Play professional sports overseas is challenging enough by itself. Having some inside knowledge, no matter how minimal, is invaluable. Here is what I’ve learned from my experiences: The first thing I wish I knew before I traveled overseas to play basketball for the first time was how to say some simple phrases in the language of the country where I’d be living. My first overseas experience was in Russia, and few people in Russia know how to speak fluent English. They teach it in the primary and secondary schools but few people actually learn the language; and why should they? I don’t expect people to know English in a foreign country; I don’t know their language, so I don’t expect them to know mine. Inevitably, there will be English-speaking people and they will almost always WANT to communicate with you. Only two of my teammates spoke enough English to help me adjust to my new surroundings and teach me some phrases, but many of them knew about as many words in English as I knew in Russian. Learning to say things like: “how much is this?”; “where is the bathroom?”; “I would like to have ___”; “Please”, “Thank you” and “You’re welcome” are invaluable. The administrators, the fans, your teammates, and your coaches will all appreciate your effort more than you will ever truly know – even if your execution is awful. You will certainly pick up many of the customary greetings and phrases used on a daily basis, but learning to say some key phrases will help you assimilate and feel comfortable much faster, as well as give you .
Once I mastered some basic phrases the next thing I wish I’d known before I left the states was how to change the DNS numbers for the wi-fi in my apartment. It sounds like a daunting task, but I assure you it is really quite simple; and with the Google on your side it’s quick and easy. The DNS can be changed for any device (iPhones, Androids, tablets, Playstation, Xbox, etc.). I quickly learned that certain services we are so used to having at our disposal in the US are not available overseas. Things like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and other media streaming outlets can’t be accessed. When these services are launched they read the DNS numbers on your device(s) to see where in the world you are; certain number combinations are specific to the US. Essentially, you are fooling your device into thinking that it’s accessing a North American-based Internet Service Provider rather than a foreign one! Changing the DNS numbers is 100% legal; it just takes a little research and patience to switch them to the right combinations. Once I figured out the trick with the DNS numbers – Voila! – I had access to all the digital products and services I use in the States.
The most important thing I wish I knew before I started playing overseas was how much down time I would have every day. I chose to play professional basketball abroad because it was the manifestation of a childhood dream, and an incredible opportunity to get paid to see the world, while doing the one thing I love the most. I practice twice a day most days. I spend countless hours in the weight room getting stronger. On game days I shoot for an hour in the morning and I’m in the locker room two hours before tip-off to get ready, stretch, and warm up; and the game generally lasts two hours. With all of that time spent honing my skills and working towards my individual and team goals, I still have a ton of free time. Every athlete knows the window of opportunity to play is brief, especially at the professional level. Thinking about life outside of basketball is almost painful for me, but it is reality. Had I known about all of the time I would have to myself I would have searched for a job opportunity that would allow me to work remotely while continuing to play. I would have loved the chance to build my corporate résumé in my free time. Now that I’m wiser I have a job where I do contribute from thousands of miles away and still get to chase my dream. It is truly the best of both worlds!
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