One out of every five athletes at Lehigh go abroad at some point during their Mountain Hawk career.
Compared to the rest of students on campus, that number is low. According to the Study Abroad Office, approximately 40 percent of all undergraduate students go abroad. On average, 10 percent of all undergraduates study abroad nationally, according to the Institute of International Education, but the average Lehigh athlete is twice as likely to do so.
The reason for this high number is many athletes go during the winter and summer sessions. Even players from Lehigh’s most high-profile teams like senior football Derek Knott have been able to make it work.
Knott has had two experiences abroad: a seven-day service trip in Antigua and then a three-week study abroad in Bermuda. Because the first trip was so short, it didn’t take away from his training, but Knott said during the second one he had to make sure he was keeping up with a routine while abroad.
“I was gone for the first three weeks of the optional summer workouts that I was missing, and the coaches were really concerned that I was gonna lose a lot of weight,” Knott said.
So he and two friends from his fraternity that were also studying abroad in Bermuda found a gym nearby and rented bikes to get there. Because the trip was three weeks long, there was a lot more free time for them to do what they needed to do — in Knott’s case, work out.
For Ethan Bogard, a senior on the men’s tennis team, there was even more to plan out for his study abroad experience because he went for a full semester during the fall of his junior year.
Bogard had his sights set on going abroad before he even got to Lehigh. He was so decided about it that he talked to the coach when he was still a senior in high school.
“I asked him if he would be OK with me going abroad because if not, it would be something I’d consider in my decision making process,” Bogard said.
Lehigh’s tennis coach Wouter Hendrix had no problem with Bogard making the commitment to go for a full semester as long as it was during the fall because tennis is in its offseason in that time. Bogard was surprised at how encouraging Hendrix was and didn’t have to do much convincing — Hendrix trusted him to make sure everything went smoothly.
Bogard’s three month trip was in Argentina, which he had to set up through the Institute for the International Education of Students along with Lehigh’s Office of Study Abroad.
While he was there, he was able to practice his tennis game due to an unusual connection.
Bogard knew a tennis professional from home who was Argentinian and had a cousin who owned a tennis club in Buenos Aires. After contacting the owner, Gabriel Marcus, he was able to use the facility about once every two weeks. In addition to going to hit around, Bogard found time most days to go to the gym or for a run.
When he returned, Bogard said it took some time to get back and readjusted.
“It was definitely an interesting dynamic coming back to Lehigh and there being new freshman on the team that I was meeting for the first time while the rest of the team had already known them for four months,” Bogard said. “But I think it worked out.”
As far as Bogard knows, his experience was an outlier when it comes to athletes. Most coaches do not let their players go for a full semester because they believe it’ll prevent them from being ready for their season.
“Just based on people’s reactions when I said I was going abroad, from other athletes they would tell me ‘Wow that’s crazy, that wouldn’t even be on option on my team,'” Bogard said.
In addition to individuals, the study abroad office has set up team trips in the past. In 2013 the volleyball team went to China, and more recently in 2015 the women’s basketball team went to Italy. Anyone from the teams was allowed to go, and there were opportunities set up to practice there against other teams.
Kathryn Welsh Radande, the director of the Office of Study Abroad, said a lot more athletes are able to go abroad than people think. Players have even been able to sit in on team meetings via Skype while abroad, so if the proper arrangements are made there is nothing stopping athletes from going.