Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Athlete's Experience Abroad

My name is Alex Willard. I am from Clinton, Tennessee. I am a senior at Maryville College, where I am an Accounting/Finance major with a Sociology minor. Throughout my undergraduate experience, I have played four years on the football team, I have been a resident assistant for three-years, I held the position of treasurer for the residence hall association and have been co-chair peer mentor. Through academics and these organizations, Maryville College has challenged me to search for truth and grow in wisdom. It has also challenged me to expand my comfort zone and experience things that I would have never dreamed of experiencing before arriving on campus.

            Although growing up I had an itch to go abroad, it never crossed my mind during my first two years in college. Maybe this was due to my schedule being filled by countless hours of practice? Or maybe it was because I was scared to leave my comfort zone? Anyways, hearing MC students talk about their experiences influenced and pushed me to see what the hype around the study abroad program was about. Since football season was during the fall, off season workouts were in the spring and I had to work to pay for school during the summer; I was limited in when I could go abroad. This left one option for me, J-term. As I began to look for opportunities that fit my time table and one that would challenge me on many levels, one stuck out. The 18-day J-term trip to Ecuador!

            Ecuador was a trip that consisted of traveling around the entire country, moving every two to three days. It was also one that consisted a lot of physical activity such as: hiking, walking, carrying your heavy bag from place to place and adventure activities. This is where I think being an athlete helped me succeed while being abroad. Not only was I in good shape, but going abroad allowed me to use my teamwork skills and allowed me to use my knowledge of overcoming adversity. I had to rely on others to help navigate the terrain and even the language barrier. I found myself in unknown territory and had to use my athletic training to stay positive and be courageous.

            Finally, while Maryville College prepares students for many aspects of life, I truly believe it is hard to prepare students for trips abroad. During my 18-day trip, I experienced different cultures, languages, many foods and tradition. I also gained the experience of feeling like a minority. This trip provided me with an opportunity to expand my views and to help me better understand social and sustainability problems from a worldwide perspective.