Studying abroad as a student athlete may require additional considerations. From ideal terms for your sport to gym access abroad, we're here to help.
Gym Access for Northwestern Programs
Comparative Public Health: Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (summer)
This program takes place in two cities: Belgrade, Serbia, and Sarajevo, Bosnia. In Belgrade, students must pay a fee to access an on-campus fitness center located in the student center/dorm area. In Sarajevo, students do not stay in the dorms and may not have access to student dorm gyms. In both locations there are several private gyms within walking distance of student residences. These would have an additional fee from the program cost.
Global Healthcare Technologies in South Africa (winter) and Public Health & Development in South Africa (spring)
For the programs in South Africa, Northwestern students have access to gym facilities at Stellenbosch University. Learn more about Stellenbosch University's sports facilities.
Public Health in China (summer), China: Political & Economic Development (summer), and Energy Technology & Policy: Wanxiang Fellows Program in China (summer)
Students in Northwestern China summer programs must pay for access to Peking University’s gyms and swimming pool. The gym charge is modest. For the pool, a 50-access pass costs 460RMB (about $80). (Other types of pool passes are also available.) Information about Peking University’s comprehensive facilities (many were built to support the 2008 Beijing Olympics) can be found online.
Public Health in Mexico (summer)
Students don’t have access to a gym at Universidad Panamericana and instead usually sign up for a gym membership at their own cost.
Spanish Language & Culture in Barcelona (summer)
There is no gym at Universitat Pompeu Fabra; students have free access to a bare bones gym in their dormitory. Some students choose to join a gym, but like in the US, that often involves paying an amount at the beginning as well as a monthly fee. There is a pool by the beach, which tends to be a bit pricey. Students usually just run outside.
Note: For programs where gym access is not included as part of the program, additional gym costs are not calculated as part of the overall cost of attendance of the program and thus would not be included in a financial aid package.
Soccer | WCAS 2018 | Public Health & Development in South Africa
How did you make study abroad work as a student-athlete?: "I was able to study abroad in the spring quarter of my senior year because I was a fall sport athlete and was done with practices. However, there was a junior abroad who was able to find time to swim while she studied abroad, so if you have a passion to go abroad communicate with your coach and don’t let athletics prevent that."
Why did you decide to study abroad?: "I wanted to gain a world perspective on the health care field as western medication varies greatly from the rest of the world. This program allowed me to receive credit, gain medical experience, and travel to a new country (with time to see other countries as well)."
What was the biggest surprise of your study abroad experience?: "The amount of free time and freedom we had to explore other areas/countries and try new activities like hiking, watching professional soccer and rugby games, go on an African safari, etc."
How did study abroad impact your experience at Northwestern?: Study abroad showed me there is a much larger world outside of Northwestern. There is a lot of pressure and stress when you are taking classes at Northwestern, but study abroad reminded me that the experience is what matters. I was able to see how my learning and studying impacted the community we were in which is what having a career in the real world is like as well. I am so glad I studied abroad – changed my perspective and allowed me to relax and enjoy my last quarter at Northwestern.
What advice do you have for other student-athletes considering studying abroad?: DO IT! You won’t regret it. Meet people early on and don’t hold back. I still keep in touch with people that I met both from Northwestern as well as from South Africa, and I would have never met them otherwise if I hadn’t gone abroad.
Soccer | Medill 2021 | GESI Uganda
How did you make study abroad work as a student-athlete?: "Knowing that I didn’t have to take classes and there is no sport obligatory for me during the summer, I saw an opportunity to intern in Uganda in the summer of 2019 for credits. It wasn’t a hard decision for me to make. I didn’t have to debate knowing that, I’ll be a junior and probably have only that summer. I make sure I got in touch with my academic advisor and find out what works best for me. So, she recommended me GESI program during the summer which was feasible."
Why did you decide to study abroad?: "I knew prior to coming to Northwestern University, I don't want my education only to stopped at the four corners of the University. I was well prepared to take advantage of all the possible opportunities that Northwestern can offer which includes interning/studying abroad. My idea and belief of education is beyond the classroom. There is no better way of learning about people and developing your intellectual curiosity than studying abroad. Hence, it provides you with an opportunity to learn and share your knowledge with people who may have no idea who you are and what you represent. Therefore, I knew coming to Northwestern, would provide me the opportunity to learn about other cultures and be a better-informed citizen. While learning about other cultures is among the motivating thing factor, there were other things such as being able to represent my country--The Gambia and my University in the outside world who may not have any idea about my home country, culture, and tradition. Thus, this was an opportunity to represent my country and my University as unofficial ambassador which I’m very proud of."
What was the biggest surprise of your study abroad experience?: "I would say the biggest surprise was the amount of free time and being able to explore some historical sites of Uganda. It was my first time to be in East Africa and there are so many beautiful places that I wanted to visit. With enough time, I make the best use of it and explore made a lot of friends as well."
How did study abroad impact your experience at Northwestern?: "It really did impact me in a positive way. I must say studying and living in an unfamiliar environment comes with some uncertain about cultural differences and expectations. I was surprised to learn how well I fit in the Ugandan society. I learned a lot about friends I met there and even drew closer to Northwestern students that I really talked to before. It opens other opportunities to learn about myself and surroundings in a way that it wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t study abroad. Am glad I did it and no regret of my time there."
What advice do you have for other student-athletes considering studying abroad?: "I WILL SAY JUST DO IT! First just talk to your academic advisor and coach, and see if it works with your schedule. This is a golden opportunity that could change your whole perspective of seeing things in the real world and learned about yourself. It’s a way of moving out your own bubbles and challenging yourself."
