I left for America feeling scared but also very excited about what was to come. I had gone through a bumpy road during the recruiting process but now it was time to enjoy the fruits of that labor. It was a time of new experiences, a new language, a new way of training and playing, new teammates, new classes and a new city. As soon as I got there everyone made me feel so welcomed and was so inviting that all the scary feelings went away.
Once I settled in and got a hold of practice and the team everything went smoothly. As in anything in life, hard work is expected and only through that you will get results. In my case, I was lucky enough to become the top scorer of the team during my first season, wins some accolades both on an off the field but most importantly made some amazing friends and memories.
There wasn’t a game were all the parents weren’t there cheering you on, bringing you food and making sure you felt at home. There was always academic support when I needed it and friends to have fun with. I can say without hesitating that this was one of, if not the best experience of my life.
Playing NCAA Field Hockey is hard, a lot is expected of you, the level is extremely competitive, you travel a lot and you have to put a lot of hours into training. However, the school and coaches make sure you have everything to perform at your best, to take care of your academics and all responsibilities in proper form and to enjoy your four years learning about yourself, another culture and making life long friends.
The recruitment process...
My recruitment process was not the conventional type because I had a major place to showcase my level. However, it does resemble in most ways to an ordinary process. I also had to deal with the pressure of deciding for a school, communicating with different colleges, going through the admissions process and all of this with absolutely no guidance.
After my time at the JWC (Junior World Cup) I left with a very good impression of America, it`s schools and the level but had too many questions and no one to help me answer them. After getting the interest of some coaches I had to start a whole process in order to see if I was academically suitable for their schools.
Since the athletic part was already taken care off, I had to gather all of my academic records and make sure they were sufficient for the schools I had in my list. Later I had to take the TOEFL to prove my English proficiency, a step every foreign athlete needs to take, and go through the admissions process and essay writing. However, going into this I didn't know I would need to do any of this!
The process wasn’t simple and most of the times I had to figure things out on my own. I had to knock on some doors and made some mistakes. Eventually I got all the paperwork done and was only left with the choice of deciding were I wanted to go. I had to ask myself some serious questions and as I look back, they were questions I should have asked myself at the beginning of the recruitment process. This included: where did I wanted to live, what kind of social life I wanted to have, the prestige of the school academically and athletically, and how I wanted to balance all of that.
Eventually I made a great choice and was extremely happy with the way everything turned out, but if there is something I wish I had done differently, it would have been informing myself and deciding upfront what type of college experience I was looking for and decide which schools I was going to target based on that. I wish I had someone to guide me through the process, the do’s and don’ts, rules and procedures but most importantly someone to give me a real idea of what was expected of me.
Since I was in High School I had the idea of playing abroad at a great level, in a big university and getting the degree I wanted at the same time. I always put it off saying things like "I'm not good enough", "We can't afford it", "How will I do it" and so on.
Things started getting more serious with field hockey and I got the chance to represent my country at the Junior World Cup, which was going to be held in Boston, United States. I realized this was my opportunity if I ever wanted to get a scholarship and play for an American university. This was the best way to showcase my abilities, learn about the schools and make my initial contacts.
I was scared because I didn't know which kind of response I was going to get or if I was going to get any!!! But I wasn't going to let that stop me, worst case the answer was a "No thanks, we are not interested". So I sat down and wrote an email to the 10 schools I could think of at the top of my mind. In hindsight, there were a lot of things I could have done better, starting for informing myself about schools, the admission process and their Field Hockey level. Nevertheless I went for it and got an amazing response! Turns out most of them were interested in having me on their roster and were willing to give me a scholarship. Although not everyone is so lucky.
The initial communication with coaches had started and now it was just a matter of time before I packed my bags and showed them what I could do on the field. Once I got there I realized the response was even better than I thought and different schools wanted to talk to me. At that time I wished I had someone to guide me, especially about rules and procedures, which at the time I didn't have knowledge of. So all in all, at the start of my trip to play in the Junior World Cup I still didn't know what information was important, and how I should proceed with communicating to the coaches I had emailed, once the tournament began.
All in all, the beginning of my recruiting process showed it was going to be an interesting ride.
Part 1/3 ...