How to Study Abroad If You’re a College Athlete

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College Study Abroad

With hours spent practicing and team obligations, we know that as a student athlete, you have quite a few priorities to keep track of. So, if you’re wondering, can you study abroad while playing sports? The short answer is yes!  

There are tons of study abroad opportunities for student athletes. If you’re looking to study abroad and play soccer – or any other sport, for that matter – we’ve got you covered. Read on as we dive into your options. We’ll have you lacing up your cleats and packing your bags for the adventure of a lifetime in no time. Game on! 

In this guide, we’ll also help you tackle any concerns you may have about playing sports while embarking on your study abroad voyage. 

Can Student Athletes Study Abroad?  

We know what you’re thinking: As a student athlete, will you have time to fit in a study abroad experience during college? Our answer? Definitely! 

There’s no denying that student athletes are busy. But they’re also dedicated and driven – two qualities that are only strengthened by a study abroad experience. Many study abroad programs are designed with student athletes in mind and offer lots of resources to help you focus on athletics and maintain your fitness and training goals – all while earning credits toward your degree, upping your education game, and expanding your global perspective!  

Plus, depending on the study abroad location you choose, you might even learn more about the origin of your favorite sport and the cultural environment where it began. Talk about a win-win! 

If you’re a student athlete who’s ready to engage in exciting learning opportunities and study abroad while playing sports, we’re here to tell you that you most certainly can do both!  

yoga in barcelona student athletes fall

Who Is Eligible to Study Abroad?  

The answer to this question is simple: Anyone! And that includes student athletes. Any student attending an institution with a study abroad program who meets the program requirements, like GPA eligibility, can apply to study abroad.   

With CIEE, we try our best to ensure students who want to study abroad can by offering millions in financial assistance each year. We offer diverse scholarship and grant options broken down into three categories:  

  • Need-Based Scholarships: Based on financial need
  • Merit-Based Scholarships: Based on academic standing
  • Other Funding: Based on alumni status or specific program choice  

Discover what type of assistance you’re eligible for to help make your study abroad dream a reality. And we’re here too if you have any questions.  

Read More: How to Apply to a Study Abroad Scholarship at CIEE: 4 Steps

Things to Consider When Studying Abroad as a College Athlete  

If you’re a student athlete interested in sports study abroad programs, you’re probably wondering what to focus on to maximize your experience and meet your sports and fitness goals.  

We know that planning for a trip abroad may seem like a daunting task, but don’t worry! We’ve compiled a list of our top tips to keep in mind while preparing for study abroad opportunities or sports internships, so you can keep your eye on the ball and engage in an incredible international education experience at the same time!  

Here are a few important things you’ll want to consider:

  • Program timing: Depending on your sport, there may be pre-season and post-season requirements you’ll be participating in. There are many short-term study abroad options available during summer and winter, and it may be beneficial to choose a program that fits into your off-season schedule.  
  • A flexible schedule: Once you find a program that works for your sports schedule, be sure to think about your training commitments during your study abroad program. Look for ways to build your schedule around important obligations so you have time to play and study! 
  • Your interests: It may seem simple, but choosing a location and program with course offerings that excite you is an absolute must! As a student athlete, you know what it means to be busy, so participating in programs that pique your interest will keep you invigorated as you play hard and study hard – and it will make for a much more enjoyable experience overall!  


amman jordan fall soccer game abroad

Read More: Short-Term Study Abroad: Everything You Need to Know

How Can You Maintain Your Fitness Abroad?  

As you start to research sports study abroad programs you may be wondering how you can continue to stay fit while focusing on your studies, especially if you choose a program or session that takes place during your off-season.  

Luckily, there are lots of ways you can add in exercise and training during your time abroad! We’ve listed out a few ways you can maintain your fitness while abroad:

  • Join a club or exercise class: Universities abroad have many resources and facilities that you can access to help you stay in shape while expanding your education. You may even find some new teammates or new friends with like-minded interests! 
  • Explore the sights: If you prefer to work out independently, hop on a bike or slip on your running shoes and venture outdoors to see all that your study abroad location has to offer! Ask about established hiking and biking routes in your study abroad city, so you can stay fit and explore safely. 
  • Consider your dietary and nutritional needs: Depending on your sport, you may have specific caloric or dietary preferences. So, while you’ll be indulging in delicious cultural delicacies abroad, you’ll want to be sure you have access to any dietary necessities to sustain your energy and training.  

Is There a Specific Program or Internship That Can Benefit Your Sports Career?  

Here’s the best part – all study abroad programs or internships for student athletes have outstanding benefits for a sports career!  

In fact, many universities offer programs that allow students to play, train, and learn about their favorite sport through specially designed study abroad course offerings. Plus, as you navigate life and academic studies in a new place, you’ll gain independence, confidence, and problem-solving skills, which are all important qualities for any career path.  

A study abroad experience is an incredible way to enhance your resume, and it will help you positively stand out to employers – in sports-related fields and all others! 

prague volleyball game abroad

Read More: How to Put Study Abroad on Your Resume: 4 Steps 

What Does Your Sports Schedule Look Like?  

Figuring out your sports schedule is a key step in planning for your study abroad experience. If your sport is played mainly in the fall, you may want to look into spring semester programs, and vice versa. Once you determine your schedule, you can search for study abroad programs or internships for student athletes that are best suited for you. 

There are lots of program offerings that allow you to build a study abroad experience that works for you, including CIEE’s Open Campus Block program, which allows you to customize your own six, 12, or 18-week experience.  

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to CIEE Open Campus Block 

We also offer tons of block and quarter block study abroad options, so student athletes can customize their study abroad experiences based on their unique circumstances.  

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Quarter Study Abroad Programs at CIEE 

And when in doubt, you can always reach out to your academic coordinator or advisor to talk about your options and how to incorporate international education into your schedule.   

Have You Told Your Coach or Teammates That You’re Interested in Studying Abroad?  

Now that we’ve discussed all the benefits of student athlete study abroad programs, the only thing left to do is let everyone know you’re about to head off on your adventure abroad! 

It can be nerve-wracking to explain your plans to your coach and your teammates, but keeping communication open and focusing on your goals will help you ease into the conversation. Remember, a study abroad experience builds character, leadership skills, and confidence, and these qualities are fantastic souvenirs that you’ll bring back with you and contribute to the team during your sports season.  

Your coach and teammates will be celebrating with you when you cross the finish line and complete your program. In a case like this, everybody wins! 

handball team copenhagen student athletes abroad

5 Steps to Apply to Study Abroad 

Once you’ve made your decision to study abroad, the next step is to begin your journey! We break the whole process down into a few simple steps in our guide: How to Study Abroad: 5 Steps to Apply With CIEE. And we’re always here to answer any questions you might have. 

Now, you’re ready! Check out our opportunities to learn more about the possibilities for sports study abroad programs and internships for student athletes. On your mark, get set, study abroad!