Being an Athlete Abroad: IES Abroad Ambassador of the Month Carli Snyder

We’re excited for you to meet our June Ambassador of the Month, Carli Snyder! Carli shares the challenges and benefits of being an athlete abroad and explains how interacting with local people brought the Netherlands—past and present—alive.

Carli graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with a degree in History and Women's and Gender Studies. She swam on the varsity swim team, worked in the University's global education center, and completed research about women's experiences during World War II. Carli studied on our Amsterdam - Study in Amsterdam Program in Spring 2016.

IES Abroad: How did you meet local students abroad?

Carli Snyder: I have been swimming competitively my entire life. Four days into my semester in Amsterdam, I tried to find a pool. I found out that there is a team called SPONS: the Amsterdam student swim team. I decided to join, and I swam and competed with the team the entire semester. I met so many locals this way and made so many memories with my new Dutch friends. I would definitely recommend seeking out a sports team or other sort of organization while abroad!

IES Abroad: Share a life-changing moment in your study abroad experience.

CS: One life-changing moment happened the first time I went to a museum by myself in a city called Rotterdam. I went to the Rotterdam Museum and learned that the city was completely leveled by Nazi bombing during the Second World War. In one part of the museum, there was a small theater that showed the footage of the leveled city from that time.

An elderly man sitting in the seat next to me leaned over and started speaking to me in Dutch. I said, “I'm so sorry, but do you speak English?” He switched and said, "Watching this brings back my hatred from that time." I asked him to explain a bit more, and he told me about how he was born in Rotterdam, and his whole city was bombed when he was just four years old. But, his building and family survived. He talked to me for 20 minutes about his experience of the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and their liberation after the war. Especially as a history student, this moment truly changed my life.

IES Abroad: What tips would you give a student to help them make their host country feel like home?

CS: I would tell a student to find ways to incorporate what comforts them at home in their new host country. For example, I always feel most at home in cafés and in museums. I made sure to try new cafés and museums in the Netherlands, and this definitely made me feel like I was making a home for myself there.

IES Abroad: What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about studying abroad?

CS: Do it! I would tell someone to absolutely go for it. Some of the obstacles I faced were: having to miss my swim season, worrying about not being able to finance it, and I had never been out of the country before.

As stated before, I was able to continue swimming while in the Netherlands, my home university generously allows students to use their financial aid package towards their time abroad, and although it was difficult at first to adjust to being abroad, I quickly made friends and the IES Abroad Center staff were very supportive.

For whatever reasons you may be on the fence, there are ways to overcome the worries or concerns you may have. Plus, the experience abroad completely outweighs any of these reasons!

IES Abroad: What one piece of advice would you share with those who are returning home from study abroad?

CS: I would tell those returning home to get involved with study abroad programming at their home university. I helped with study abroad 101 information sessions, study abroad fairs, and attended a conference about these experiences as well. This helped me to talk about all of my experiences and answer questions from those who were about to depart. I could stay connected to my experience and share it with those who were interested in it.

Thank you, Carli!

Do you have more questions about what it’s like to study abroad? Contact an IES Abroad Ambassador. They’re recent IES Abroad alums with a lot of study abroad expertise, and they volunteer to answer your questions. They’re here to help!

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