Despite living two-hour drive from New York State, I knew as a Canadian that my opportunities to play lacrosse at a higher level rested entirely south of the border. Following that dream, I looked at a range of schools in the US, all varying in size, location, and athletic prestige. Eventually, it was the small class sizes and freedom of the liberal arts curriculum, along with the potential to be a big contributor on the field that brought me to my school in Upstate New York. Though I was nervous, I reminded myself that any new experience needs time to become comfortable.
With almost a third of its student body participating in varsity sports at Division I and III levels, Hobart and William Smith Colleges offered a perfect balance of access to professors and support networks with a competitive athletic schedule. At this school, in particular, professors knew you on a first name basis and actively supported school teams on the weekends, allowing student-athletes to thrive and develop working relationships with faculty and campus staff.
From my freshman year, I saw a direct translation between hard work and rewards. I practiced hard and listened to coaching advice in the off-season, getting to start almost every game. I was able to take on multiple campus jobs and volunteer roles, and always had the advice of my older teammates available when dealing with the growing pains of difficult mid-terms and missing classes for away games. If anything, my professors and employers recognized how organized I had to be to stay on top of my courses while balancing a heavy training schedule, and it helped me in gaining a great deal of respect among people on campus and alumni looking to hire me. Importantly, my coaches also understood the value in attending academic events and arriving late to practice from classes. This kind of support for academic growth isn’t always advertised in movies or TV shows about college sports in the US, but it is very much the reason why I got into a top master’s program back home in Canada after graduating.
Though I never experienced the obvious hurdles of having to study in a second language or change time zones, I found solidarity with my fellow international students over our cultural differences and piles of visa documents we had to fill out for our studies. We shared a mutual sense of independence and maturity over some of our American classmates who didn’t have to deal with such a significant amount of change and personal growth. Thankfully, every school understands the difficulty in adjusting to life overseas, and most offer vibrant international student orientations where international students are able to make lasting friendships and orient themselves before the chaos of the semester settles in.
In 2016, 39 of the top 40 women selected to make the next round of the Canadian National Lacrosse Team played or were committed to play college lacrosse in the United States. Though I have extended my lacrosse career with the varsity lacrosse team at the University of Toronto, it feels as if my athletic career has come to an abrupt end. With fewer practices, small turnouts at team events, and an extremely short season, I know there is no way that I would have become the person I am today by doing my bachelor’s in Canada. I will always long for the weekly conference awards, national poll rankings, online stats and professional game photos that made me feel like my performance on the field mattered in the NCAA. Given my happy memories and the amount I grew as an athlete and student during my 4 years in the US, I will never stop advocating for the US college experience among the girls I coach today.
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