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 

Student Corner: An international student experience

From London to London: My experience as an international student in Canada

Written by: Swarali Patil, MA Candidate, Western University

My journey as a graduate student is unlike my peers. I was born in India. I grew up near Mumbai (Bombay) before moving to New York. This was followed by a move to the United Kingdom for my undergraduate degree, and a year each in Malaysia and the Philippines. Presently I’m a second-year master’s student in Canada. Here are some of my tidbits as I navigate my journey in graduate school as an international student.

Choosing a School – Graduate school can be daunting, and with the incredible choices available, how can you choose the school that’s right for you? Research! I spent almost a year researching schools online, spoke to my lecturers at Coventry University, and contacted various schools before making my choice. It is a time consuming task but if you plan to spend two or more years taking on rigorous academic work, you should be well prepared to do it. The NASSM website is a great source of sport management programs available in North America. Identify the schools and programs that appeal to you, make a list of potential supervisors and read some of their work, contact the department for additional information about funding and other pertinent details before making your choice.

Choosing Classes – Your classes are meant to help you gain a deeper understanding of concepts you’ve previously learned, and introduce you to some new ones. Your classes can be a fantastic means to meet your fellow graduates, learn about interesting research happening in your department or faculty, participate in an exchange of ideas with your peers, and work on projects that can help you hone your presentation and writing skills. Classes are also a great medium to explore your interests that may lead to a potential thesis topic. Choose wisely but don’t overburden yourself.

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Professional Development – Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you, whether it is volunteering, attending conferences, presenting at symposiums, or being a teaching or research assistant. I have volunteered at conferences on campus, presented at symposiums run by different faculties, participated in 2-minute and 5-minute presentation contests, and more. I have also been a teaching and research assistant, which has helped me add to my repertoire of skills and experiences for my CV.

Teaching and Learning – If your school has a Teaching and Learning Resource Centre, utilize their workshops to add to your knowledge base. Most programs will also provide a certificate of completion. Grab every opportunity you can to augment your CV. I’ve found several workshops to be incredibly helpful, particularly when I was a first-time TA. Several workshops provide video recordings of your presentations, which can be a great tool to showcase yourself to a potential employer.

Swarali at SCRINetwork – If you attend conferences or volunteer at social events on campus, take the time to meet faculty and students from different universities. This can lead to interesting contacts, friends in new cities, collaborations and other opportunities. Conferences are also a great way to discuss your research interests with experts in the field. Register early, utilize the student rate, and plan your schedule with ample time to socialize.

Appreciate and Have Fun – Take the time to appreciate where you are. Appreciate different perspectives, new experiences, new friends, new food, and new places. Graduate school provides unique opportunities, which can not only help you identify your future avenues but also provide a sense of accomplishment. Yes, time management is key, and work-life balance needs to be achieved but there is a feel-good factor in accomplishing what you have set out to do.

Graduate school is incredibly daunting and time consuming but it can also be very satisfying. As an international student, whether you plan to stay in your new city for a long while or move back home, you can enjoy the journey and the discovery. I have found my first year to be quite different from my expectations but I’m happier for it. I’m moving full steam ahead in year 2 but deciding if I want to sign up for 4 more!