Though the number of athletes studying abroad is small, the impact on those that do is large.
In comparison to other division 1 athletics programs, Marist College is seen as a smaller-sized school to most people. Those same people who view Marist as a small, private college are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Roughly 4,100 miles across the Atlantic Ocean lies the beautiful city of Florence, Italy and within that city, Marist College continues to educate young adults.
While 50% of the Marist student population travels abroad during their time in college, not many athletes make up that number. There is a preconceived notion among division 1 college athletes that studying abroad is almost not allowed, or if it is, many athletes fear reprimands from coaches and scowls from teammates upon their decision to study abroad. Stephanie Stone, Marist volleyball senior, blew caution to the wind when it came to her choice to study abroad, specifically in Australia.
“I’m very committed to my team, and that’s a huge reason that I wanted to stay [in America],” said Stone. “But at the same time, I knew that looking back 10-20 years from now on my college experience, I knew that I would regret it so much more if I didn’t pursue the opportunity to study abroad.”
This overpowering desire for Stone to travel the world, and spend a semester in a foreign country was a major reason why the California-native chose Marist as her destination to play collegiate volleyball. “I was looking at bigger programs, and Marist was really the only program that said ‘yes you can play division 1 volleyball, and we also encourage our athletes to go abroad’. That was something that was not a standard for division 1 volleyball,” she said.
The culture that Marist College has created where studying abroad for a semester, or even a year, is now seeping into the culture of the athletics program. Aside from Stone and the volleyball program, even the football program had their fair share of athletes who take a semester to explore different countries, cities, and cultures.
Two Marist football kickers, Chris Arnold and Luke Gioffre, traveled to Florence, Italy during the Spring semester and credited Marist’s abroad program and the football coaching staff for the ability to do so.
“I saw an opportunity for me to go in the Spring semester of my sophomore year,” Gioffre shared. “I told my coach, I said ‘hey coach I’m thinking of going abroad,’ and his exact words, I think, were ‘ok, that’s great!’ It was all very supportive.” Gioffre and Arnold expressed their gratitude toward their head coach, Jim Parady, for his acceptance and encouragement throughout the whole process.
While most division 1 college athletic programs are geared more towards athlete-students rather than student-athletes, Marist’s athletic program can be seen as a breathe of fresh air for college students looking to stay somewhere in the middle.
While the NCAA promotes trips abroad, most of these promoted trips are team-oriented and very short-term. At larger division 1 programs, most coaches wouldn’t risk the chance of losing one of their star players even if it meant allowing them to enrich their college, and life, experiences.
Although Marist Athletics is making great strides in creating a better atmosphere for student-athletes by providing vast opportunities to study abroad, from attachment programs to summer trips to an entire year abroad, there are still more steps to be taken.
“There’s time for players to go abroad that they didn’t really know about, or that I didn’t even know about,” Gioffre admits. “There’s nothing that says you can or can’t go abroad as an athlete. So you kind of have to put yourself out there to go abroad, or even think about going abroad. I don’t know if that would be an athletics thing or a coaches thing that says ‘hey look if you want to go abroad for whatever time you want to, this is the time period you can do that.”
The next step in bettering the education of student-athletes at Marist College would be to promote the acceptability, and the various opportunities of studying abroad. With such an emphasis on studying abroad towards the general student population, shouldn’t the same dedication be shown to the student-athletes that walk the same campus and sit in the same classrooms?
As Marist continues to diversify themselves from other division 1 colleges, the significance placed on the study abroad program should be presented to athletes, not just the general student population. By focusing on normalizing a student-athletes college experience, more recruits will be drawn to Marist Athletics.
Edited by Sean McGee
Photo by Marist Athletics