What it’s Like Being an International Student-Athlete in the U.S.

What it’s Like Being an International Student-Athlete in the U.S.

Hi! My name is Oda H. Hovland and I am a student-athlete at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan. I grew up in the suburbs west of Oslo city center, Norway. During my upbringing, my parents always reminded me to think of life after high school and which educational path I would like to take. In addition to school, Nordic skiing has always been a huge part of my life and I did not like the thought of letting go of this for the benefit of studies. In Norwegian universities the option to do both is non-existent; you are either a full-time student or a full-time athlete. Therefore I was very lucky when I was in my senior year of high school I received an email from the coach at Michigan Tech who wanted to recruit me for the women’s Nordic Ski Team roster, class of 2022. He also had a scholarship to provide, which of course would help the economic situation a lot. After a few rounds with my parents and the coach I accepted the request and was thankful for the opportunity to call myself a Michigan Tech Huskies athlete.

This first semester I am attending the English Language Institute (ELI) program at Michigan Tech. I have respective English classes in Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking. In addition, I am having a class called Advanced English for Business, which mainly focuses on tasks I will meet in my business courses for my bachelor degree in Business Management. I find this class very educational and specialized. I genuinely think it has helped me understand business as a subject better and I believe that I will handle my business classes on a higher level then I would have done without the course. Now that my first semester of college is coming to an end, I look back at many educational weeks and I am positive that the ELI program has prepared me to have the best possible opportunities to succeed as an international student. I have my professors to thank for that.

As a student-athlete, the days can be busy and sometimes overwhelmingly stressful. At the beginning of the semester, I found it hard to adjust to a whole new school system with different expectations and rules. As the weeks went by the routines became a rhythm, and today I find the system and days much more productive than what the case would have been in my home country. A typically school day starts with classes from 9 am to 2 pm, followed by practice from around 3 pm to 5/6pm. On days where we have two training session, the first practice is between 6 am and 8 am before classes begin. One thing I really enjoy with the American system is the fact that everything connected to athletics or sports happens at the Student Development Center, also called the SDC.  The SDC has several arenas for different sports, including locker rooms for each sport and a training room with a trainer available all the time. This system makes everyday life easier. I walk up to the SDC straight from the classroom, change clothes and walk to the front door of the arena for practice. After practice we shower and put our laundry in a laundry bin that is washed and dried every day. Then we put on normal clothes and can walk down to the dorms or dining hall, ready to go to a class or the library if that is the case. This system makes it easier to separate school and athletics and the school makes it very easy to be an athlete with a busy schedule. Everything is organized and designed to become successful in both studies and athletics. Other benefits I have experienced with the team is all the American happenings we celebrate together, such as Halloween. Another thing is volunteering for different events and the way each team stands up and helps out each other when one of the sports has a home match.

If you asked me five years ago, what I think colleges in the US are like, I would probably have said: stressful and overcrowded with busy professors with no time for the single student. That was the impression I had from several American series and movies. Now that “ the American dream” has become a reality for me, I can underline that this is far from the truth and the benefits of a US education becomes bigger the more I think over it. First of all, the English language is spoken worldwide, which is why studying English during my first semester in the ELI was really important to me. By knowing the language well, your opportunities for jobs in the future is most likely doubled. Second, the experiences you will have and what you learn from them will follow you for the rest of your life. They are unique and can become very helpful in the future. Third, and maybe what I value the most, is the friendships you make and the environment our team has. That gives me the motivation to get through days where my bed is more tempting than the muddy trails. If you ever wonder about college in the US and if it is the right choice for you, I´ll say that if you never try you´ll never know. Go for it!

For more information: Michigan Technological University's English Language Institute (ELI)