Soccer | SESP 2018 | Prague: Central European Studies
How did you make study abroad work as a student-athlete?: "Considering that I played on the women’s soccer team, a fall sport, I decided to study abroad during the winter and half of the spring quarter during my senior year (a typical semester schedule). For fall sport athletes who aren’t pursuing a professional athlete career, the winter and spring are wide open in terms of sport obligations as we are no longer required to participate in our sport’s duties. I debated extensively on doing it because I would be missing out on much of the second half of senior year, but I decided this was a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up."
Why did you decide to study abroad?: "I decided to study abroad because I knew that after soccer was over, I would be bored and have nothing to do for the winter and spring quarter of my senior year. I also knew I would be experiencing some nostalgia and be jealous of my younger teammates who were still playing. I also felt like I needed to figure out who I was without soccer. I used my study abroad experience to keep my mind off of soccer, get out of my comfort zone, and be completely separated from Northwestern as a whole. Additionally, the program I was in was set like a semester schedule, so I didn’t miss much while abroad. In other words, I came back from Europe in mid-May and was pretty much already graduated because my classes abroad were finished… and it was a month before graduation! There was a stretch of days where I just wished to be with my teammates, but everyone experiences homesickness at some point during their time abroad, plus social media and FaceTime really help people stay connected."
What was the biggest surprise of your study abroad experience?: "The biggest surprise of my study abroad experience is that I didn’t meet any other Division I student-athletes while abroad, and there were rarely seniors. Most of the students were not athletes or if they were, they were from Division III schools. At Northwestern, the student-athlete community is very tight-knit and so being surrounded by non-athletes was actually a refreshing and eye-opening experience for both me and my friends. The people that I met abroad thought it was cool that I was a student-athlete and it was interesting to hear about their experiences in Greek life or other clubs and realize there weren’t that many differences in terms of relationships made and required obligations. I actually enjoyed not being around student-athletes for once."
How did study abroad impact your experience at Northwestern?: "My study abroad experience was absolutely unbelievable. I ended up traveling to 12 countries and 26 cities! I enjoyed every minute of it and learned so much about myself that I wouldn’t have learned if I didn’t study abroad. I had a great experience being a student-athlete and my study abroad experience just contributed even more to my experience at Northwestern as a whole. I have no words to describe how much I loved it."
What advice do you have for other student-athletes considering studying abroad?: "If you decide to study abroad during a time where you are still an eligible student-athlete, I recommend talking about it with your coach first. I had another teammate who studied abroad in the summer, a time where we are obligated to train for preseason, and she coordinated with our trainers to come up with a plan so that she could come in ready for preseason with the knowledge that she may not have the training resources she would have in the US. The only other advice I have is that if you’re a student-athlete debating about studying abroad, DO IT! It was the best decision I ever made and was a great way to end my college career."
Cross Country | WCAS 2019 | Public Health & Development in South Africa
How did you make study abroad work as a student-athlete?: "I was able to study abroad because I had medically retired the previous year due to an ankle injury. If I were still on the team, I would have probably studied abroad the same time (spring senior year) as cross country is a fall sport."
Why did you decide to study abroad?: "I have a global health minor and the department requires the student to study abroad in order to complete the degree. I had always wanted to study abroad and this department provided the perfect guidance for me."
What was the biggest surprise of your study abroad experience?: "The biggest surprise was the close friendships I made during this time. I was worried about missing my last quarter at NU, but it was completely worth it. I made lasting friendships and was able to expand outside of my circle of friends at NU. I was also able to experience unique opportunities such as a South African safari, a homestay in a village, hiking up Table Mountain and traveling throughout the country with a great group of people."
How did study abroad impact your experience at Northwestern?: "I greatly enjoyed my study abroad experience. I am currently in the Peace Corps in Zambia, so study abroad helped me prepare for being abroad for a period of time. I am grateful to have studied at Stellenbosch University and learn from top professors in South Africa about apartheid, race relationships, culture, health and the complex history of the country. This experience greatly expanded my worldview."
What advice do you have for other student-athletes considering studying abroad?: "My advice to student-athletes is to definitely study abroad if you have the opportunity. There are always going to be reasons to stay in the US, but it importance to challenge your normal and experience a different way of living. It is worth the risk."
Basketball | Medill 2020 | Journalism Residency in Cape Town, South Africa
How did you make study abroad work as a student-athlete?: "The hardest part of the process was probably deciding to schedule the initial meeting in my head coach's office—I thought he might question my commitment to the team, but he was incredibly supportive of my academic and personal growth. I actually arrived a week late to Cape Town because my team made it to the WNIT Championship game in April. The Global Learning Office, Medill and my team were very understanding and helpful in helping me alter my travel plans and still participate."
Why did you decide to study abroad?: "I mainly transferred to Medill because I've always been a curious person. I don't love to write, but I love to explore, which that's exactly what we did in South Africa. In addition to a five day safari in Kruger National Park organized by Medill, my group went on many other outdoor adventures including Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe."
What was the biggest surprise of your study abroad experience?: "I didn't expect to make such strong relationships with basketball coaches and players abroad. The University of Cape Town team embraced me and I keep in touch with many of them over WhatsApp."
How did study abroad impact your experience at Northwestern?: "Dr. Phillips talks a lot about gratitude. I came back with a whole new sense of gratitude after seeing many kids play in flip flops or no shoes at all in a South African township, Inizamo Yethu. No international studies class or fact about a developing nation can replicate a first-hand experience like this."
What advice do you have for other student-athletes considering studying abroad?: "Don't let a fear of losing skills or playing time stop you from studying abroad. At the end of the experience, leaving your sport for a short period of time might even result in coming back refreshed and ready to work even harder."