My first week as a student athlete back in August 2016 started with a ‘team bonding’ trip to a shooting range. It was a bit of a weird start to my time in America to be honest, and I remember ringing my mum and dad afterwards just to let them know that I wasn’t sure if I’d fit in here. My dad just told me to get on with it and said that there were bound to be many experiences over the next four years that I might be uncomfortable with or unsure about, but that I just needed to embrace every single one of them. It was a (rare) good piece of advice from Richard, and one I have carried with me up until this point, as I sit writing this blog, ready to enter my final semester at the University of North Georgia – (my mum was a bit weirded out by the gun range thing too and said I could come home if I wanted to – I’m glad I didn’t).
Over the next three years I would experience a multitude of highs and lows- on the pitch, at school, as well as away from these two things: making the ‘Sweet 16’ and playing in Miami during my freshman year; spending Thanksgiving break in New York City; an 11 hour road trip with my best friends from Dahlonega to Chicago for Spring Break; numerous academic achievements, and being named a captain in my senior year – all of these high points outweighed any of the lows. By no means has it been an easy journey, and I will always admire those who do step out of their comfort zone and make the move to the US from life in the UK. There will likely be points in time over the four years where the football is frustrating you, the school is frustrating you, or even the people are frustrating you – but what I found is the importance of looking at the bigger picture. Your four years in the US will be life-changing; embrace the experiences and cherish each moment as the time will soon fly by!
Before leaving for the US, one of my biggest fears was not fitting in or not making any friends, which was probably the sole cause of my anxiety entering this experience. The football side, living on my own away from my parents, going to school – I didn’t worry about these things so much as I was confident I’d be able to adapt, but the making friends part I found the most daunting. I had an idea of what Americans were like from TV shows and movies, and I spent a lot of time worrying that I wouldn’t fit in. Thankfully, my worries were unjustified, as making friends became the most natural and easiest part of the experience. From my very first day back in August 2016, I had teammates around me who would do anything for me. Before even asking, I’d have three different people offering to take me to Walmart, people asking me if I wanted to go hiking, go out to eat, or go and watch a movie. The teammates who became family enabled me to settle in straight away, without even giving me time to think about missing home. Four years later, I can safely say that I have made friends for life. Your friends and their families become your family too. My roommates’ parents treat me like one of their daughters – hosting me for Thanksgiving, inviting me on trips, acting as my family after matches when my parents couldn’t be there. I don’t know whether I have been lucky, or if all Americans are like this, but the way my friends and their families have looked after me these past few years is something intangible that is hard to put into words. Over your four years you will likely win important games, trophies, championships, get good grades at school, but probably the most valued thing I can take from my time here has been the lifelong friendships I have made and the people that have made this experience what it is.
My four years as a college athlete have allowed me to develop as a footballer and as a person – physically and tactically on the pitch, and socially and emotionally off it. Four years ago I looked like I had never even seen a weight room – but thanks to the facilities available to you and the work that the strength and conditioning coaches do over in the US I am now a slightly less lanky, (moderately) quicker version of what I was back then. The game in the US is different to what it is back home, which took me a while to get used to. So much emphasis is placed on physicality, athleticism and speed of play – the three parts of my game that needed the most amount of work. The level of fitness that is required to play in the 30 degree Georgia heat and humidity is greater than I could have predicted. One of the biggest pieces of advice I could give to others about to experience college soccer in the US is to not underestimate the level of fitness required to play the game at a high level out here. One of the best decisions I made over my 4 years was to come back early before my senior season to workout and do conditioning over the summer months, to get me adapted quicker to the extreme heat and reach a higher level of fitness.
Four years after making my move to North Georgia as a shy 17-year-old, I am now a more confident, mature individual, eager to enter the next chapter of my life after graduating with a bachelor’s in Business Management. After spending three seasons at Everton, I came out to the US looking to develop as a footballer and as a person – and I couldn’t have wished for it to go better than it has. I’ve had the privilege of captaining a nationally ranked, relentlessly successful, North Georgia team and made friends for life in this small town called Dahlonega. I’ve had coaches, current and former, do everything they can to allow me to be successful on and off the pitch. I’ve had athletic staff, teachers, teammates, fellow athletes around me that have made my experience and time at North Georgia unbelievable. I truly believe that it’s the people around you that will enable you to make the most out of your four years. If you’re thinking about going to the US to become a student athlete, I can only encourage you to do so – and I am sure you won’t regret it!
University of North Georgia Women’s Soccer
If you are interested in becoming a student athlete just like Rosie, you can fill out an application online or email email@example.com.