Spring Athletes Return from Amazing Abroad Experiences Focused on Season
By Lance Reynolds '19
COLCHESTER, Vt. - The thought process of taking college studies abroad closely resembles to how a senior in high school feels when they are about to graduate and transition to a new life at a higher education institution. However, studying abroad might be an even tougher concept to grasp. Having to live in another country not knowing anyone while becoming accustomed to a new culture brings a lot of question marks about whether this endeavor is truly beneficial and worth it. As each day passes and each week comes and goes, the worries dissipate and turn into thoughts filled with positivity. Three Saint Michael's student-athletes can relate to this experience; and although they were taken away from training for their spring seasons, the memories that came from each adventure will last for the remainder of their lives.
It's a common theme that comes with studying abroad: Student-athletes usually have to give up on their sport for a four-month span, and focus on other aspects of life. Fortunately for junior Taylor Wallace (Bedford, N.H./Bedford), a member of the Saint Michael's men's lacrosse team, there was an opportunity for him to build upon his lacrosse career. Thanks to a dual citizenship, Wallace was presented the chance to play on the Irish National Team while focusing on academics in the city of Galway, Ireland. It happened by chance, Wallace said, that he was in the right place at the right time as the National Team was holding a tryout during one of the weekends he spent abroad. The team did not play in any contests during the fall as it was preparing for this coming summer's European Lacrosse Championships held in Hungary.
"Once we got to the tryout, it was cool to say, 'Oh wow, this is for a national team.' Fifty percent of the kids are from Ireland and 50 percent are non-Irish based," Wallace said. "Being able to say you're part of a national team, although it isn't the most popular sport, is pretty cool."
In addition to being a member of the National Team, Wallace played a key role on the club team at the National University of Ireland at Galway. Wallace referenced that lacrosse is not nearly as popular there as it is here in the U.S., and as a result, the junior partook in more of a coaching role. The club team had a feel very similar to the team here at SMC, but to go along with playing, Wallace organized practices and showed the natives of Ireland the different skills to the game. The junior explained the experience of being looked at as a mentor was a very humbling one which he will never take for granted.
Wallace hinted that he was a little nervous coming back after his time spent abroad since he really didn't know what to expect in terms of fitness and team chemistry. However, being able to secure a spot on the Irish National Team and teaching the game to kids his age helped ease the worries.
"I definitely would've done it even without that knowledge," Wallace said when asked if his knowledge that he was going to be able to play the game while being abroad made the process of going to a foreign country easier. "But the fact that I was going to be able to do something and keep my stick skills up made it that much better. Sports have a huge impact being able to be kind of a third option for bonding with people. The fact that I was going to be able to do that abroad was cool because I was able to meet new people that I never thought that I could've met if I didn't have the ability to play lacrosse, so that was pretty cool."
Senior Jamie McGill (Needham, Mass./Needham), another member of the SMC men's lacrosse squad, spent this past fall abroad in beautiful Sydney, Australia. Unlike Wallace, McGill did not engage in any lacrosse activities. Though, the senior asserted that the break from the game helped him enjoy the time spent in Sydney even more than if he were able to play.
"I think it was a nice refresher to have a break from lacrosse and to go explore and travel," McGill said. "It's a busy schedule playing a collegiate sport and it can take a lot out of you. It's exciting to be back and see all the guys. One last hurrah till my time here is over."
The senior business administration major spent the majority of the time abroad by interning at GeoSnapShot - a photography marketplace that connects amateur photographers with local outdoor action sports such as surfing, equestrian and mountain biking events. During his free time, McGill kept fit surfing and swimming in the fresh waters of the South Pacific Ocean, and traveled to neighboring countries of Tasmania and New Zealand to climb and hike.
"Best time of my life," McGill related about his adventure in Australia. "Opened my eyes to what is really out there. Often times Saint Mike's is almost like a bubble. I was happy to travel, see new things and meet people from all around the world."
McGill and Wallace will play vital fixtures in the successes of their team's season this spring. The team suffered a setback in its season opener against nationally-ranked Merrimack in which McGill and Wallace accounted for one goal apiece. Despite the loss, Wallace has high hopes for the Purple Knights, and is confident they can reach the NE-10 tournament in May.
"We have a good group of seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen. We are finally starting to get to the same mental page where we are all focused on the same thing. We all have the same goals in mind, and a pretty tight-knit-chemistry group," Wallace said. "We're expecting good things for us. We've laid out a plan with three objectives: We're going to win all of the ground balls, we're going to beat all of the teams we should beat, and we're just going to have fun."
Representing the men's tennis team, junior Hayden Steward (Hamilton, Mass./Pingree School) took his studies abroad this past fall to Charles University - the oldest Central European university - in Prague, Czech Republic. Despite failing to find anyone to play with and the limited access to courts, Steward thoroughly cherished living in a culture that is completely different than that of the U.S.
"I had two weeks of Czech language which was good so I could at least relate to the people my age or start a conversation. It's a lot different," Steward said of the Czech culture. "In terms of walking down the street, it was just really quiet and calm. All of the streets in Prague are cobblestone which adds just an old, vintage feel."
The junior psychology major attended classes on Mondays and Tuesdays, and then spent the rest of the week traveling the different countries that compose Central Europe.
"I had a lot of time to do whatever I wanted. I traveled a lot. I went to 10 countries total, which was phenomenal," Steward said. "That was one of my goals, to travel as much as possible. England, France, Spain, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, Slovakia..."
Steward explained that he contained a lot of nerves knowing that he had to take a leave of absence from tennis just months before the season got underway. However, once he arrived back home, he was able to utilize Christmas break as a means of a training schedule. The junior was thrilled that he was able to live in the historic city of Prague.
"It definitely helped having Christmas break in there because if I came straight back to school and started the season right away that would have definitely been tough," Steward said. "I really benefited from having Christmas break where I could start getting into shape and playing ... I wouldn't have traded it for anything. It would've been great if I was able to play, but it was still fantastic without it."
Although the team has dropped its first two matches of the spring, Steward is optimistic that he and the rest of his teammates will have a successful season.
"It's looking good. We're definitely going to compete, especially in doubles; our doubles teams are looking pretty strong this year. We're going to do pretty well, and we're going to see how it goes."