Timi’s souvenir license plate from his college years in Virginia.
Studying in the USA may also open international career opportunities. Because working visas to the USA usually are difficult to get, international students completing a degree in the USA are allowed a 12-month working visa to use during or after their studies!
For example, during her studies Erika began as an intern at a local luxury packaging company, where she also continued as a full-time worker after graduating. Currently, Erika is working for the same company, but at the Amsterdam headquarters. She also has done plenty of work for the company in Florence, Italy: “I never thought that after graduating I would have been able to build a career abroad. Luckily I could, as I find working abroad absolutely fascinating and very challenging.“
1. Compared to the MLS, how professional was the college atmosphere?
The college atmosphere is very professional. Obviously, there are differences, given that you’re dealing with young men and women versus grown men and women. But the college environment parallels the professional environment closely, as it’s sort of a feeder-system into the pros (at least for most sports). The coaching staffs are usually ex-players and have years of experience playing their respective sport. The university facilities are top-notch, and usually just as nice as professional facilities. There is also commonly a strong following for college sports, especially in the tight-knit community around the university. The players on the teams are all dedicated and hard-working individuals with similar goals. So, all in all, the college environment is very professional, and every year it keeps getting better and better.
2. How much value do you see in completing an education prior to starting to play professionally?
I believe that getting a college education is invaluable. Professional sports only last so long, and many times careers end too soon due to injury. Therefore, it’s imperative to have a plan for what to do after your playing days are over. Jobs are now more competitive than ever, and if you don’t have the education, many opportunities won’t arise when you need to find employment. Only the 99th percentile of athletes will make enough money while playing their sport to sustain themselves for life. The others will have to find other means of making a living. And nowadays, you need a college education to find a well-paying and intellectually stimulating job.
3. How was your college experience?
My college experience was amazing. Getting to play the sport I love while also being challenged academically and growing as a person was incredible. I met so many great people and lifelong friends. I’m so grateful to have experienced college and taken advantage of the incredible opportunity.
4. How well did academics and athletics work together?
Being a student-athlete is a very fun thing. You have to be very organized and on top of things to juggle all the responsibilities you have. But once you get the hang of things, it’s a breeze, and you garner a greater appreciation for being challenged to balance sports with academics.
5. What would you say to a person who is wondering whether they want to play college sports?
I’d say that if you love to play a certain sport, then go for it. There is a university that is right for you. Division I, II, or III doesn’t matter. They are all incredible institutions and will offer great opportunities. Just for life in general, if you are lucky enough to have found something you love to do, you owe it to yourself to pursue that dream to the best of your ability. You have to go for it with all your might.
As a university student in the USA, you are allowed a 12-month work visa in your field of studies. It is a great opportunity for many to gain invaluable international work experience or even start a career path abroad. URA’s Anton used this opportunity by working as a physical therapist for Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes in sunny California.
In which university did you study?
I studied at Averett University, Virginia, USA.
Why did you decide to leave to attend university in the USA?
Personally, I found the opportunity to experience the international atmosphere to be the most decisive factor. I thought it would be a great benefit for my future. The second reason why I wanted to study in the U.S. was the opportunity to become fluent in English. In addition, I wanted to study my degree in an environment that was totally new for me – an exciting challenge that I wanted to experience. Life needs to be exciting!
How is studying at Averett?
I came to Averett to study business, from which I decided to do a double-major in business administration and marketing. The university offers an opportunity for a great level of studying with great professors and a pleasant environment in the city of Danville (Virginia). In the beginning, studying in English felt slightly challenging at times, but certainly has not been an issue for me. In addition, there is always an opportunity for international students to receive tutoring in any subjects. That has helped me and many others at times!
Have you been a part of any athletic teams and/or student clubs?
Averett University is a small university compared to the big ones in the USA. On campus there are fewer than 2,000 students. However, the school offers plenty of high-level opportunities to compete in many sports (American football, soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, cross country running, golf, baseball etc.). The small university is certainly an advantage for students who are interested in participating in sports but may not have an elite background. Myself, I have been able to be a part of the tennis and running teams, even though I did not have a extensive background in either sport. It is certainly a great opportunity if you are interested on one of those sports.
