by Erica D’Mello
“You’re from Australia and you came all the way to Neumann to go to college,” is the second-most common phrase I hear when people find out where I’m from (the first being “wow, your accent is so cool”).
To be fair, it is understandable to question how I found out about a school that is located in the small town of Aston, Pennsylvania, approximately 9880 miles away from my home in Glenmore Park, Australia. Essentially, I wanted to play field hockey and experience American college life.
The college experience in Australia contrasts vastly from that in America. Dorm life is practically non-existent in Australia. Students tend to live at home and commute to their university a couple days a week. It is very rare to live on campus, like many American students do. For me, a typical day at university (or “uni” as we like to call it) would be traveling to university, attending classes, socializing with friends and traveling home.
Although many Australians love sport, university sport is much more casual and informal. Two-hour practice sessions, six days a week, is extremely unfamiliar for a student participating in a sport at university in Australia; however, here in America, it’s the norm.
I began playing field hockey at the age of five and continued to do so throughout my life. While studying back home, I was selected into the NSR (National Scouting Report) program, a scouting agency that connects athletes with American college coaches.
Coach Kelly Drumheller, the Neumann University Field Hockey coach, reached out to me after reviewing my NSR film. International student athletes were nothing new for Coach Drumheller, who, during her time at Slippery Rock University, played alongside a teammate from the Netherlands. “My school was also in a small town. We’d always ask how she found out about our school,” said Drumheller. During her time as the assistant field hockey coach at Neumann, she also witnessed the first two Australians to come play for the Knights.
After researching Neumann, I made the decision to leave my home in Australia and travel for twenty-one hours to attend Neumann University in the fall of 2017. Here I became the fourth Australian member of the Neumann University Field Hockey team, along-side fellow NSR athletes Sam Picker, Laura Martin, and Imogen Bailey.
This interest in the American college experience is mutually expressed among other members. “I wanted to go to a school in a different country and experience a different culture. I have an older friend who came to the U.S for school and she loved it. She played for a division one school and she really enjoyed herself,” said current senior, Sam Picker.
The unique college culture that exists in America has and continues to attract many athletes from across the globe. Scouting agencies, like NSR, provide athletes with connections and opportunities to experience this culture. It allows us to be immersed in the lifestyle rather than looking at it through a glass window which, for me at least, is the core reason why I chose to make this journey.