USA Volleyball just released that they have ” processed 251 international transfer certificates (173 female, 78 male)”
So, being a professional athlete that plays overseas comes with so many good, bad, crazy, and interesting things that I could never have imagined or prepared myself for.
When people ask you after college graduation what you are going to be doing next and you tell them you’ll be continuing your career in volleyball and moving overseas for 8 months..without knowing the language, your coach, your teammates, what to truly expect when it comes to food, where your housing will be, and in my case during my first season, not even knowing how to pronounce the name of the city I’ll be living in…Bydgoszcz, Poland…Everyone is pretty much shocked you’re taking on such a big adventure. And no only taking it on, but taking it on alone.
When I was telling my family and friends the city I was moving to, Bydgoszcz, I had to open my phone every time and show the name of the city because I couldn’t pronounce it…
Of course every athletes approach to playing and moving overseas is different. For me, I like a new challenge and adventure, so I didn’t think twice about all the language barriers or any of the cultural differences, I just knew I would take each day one day at a time.
No player has written a manual on how to navigate through life overseas or warns you about the funny or awkward situation you’re about to walk into..unless you overhear or are apart of a random story time in the USA gym. You basically just have to dive in the deep end, learn how to swim, and pick up all the knowledge you need along the way.
Like the first time you get your scouting report and it’s not in English:
No one prepares you for these random situations.
Or when you’re going over film as a team and the staff is talking about the game plan:
Of course, everything gets translated later so we’re all on the same page and English copies are handed out.
But during that moment when you’re trying to catch a few words to make sense of the whole situation or game plan being explained in a different language:
I still remember last season like it was yesterday. You’re suppose to be this professional athlete, but when your coach is walking around explaining a drill in a foreign language and you have no idea where to go stand or what in the world is going on, you don’t feel so professional in the beginning stages.
First year overseas or first year in a new country with a new language:
And you’re just sitting there like:
If you’re lucky you’ll have another foreigner on the team to go through the day to day struggles with:
And of course if they’re American:
It’s like having a piece of home with you. I always say, it doesn’t even matter if your worst enemy from America was on your team or living in the same city, I’m guaranteed you’d be best friends, because there is no better feeling than having someone to relate to and understand your similar situations.
But if you find yourself without a foreigner or person to relate to in the beginning:
When you don’t understand the random conversations going on around you when everyone is just sitting around talking up a storm.. and you’re just sitting there like “well I have friends on my phone”:
When a friend back home calls you and remembers that you still exist all the way across the world:
That moment when you’re in your own world and aren’t listening to the language gibberish being spoken, but all of the sudden you hear your name being included amongst the gibberish… hruoeahroaur foeuhroewrhua RACHAEL ajieowaorenro efauhor:
One of my favorite things is playing against other Americans. There are 8 playing in Poland this season, like I already said, so when our teams cross paths and we run into each other for the first time I’m so happy to see them.
When I first see an American:
But it’s always hard saying good bye to each other because you’re just enjoying laughing at similar tragic moments you’ve been through over the past months or weeks, speaking at a fast pace, and whatever else goes on
When the team has to go and they take my American with them:
As the months go by you learn more and more about the way practices are ran, some basics of the language, and other things to live a smoother life.
But there is always that moment when you finally think you have it all together and you realize you don’t:
And as months go by you develop the perfect “I don’t know what you just said, but I am going to smile and laugh to be polite” laugh or smile:
The best thing you can do for a foreigner is send them a care package from home that is filled with all of their favorite things that they love and miss.
When my care package arrives from friends and family back home:
One of the hardest parts about living overseas is being in a totally different time zone than your loved ones back home. When you’re waking up, they’re all sleeping and when you’re ready for bed, they are all awake and want to talk.
There is always that one night that you find yourself staying up way too late trying to catch up with family and friends back home, knowing very well you should be sleeping:
My favorite part is thinking you can blend in with the city and not get noticed or have no one know you’re a foreigner. Yep, that never happens.
When you’re in a public place walking around trying to be normal and people just stare:
Or when you’re paying for your groceries and the person asks “do you have a club card” and you think they said “how many plastic bags do you want” and you say “two”
Miscommunication and language barriers are the best. I have definitely learned how to laugh at myself even more while living overseas. You can’t take yourself seriously because embarrassing and awkward situations are bound to happen on a daily basis.
And then there is food.
Moving to a country you never really know what to expect. You can Google and research as much as you want, but you pretty much have to just wait and see when you get there.
Sometimes you love the food:
Sometimes you love the food and the sweets oh so much.. but you don’t realize it until it’s too late:
Sometimes you’re super picky and hate everything:
Sometimes you have no idea what anything ever is:
Some days you just don’t feel like trying new things:
When your teammates witness you eating some of your favorite things that you normally eat back home.. like my favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich:
When I meet yet another person that hates and doesn’t appreciate the love that an American athlete has for peanut butter:
After a long week of practice, training, and traveling my exciting list of activities usually consists of:
I have grown a strong love for tea over the past two years.
And many times you are so proud of what you’ve accomplished and have done, like learning how to drive a manual car in a foreign country:
Even though driving a manual is fun for me now..the first time learning that my car was manual and not automatic went a little like this:
When they say that it is easy and you’ll be driving in no time.. and you realize that you are forever stuck and have to make do with your manual car or walk:
And other days you are so happy you did and realize not many people have the guts to do such a thing:
Off days are the best.
When your coach tells you that the team has the next day(s) off:
And all of America is sleeping back home:
You decide to pass time and watch TV…and it’s all in another language:
Anddd everyone is still sleeping back in America:
So you decided to change your nail polish color.. again:
Then you get the idea, which is always my favorite idea, to go out an explore and take advantage of the opportunities that living and being in a different country brings.
Good idea Rach:
I’m not sure if there is anything worse than bad WiFi in your apartment when living overseas. I haven’t witnessed that yet, thank goodness. I wouldn’t be able to type this post and load all these pictures without my good connection. Or talk to loved ones on Skype and blah blah so on and so on.
But when your good WiFi connection wants to test your patience:
And then you take everything out on the next family member or friend that you talk to:
Some days you just want to be in a bad mood and not cooperate with the world:
At first, you’re so excited to see the first beautiful snowfall of winter
When you find out you get to go home for Christmas and see your family:
Americans get a bad rep. Too much to be seen on TV..to many unrealistic reality shows. Crazy Americans..
Walking through the grocery store for the first time is always fun. What does this say? Is that milk? Uhh?
But the best feeling is when the country, fans, and city welcome you with open arms:
And you really appreciate it:
But nothing beats the moment when you finally arrive home and see your family and friends after 8 months of being away.
Finally landing on US soil after a long season of giving everything you have and conquer your countless connecting flights and layovers on the way back home:
As you can see, playing overseas is awesome and crazy at the same time. You really learn a lot about yourself, how to adapt to new things, new situations, and so on.
It’s been interesting sharing these every day struggles with you through my blog, but I guess it’s pretty nice that people can laugh at my pain from time to time and celebrate my triumphs now and then.