decision, and finally came to the conclusion that sports are very important to me but there is much more to life than running. A season off, especially when the cross country team won the Landmark Conference title and had an amazing season, was very hard to miss, but I do not regret my decision at all. While, yes, you will "miss" a season, you will grow as a person and learn more about the world and yourself, which I found very important.
What do you think is the biggest benefit for students – athletes or otherwise – to study abroad?
The biggest benefit to studying abroad is the ability to grow as a person and learn more about you. There are going to be situations that make you leave your comfort zone and that is a good thing. You will mature as a person and come back to SU as a worldlier and more cultured person, something SU pushes. This experience was the best in my life and I would not trade it for anything.
Why do you think this series of interviews is important, and how did you think of the idea to start this program?
I think that it is important for student-athletes specifically to realize that it is ok to go abroad for an entire semester. In most cases, the coach will be nothing but supportive of your choice. They will want you to go grow as a person and then come back and be able to be a leader on the team. If you are in season all year, like I am as a cross country and track and field athlete, you have to make a choice on when to go. I picked cross country to miss because I am more of a track athlete and better on the track than the cross country course. This was a choice made with Marty and allowed me to feel comfortable to GO long.
I thought of the idea for this series of stories because I felt it was important to show that there are many student-athletes that have different experiences both domestic and abroad that influence them and allow them to mature. Current and prospective athletes should also know that our athletic department supports all student-athletes who study abroad. If you want to go abroad, your coach will not hold you back at all and they will be so happy for you. You can go abroad and come back and still participate at a collegiate level with hard work and that is what this series depicts.