Take Time To Learn The Language

One of the things that athletes wish they would have done or wish they would have known to do before they left to play in a new country was to learn the language. 


” I also get into the culture of the country/region I’m living in. It’s so cool to embrace your surroundings and get to know the history and customs, learn some of the language….obviously love to try the food and drink of the area too! Travel as much as you can. Find something outside of volleyball that challenges you and makes you better. Skype as often as your friends and family allow but also enjoy the moment you’re in, get to know the people around you….one day it’ll end and you’ll wish you had enjoyed it more!”

– Emily Brown 

“I thought the culture would be similar to Italian, but it was good to find a lot of differences.  I’m glad to have learned a new language. I have only ever studied English in school, but in a few months and I realized I was speaking French..”

– Elisa Cella 

“Limit yourself to an hour a day online. Write a blog, post photos and logout. Don’t be a sad sack. You get to be what most people dream of. Save everything! Magazine stories, news clippings, match posters, friendship gifts, flags, etc. Embrace being the big, dumb American. It’s your excuse to get to know people and have more fun! Learn the language. Try their favorite food and host dinners for your teammates.

– Jen Bolger – Advice for current players playing overseas

“How much free time I would have and another language” 

– Dana Knudsen What I wish I knew before going overseas for the first time

I wish i knew how to speak the language, where to buy bedding and how important wifi would be!” 

– Chloe Wilcox What I wish I knew before going overseas for the first time

“Do something productive every day. The practice, nap, eat, tv show, sleep routine is very easy to fall into, but at the end of the season you will have nothing to show for it. Teach yourself to program (codeacademy.com), learn the language (Duolingo app is great), keep a journal, read books, send postcards to friends. Start a couple of these “extracurricular” activities so you always have something new to do. Don’t get me wrong, House of Cards is awesome after a particularly long day.”

– Evan Barry My best advice for getting through a long season

“It’s no secret that living overseas out of your comfort zone and away from friends and family is a grind.  There have been several times in my career (12 years) where I have thought about hanging up my gym shoes for a suit and tie.  But we as athletes have to constantly remind ourselves why we feel in love with playing volleyball and what was our drive back then…to be the best.  When I first started playing abroad I loved going and competing against new players and new teams with different challenges.  I love coming into a new team and the inevitable new family.  Sharing stories of how players from other countries started playing volleyball and how they grew up.  I love rooming with one of the local players to be able to learn the language and the culture with a better appreciation.”

– Brook Billings Advice for fueling yourself and making it through the long season

“Do your absolute best to learn the local language! You will earn a lot of respect from your team and your community, and it will just make everything else easier, from grocery shopping to finding your way around to making new friends.  It will also teach you so much more about the country and the culture than any Wikipedia entry ever could. Note: Liquid courage may help. Also, a lot of TV.”

– Lauren Schoenherr Advice from someone who’s been there

“Do not forget band-aids and Neosporin. After my first practice here, I had a huge turf burn and was dying for some relief. Unfortunately, I don’t speak the language and had no idea where to find these simple items. Instead I went without, which was obviously painful. I didn’t think I’d need band-aids but I wish I knew to consider something so simple as a first aid kit.”

– Taylor Houck Things I wish I would have known 

“How to cook. You get used being homesick . Local language.”

Mark Plotyczer Three things I wish I knew

I wish I was at least bilingual. I know a little Spanish, but nothing is more dissatisfying than meeting teammates that know 3 or more languages. It’s not a big issue since most speak some form of English, but nothing helps players bond faster than learning and trying to speak their language.

– Joshua Walker Three things I wish I knew

Language is hard to learn!  Most people here speak at least two languages fluently and many speak more than that.  Luckily we get to take French classes to learn so we can interact with the townspeople.  Even with these classes it is difficult to get the accents down and understand the quick speaking.  Made me realize I really do talk fast!”

– Rachel Krabacher Things you’ve noticed about your country that’s different

“The language issue will always be embarrassing for me but I have found that more times than not people really appreciate when you try and learn their language and use it and if you are struggling they will help you out.”

– Sonja Newcombe Embarrassing stories

Learn the language and culture! The look on the natives’ faces when you nail a word/sentence/conversation is priceless. It shows you care, you’re not ignorant or self centered, and you are putting in the effort!”

– Aj Nally Any other thoughts, advice you might want to share

“There are three official languages in Belgium: Dutch, French, and German. I took a few months of French classes, but having no background in the language made it difficult to learn so quickly. On the plus side, Brussels is home to the European Parliament, making it a very international city with a high population of English speakers.”

– Erin Leaser 5 things different about Brussels, Belgium

“Advice for fueling yourself and making it through the long season……Its a great time to read a lot of books, learn a new language, learn how to cook and hopefully cook the traditional plates of the country you live in. Socialize with your teammates, make new friends outside of the gym, many fans would love to hang out for a coffee, great way of learning about the current culture, language and exploring the city or the country. Every day off, don’t spend it sleeping or internet, get out, travel, take a train, buss etc..”

– Donnie Suxho Advice for fueling yourself and making it through the long season

“Just because you hear that someone involved with the team speaks English does not mean that they speak enough English for you to communicate easily. Try to learn the basics of the language before you leave for the season. It will also be a huge help when you are in the town and with the locals.”

– Colleen Ward Three things you wish you knew before going overseas

“Foreigners love accents and when we try to speak their language. Even though you will probably make mistakes and have a terrible accent, they will love you for making the effort to connect with their culture. It is also a great way to develop a closer connection to your teammates, as they will be more likely to see you as one of them.”

– Sarah Pavan Three things I wish I knew before going overseas

“You can buy clothes once you are out there.  You don’t have to bring every piece of clothing you own.  Plus, you end up wearing workout clothes 90% of the time. Bring lots of books!  You will have a ton of down time. Force yourself to learn the language. I regret not doing this.” 

– Emily Day Things I wish I knew before going overseas 

“There is A LOT of english spoken in Europe, if you want to you can almost 100 percent get by somehow without knowing the language, BUT your experience will be enhanced enormously when you make the effort to learn the language.”

Sarah Ammerman Three things I wish I knew before going overseas


(Athlete abroad, Becky Perry, is preparing herself for her season in Italy)

Easy apps to download now (see our post on Rosetta Stone app)

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(mindsnacks has many language to choose from in the app store)

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