Has there been a lot to do during free time?
After school and athletics there is time left for free time. In addition, during the school year there are three longer breaks (Spring Break, Fall Break, Thanksgiving). These often have come at the perfect time. Most of the time I have used these opportunities to experience the nearby cities of Washington, D.C. (400 km to the northeast); Raleigh, North Carolina (140 km to the southeast); and Charlotte, North Carolina (220 km to the southwest). However, during a couple of breaks we gathered a group for trips to Miami and New York. In that sense, the USA is a cool country as the driving culture allows the long distances to be done easily and they feel fairly short when driving the massive highways from state to state.
What would you like to say for students interested to study in the USA?
Studying in the USA is certainly a unique experience. You get to experience a new country and culture, you receive an international degree, learn a language and, most importantly, you create lifelong friends around the world. If you have the opportunity to do so, I certainly believe it is an opportunity worth pursuing!
Emilia Vuorela graduated from St. Thomas University, located in heart of Miami, Florida. At STU, Emilia earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations and communications. Along with her studies she was part of the school’s tennis team and enjoyed spending her free time horse riding, shopping, with student activity clubs and, of course, at South Beach.
Which university did you attend in the USA?
During my four years of studies I attended two universities. I began my studies at Averett University in Virginia, but later transferred to St. Thomas University in Miami, from which I graduated in December 2013.
Why did you decide to leave for a U.S. university?
I was in America for the first time when I was 16 for a tennis camp in the state of Massachusetts. Even though two weeks was a short period of time, it left an American spark in me. After graduating from high school in Finland, I was given an opportunity to study in the USA, which I then decided to take.
What was it like studying in the USA?
The first semester was spent mainly getting familiar with the new language and getting used to the university life. Another thing I found a little confusing was that, in the USA, your first year consists largely of general education classes — such as mathematics, music, philosophy and art — which is different from universities in Finland or Europe.
After the initial shock, so to speak, I really enjoyed my years of studying. Regardless of the subject, all the professors were extremely nice and always willing to help regarding, not just studies, but also in regards to my future career, such as helping find internship (work practice) opportunities. It certainly isn’t wrong to say that America is the land of opportunities.
In addition, I really found the wide variety of course offerings very pleasant. For example, at Averett I had an opportunity to take elective courses such as swimming during my first semester. During the spring semester I went horseback riding at the school’s horse stable on Monday and Wednesday mornings.
Obviously, along with all the elective and general courses you must decide what you want to study or major in, but you also can change that during you studies. Personally, I changed my major two times. At Averett I begin with physical education (teaching) and after my first semester changed to journalism. Once I transferred to St. Thomas University, I changed it again to public relations and communications and that is the major I graduated with. As I said, the American university model is also very flexible!
Were you part of any athletic teams and/or student clubs?
Yes! My sport was tennis, which was also the reason I ended up in America, and why I was able to stay and study. Along with tennis, I was active in international student clubs along with other activities. Different activities are one of the best ways to find and meet new friends!
Was there enough free-time and how did you spend it?
In a city such as Miami there are plenty of activities for anyone, regardless of the season or time of day. Whether one is interested in music, art, fashion, taekwondo or poetry readings, there are clubs, classes or performances for them. Personally, of course, tennis and classes mainly filled my schedule, but when there was free-time we went with a group to South Beach, shopping at Sawgrass Mills or just relaxing in one of the pleasant cafes.
What did you do after graduating with a bachelor’s degree?
I am co-founder and co-owner of an online store. I also work as a special needs assistant in a high school, and I am preparing for my master’s degree studies in business communication.
What would you like to say to students thinking about studying in America?
Hesitation and nervousness are totally normal and part of the process, as anything new and unknown typically is. If your dream is to experience student life in America, I think you should bravely do so! You always can come back home.