A Foreign Territory of Opportunities: Experiences of a Sport Management International Student

Nina is a second-year PhD student at the University of Louisville. Her research focuses on establishing and maintaining sport partnerships in parasports and developing successful adaptive sports programs. A German Native, Nina is a Fulbright alumnus and has lived, studied, and worked in four countries.

November 14, 2017 – the day my life changed forever, and my biggest dream came true. I was in Arnhem, Netherlands, a senior in the International Business and Management Studies program at the Arnhem Business School. I was delighted to see an email informing me that I had been awarded the 2018-2019 Fulbright Scholarship. I opened the email and read it over and over again because I simply could not believe it. A few sleepless nights later (because I was so excited), I received another email from Fulbright Germany informing me that I had been chosen to pursue a master’s degree in Sport Administration at the University of Louisville (UofL). My journey of studying in the U.S. began here and continues to this day.

On my first day at UofL, I realized I was the only foreign student in the program. As a German who  completed my undergraduate degree with students from various regions of the world in both the Netherlands and Hong Kong, this was foreign territory to me. Classes were incredibly challenging in the beginning because I was unfamiliar with most of the sport examples discussed. I spoke with my professors and classmates and informed them that I could not relate to the class content with these foreign (to me) examples. That turned the tide and my professors and peers took extra time to expand and explain the examples used in class. Soon I was learning about sport in the U.S. and sharing my experiences of sport and life in other countries. Embracing the American sports world outside the classroom, I found myself on the court at United Centre, home of Michael Jordan and the famed Chicago Bulls, volunteering at the NCAA Men’s Final Four tournament! I was one of 72,000 people in the stadium and made lifelong friends through this experience.

At the NCAA Men’s Final Four tournament in Minneapolis

To immerse myself in the American sport culture and make the most of my time in the U.S., I decided to pursue an internship with the development department (Cardinal Athletic Fund) of Louisville Athletics. This internship gave me the opportunity to learn from some of the best development directors in the nation. I was able to work during football games and men’s basketball games, which provided me with a once in a lifetime experience and incredibly valuable connections. If I can give one advice to foreign students, it is to network. And guess what, turns out an accent is always going to be a conversation starter!

While my Fulbright scholarship fulfilled my lifelong dream of studying in the U.S. and pursuing a degree in Sport Administration (a goal from 5th grade), it was not the end of my journey in America. My professors opened doors for me that I did not think existed for a first-generation college student. Thanks to Dr. Mary Hums, I was able to stay at UofL, and am now pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Development, specializing in Sport Administration. My doctoral degree is funded by a University Fellowship.

Dr. Mary Hums and I during my master’s graduation ceremony, May 2019. She is my advisor and will be my dissertation chair

It is said that the U.S. is the country of opportunities, and I can confirm, that for me, it has been. Since starting my doctoral program, I have gained opportunities to teach and be involved in research projects. I have taught classes in Sport Finance, International Sport, and Issues and Ethics in Sport. This has given me valuable experience in lecturing, designing and grading assignments, and learning from student feedback. I have been involved in several research activities, such as preparing a grant proposal for International Sport Programming, and a study with my peers in the doctoral program examining college adaptive sport sponsorship and the role of cause-related marketing. Being involved with these projects has given me new skills in qualitative and quantitative research methods, grants and report writing, and working as part of a team. I have attended and presented at a variety of academic conferences, which has improved my ability to present in front of an audience and answer questions on the spot. Additionally, I have had the privilege of speaking with middle and high school students in various cities in Kentucky about the importance of intercultural and international exchange.

Speaking to High School students during International Education Week 2018 on behalf of Reach the World and Fulbright

If you are an international student thinking about studying or are currently studying in North America, I urge you to seek opportunities, dream bigger, and work harder because you will be rewarded with an experience unlike any other. To U.S.-based students, educators, and administrators, embrace the knowledge and nurture the talent of your international students. It will not only be valuable to them, but also to you.

Do you have any questions about studying in the U.S., my experiences, and or working with international students? Do not hesitate to reach out to me: nina.siegfried@louisville.edu