Student-Athletes Abroad


Being a student athlete and an engineering student can feel like having a full-time job (or two)! However, many student athletes have been able to find time to go abroad for academic purposes or through a student organization. Making it happen can present some challenges, but you’re likely used to overcoming difficulties and working hard to achieve your goals. With careful planning and support from your coach, advisors, and others, you can expand your horizons far beyond the playing field.

Opportunities and Challenges You Might Face

Besides the significant personal growth many students experience by going abroad, the experience would allow you an opportunity to learn about the culture surrounding your sport in another country. You may get to play your sport in a fresh environment or you may get the opportunity to pick up a new sport that you just don’t have time for back home due to your athletic schedule. You may even find that your body will benefit from diverse exercises, different movements, or new styles of play. Finding a time in your athletic calendar to go abroad may be difficult but most sports have some time periods when athletes are able to be off-campus. Getting involved in a new city or on a new campus without your teammates may sound intimidating but it will allow you to achieve new levels of independence and growth.

Questions to Consider/Action Items

Before Departure

  • When would be the best time to study, intern, or do research abroad? Consider both your training and playing schedules. You may think that ‘studying abroad’ means spending a full semester abroad. But, in fact, there are a variety of program structures and lengths that offer shorter or more flexible international experiences. We encourage you to talk with an IPE advisor to see what options might fit your schedule. 
  • Even during the off-season, do you have any obligations, team commitments, or competitions that would require you to be on campus or attend certain events? 
  • Have you considered how you will keep up with any off-season training and maintain any necessary nutritional standards while you are in another country? Most locations will likely have local gyms you could join or university facilities you could use as a student but it’s best to be prepared, know your options, and have a plan in place. It’s also recommended that you do some research on the local culture surrounding exercising. For example, in some places it might not be as common or acceptable to jog on the street or exercise outside as it is in the U.S.
  • Talk to your coach as soon as you begin thinking about going abroad. Discuss your personal reasons for wanting to go abroad and touch upon the benefits the experience will provide you, such as personal growth, an increased maturity level, and enhanced leadership qualities. Ask them what time frame would work best for you to spend time abroad.
  • If you receive an athletic scholarship, you may be able to use it for a term abroad. If you don’t receive funding normally, there are scholarships available specifically for studying abroad. For example, the Fund for Education Abroad provides scholarships for those traditionally under-represented in study abroad, including student-athletes.


While Abroad

  • The NCAA has strict compliance rules about participating in outside competitions. Make sure you know what you are and are not allowed to do while abroad. Discuss this with your ASP counselor if you have any questions about compliance or eligibility.
  • Stay in shape by joining a gym or other through options you may have in your new city. Rather than just exercising alone, though, take the opportunity to to engage with the local sports culture by joining an intramural team or attending sports events with new friends.
  • Keep in touch with your teammates while you’re abroad so you’ll have a smooth transition back once you return to U-M.