Each year, thousands of Syracuse University students choose to expand their academic and cultural horizons by studying abroad. But for a long time, one segment of the student population lagged behind in study abroad participation. Due to their strict academic schedules and training plans, student-athletes found it hard to carve out time to study abroad.
But thanks to an intense push from Marie Kulikowsky G’00, Syracuse Abroad assistant director of summer programs, and Rick Burton ’80, the David B. Falk Endowed Professor of Sport Management, student-athletes have begun to populate Syracuse Abroad summer programs. They’re enrolled in programs in engineering, sport management, and health education, and across the globe: Australia, South Africa, France, and beyond. “Student-athletes are underrepresented in study abroad in general, and when I came across student-athletes on campus and mentioned study abroad, their typical answer was ‘I can’t, I’m a student-athlete,’” Kulikowsky says. “I wanted to change that and let them know that if they want to study abroad, they can. We will make it work.”
Alexis Dorner ’18, an international relations, political science, and Italian language, literature, and culture triple major, and a member of the women’s rowing team, chose to attend Syracuse specifically because of the strength of the study abroad program. But when she joined the rowing team midway through her first semester on campus, she thought her international dreams would have to take a backseat to her commitment to her team. However, the six-week Syracuse Abroad summer session in Florence allowed her the best of both worlds. “Doing a summer session allowed me to get the same experience as other students who travel for a whole semester,” she says. “If anything, being an athlete enhanced the experience. I signed up for a local rowing club in order to keep up with summer training, and that’s where I made several lifelong friends and got a view of the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio that many people don’t get to see!”
From 2016 to 2017, the number of student-athletes participating in summer abroad programs increased from three to 15. “Syracuse is looking to serve as a leader in creating opportunities for NCAA student-athletes to study abroad,” Burton says. “Last year’s trip to Australia featured eight student-athletes from six different teams, and it was fantastic to see the cultural and educational benefits that come out of our activities.”
Bri Stahrr ’19, an English and textual studies and English education dual major, and member of the women’s lacrosse team, enrolled in Burton’s course Australia: Sport, History, and Culture. “Going abroad gave me the opportunity to immerse myself in another culture,” Stahrr says. “As a future teacher, I will be exposed to many different cultures. This trip prepared me for that.”