June 4, 2012
By Hanna Hylla '13
Editor's note: Hannah Hylla faced a tough decision when her junior year began at CSB - go on a study abroad trip to Greece and Italy and miss half the Blazers' basketball season, or stay here and play the entire season for CSB. The senior and Albany (Minn.) High School graduate recounts her decision-making process as a student-athlete.
Over 50 percent of College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University students study abroad during their academic career. I wanted to be part of that tradition.
But there was a dilemma - I'm a post player for the Blazers' basketball team, and going abroad for the fall 2011 semester meant I would be away from my teammates and miss the first eight games of the 2011-12 season if I chose to participate in the Greco-Roman study abroad program.
Ultimately, I was reminded why I had chosen a Division III athletic program at a strong liberal arts institution when I decided to take part in this life-changing academic opportunity and study abroad in Athens and Rome. To me, playing basketball for the Blazers gave me an opportunity to be an athlete, but more importantly it also allowed me to be a student.
Although I would miss half of my basketball season, I knew I would find a replacement for my passion for athletics while abroad. As a participant in the Greco-Roman program, I learned about the historical aspects of athletics by visiting sites such as Olympia, home to the first Olympic games in Greece, and the Colosseum in Rome. Not only was I able to strengthen my passion to pursue a sports-related career, I was given a cultural experience far beyond anything I could have received in a classroom.
While abroad, I faced many challenges. One of the most difficult was staying in shape for the second half of the basketball season that I would return to in December. In Rome, I applied for a membership at the local gym, which became a far greater hands-on experience than imagined.
As a gym member, I was the only fluent English speaker and I was lucky if an instructor knew even a little English. I was forced to apply what I had learned in the classroom in a real life scenario, and it challenged the way I viewed myself and the world. For the first time in my life, I was the minority and my ability to communicate was altered.
My experiences abroad challenged my previous perceptions and fostered an initiative to continue to learn on a global level.
As I returned to the United States, the idea of playing basketball again after a remarkable five months seemed overwhelming. The thought that I had missed five weeks of preseason and eight games challenged my preparation.
Being back on the court felt great, although the effects of being away for five months became very apparent. Luckily, I was not the only player abroad during the fall semester. Fellow teammate Morgan Dale, a junior education major, decided to study abroad as well, in the London program.
The idea that we were both able to study abroad for a semester and then return to the team after Christmas break was extraordinary. The coaching staff was supportive of our opportunity, and I'm not sure that many other athletic programs would allow their athletes to do what we did.
Maybe it's this strong academic support within both communities that explains why CSB and SJU are ranked first nationally among baccalaureate institutions in semester-long study abroad programs, according to the annual report on international education, Open Doors 2011, published by the Institute of International Education.
CSB and SJU offer 17 semester-long study abroad programs in 14 countries on six continents. The Office of Education Abroad works with each student at a personal level to ensure the best possible program and experience.
The opportunities, both academically and athletically, that CSB and SJU have offered me make these institutions unlike any other in the country.