Money Smart Athlete Blog

International student-athletes and the relocation factor

Jul 6, 2022 | Student-Athletes

By Iacovos Iacovides, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy

A great number of athletes will need to relocate during their careers, either to a different state/region or different country. The situation is similar for foreign student-athletes who move to the United States to combine academics and sports.  Approximately 12% of NCAA division I students are foreign students, as when it comes to fusing higher education with sports, the US is second to none. There is no other educational system in the world which offers the opportunity to compete on an almost professional level, playing alongside the future protagonists of professional sports, while at the same time working towards your undergraduate degree.

Nonetheless, that means that a person who may be as young as 17 years old, leaves their home country, leaving friends, family and relationships behind in order to move to a wholly different place where they will not only have to adjust to different cultural norms, social practices and climate, but also adapt to the challenging environment and rigorous schedule of a student-athlete. Here are some tips to get a head start since the next academic year starts in less than two months and a lot of you are currently prepping for it.

It is always wise to plan for your accommodation ahead of your journey. With the assistance of the university, you should be able to find a dorm room on campus. Although, some people do not find student accommodation desirable, it is both convenient and practical. You get certain things off your shoulder, it’s easier to meet people since everyone is there for the same reasons as you, everything you need is in close vicinity and there are people whose job is to assist students, especially freshmen. It would be a good strategy if you could also research the broader area of the university prior to moving there in order to familiarize yourself with the amenities, facilities and points of interest, such as diners, grocery stores, cafes, and drugs stores.

Apart from accommodation, there are certain challenges and issues that a lot, if not most, international students are experiencing or will experience and we have a few recommendations on how to approach them.

The main challenge is of course the language barrier; when a foreign student’s native language is different than the language in their country of study.  In the beginning this may cause a lot of unpleasantness for the student-athlete and it can be frustrating to have difficulties communicating with classmates, teammates, coaches and professors.  However, with a little effort this can be overcome after the first semester or so and foreign students start getting accustomed to communicating well in the foreign language during their daily interactions.

When you leave home for the first time, you also have to start caring about yourself 100%. That means that you have to go grocery shopping yourself, cook yourself, do the dishes, clean your room and do your laundry. Add to those, training and studying, and it might look as if the 24 hours are not enough. Ultimately, every individual will deal with this differently. Sometimes you can do your chores simultaneously, like going grocery shopping, while waiting for your laundry, or do the dishes immediately after finishing your meal. These are things that you have to integrate in your schedule. They are as important as your studies and training responsibilities.

You might also feel homesick, which is normal. You took a huge leap leaving everything and everyone behind and you are way out of your comfort zone. There are a lot things that you can do to feed that feeling constructively. You should keep in touch with family and friends through video calls, although, not to the extent that it impedes you from taking full advantage of your time in college and having an actual social life. There are also some small things that might sound ridiculous, but will certainly help, such as finding a restaurant with your home country’s cuisine, where you might also get a chance to speak in your own language, if you cannot find other native speakers on campus. In other words, try and keep in touch with things you used to do before moving; that will make the transition smoother and will also inject a dose of your original home into your new one.

Being in a new place can be extremely overwhelming especially if you add the stress and pressure pertinent to the lifestyle of student-athletes. Turn that to your favor. It’s ok from time to time to let go and behave like a tourist. After all, you are in a new city that you get the chance to explore and broaden your knowledge and experiences. See it as a way of rejuvenating yourself and taking a break from routine and your athletic and academic commitments.

It’s an opportunity for you to try new things. This might sound like a cliché, but there must be something in this new city/country that you have the chance to do or see. This can be anything ranging from extreme sports to going to the theater. All in all, there are various issues that international student-athletes have to deal with on top of balancing studying with training. These issues can seem overwhelming from time to time, especially until you get used to the inevitable adjustments that come with moving to a new country and taking on so many new responsibilities.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA).  Through its education programs, the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes.  For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at [email protected].