Studying Abroad is not a Glorified Holiday

In the world that we live in today, there isn’t an aspect of our lives that has not been touched by globalization. What is globalization? Simply explained, it is a situation of nations being integrated across inter national boundaries in whatever we do; be it business and economics or political views or culture or the sharing of grief. No doubt, however, that “studying abroad” would top the list as the oldest example of globalization. Though studying overseas is very commonplace today, it still retains a charm that is not easily replicated.

Very easily the greatest charm in studying abroad is the impact that such education impacts the rest of a person’s life; it is a milestone event. Any list of the reasons for choosing to study abroad would include the following:

  • Improving academic caliber
  • Development of professional skills
  • Enhancing employability
  • Appreciation of cultural diversity
  • Value-addition to personal history

Every survey has shown that US universities are the most-favorite destination for students from all over the world. Besides being veritable reservoirs of knowledge, universities in US have also earned the reputation of being the most welcoming of institutions and of imparting the highest quality of education, when compared to any other in the world.

Why is the US the most sought-after destination for studying abroad? I will answer this question by elaborating on the 5 reasons listed above (for studying overseas).

Improving Academic Caliber

Every student, wishing to gain further knowledge in his chosen subject of study, can be sure that a university in the US will offer him the following — faculty who are the most learned and updated on the subject, the access to the most advanced and updated knowledge of the subject and a learning environment which is unique, very practical and very supportive. These are the heady mix of ingredients that every serious student aspires for.

Development of professional skills

Universities in the US are invariably equipped with modern equipment, tools and facilities for the highest level of professional studies. Therefore, students not only gain academic knowledge but also gain hands-on experience of working with the latest tools of the profession. Except in the area of Arts, for which the European universities are the premier ones, American universities are the leaders in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Medicine.

Enhancing Employability               

More and more employers are seeking to recruit those who have been educated abroad, particularly ones who have been educated in the US. Why is education in the US such a sought-after qualification? The answer lies in the fact that an employee who has studied in the US is sure to have been exposed to modern theories, methodologies and the latest equipment; these qualities are a boon to any employer.

Appreciation of cultural diversity            

Irrespective of one’s profession, being able to communicate effectively goes a long way in professional development. Nothing prepares a person better than life spent on a university campus in the US where there are students from all over the world and is therefore the perfect medium for breaking-down cultural barriers. The reality is that our workplace is more globalized than it was ever before, therefore, being able to communicate effectively across multiple cultures, without any inhibitions is a critical requisite for personal success.

Value-addition to personal history

No person can claim to a higher status in society than one who has studied abroad at an established seat of learning. Studying in the US is an eye-opener; it broadens the horizon of those arriving from less-developed countries. When one has studied in the US and returns to their home country, it is sure to make heads turn or draw second-looks in a social gathering!

Several of those who studied abroad have also gone ahead and sought and accepted US citizenship and have integrated well in American society and excelled in the profession of their choice. They have earned national and international recognition and have won laurels for their contributions. American society is an amalgam of several cultures created by waves of settlers originally from Europe but subsequently from nations around the world too.

In spite of the attractiveness of continuing to live abroad, after completing higher studies, many choose to return to their home country. The seemingly natural act of returning is loaded with advantages in favor of the home nation. It immediately increases the intellectual capital of the home nation. In the longer-term, the returnees carry forward business and professional relationships, which are effectively the seeds of collaboration and knowledge-sharing ventures.

Those who study abroad should not fail to give back to their home nation. Upon their return, they can do so by engaging themselves in 3 broad areas, namely politics (or public life), economics (or business) and social (education, health).

(a) Politics — I have mentioned earlier that studying abroad intrinsically enriches a person’s character. Alumni, therefore, are potentially capable of providing transformational leadership, which is commonly missing in less developed and under-developed nations.

(b) Economics — In the field of business and economics, because they have studied (lived) abroad they have experienced the comfort of modern and superior products and the power of technologically advanced methods of production; they are therefore very capable of managing the introduction of new products and modern production facilities.

(c) Social — In the field of education and health, because of their superior personal experiences (while studying/living abroad) they can introduce the best similar practices and mentor the next generation of youth and improve their standard of living.

There is yet another dimension of enrichment – it occurs when those who have studied abroad return to their home country and pursue their profession. The students group themselves and form alumni associations. Alumni associations are not merely for bragging rights but they continue the spirit of camaraderie and play an inspirational role for others to study too in the same institution. In sum, it is a continuation of the engagement with the alma mater by its students.

Alumni outreach events and programs are ideal platforms for saying thank-you to the university to which they owe their gratitude for success. They are best qualified to use the lessons learned from their experience of studying and living in the USA.

Institutions all around the world have a plan in place for engaging their alumni. Failure to have such a plan will mean missing out on opportunities of several kinds. Alumni, for example:

ü  Serve as ambassadors, advocates and mentors for the next generation of students to inspire them to study in the same institutions

ü  Pool financial resources for scholarships

ü  Donate to establish endowments for research projects, for amenities (example, library, study halls, auditoriums, sports arena, etc.)

ü  Create and fund faculty positions for research and teaching a super-specialized subject

A final word; studying abroad is a serious decision soaked in benefits which can last a life-time; it is not a matter to be dismissed as simply a glorified holiday.

By HF Contributor: A. Adeni

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Commitment and Consistency, The reason behind America Struggling to develop great tennis players

I want to warn you that this month’s article is not about fitness (and may actually anger you), but it is very important nonetheless.  I wanted to share some experiences and thoughts from my personal athletic career (something I rarely do) as well as my own two cents on why America is struggling to develop great tennis players at the junior level, which in turn causes college coaches to recruit outside of the U.S.

 

For those of you that do not know, I actually grew up as a swimmer.  I swam during college at South Carolina and competed in the Southeastern Conference.  I had the opportunity to practice with Olympians and National Champions on my own team, and during conference dual meets, we competed against the likes of Ryan Lochte, Eric Shanteau, Kara Lynn Joyce and a host of others on a weekly basis.  Take a moment to Google those three; look at their world rankings and compare that to tennis.  It would be the equivalent of competing against Roger Federer or Nadal on a weekly basis – at the college level!

 

Over six years ago, I made the switch to solely focusing on training tennis players.  Yet, I have become increasingly concerned with the question of why the US is failing at developing World Champions consistently.  This problem seems so obvious to me but not to the rest of the tennis industry.  By the way, the last American man to win a Grand Slam was Andy Roddick in 2001.  The last American female to win a Grand Slam (aside from the Williams sisters) was Jennifer Capriati in 2002.

 

I have heard the excuse that tennis is now a world-wide sport, but this is not a legitimate excuse.  Look at swimming:  The U.S. has led the Olympic medal count in swimming over the past 50 years.  The U.S. has won 520 total swimming medals (220 are Gold).  The next closest country is Australia with 171 total medals.

 

Here’s another popular excuse: “All the good athletes are playing sports like football, basketball and baseball.”  This, again, is nothing but a cop-out.  U.S. Swimming is so deep with athletes (and we swept the Gold, Silver and Bronze medals so often) that we are only allowed to send two swimmers per individual event; the rest of the world gets to send three.  Just imagine: you are the third-fastest swimmer in the U.S. (which means you are probably third or fourth in the world), yet you cannot represent your country at the Olympics.

 

When comparing the success of U.S. Swimming (that gets virtually no media coverage aside from the Olympics) to the lack of success in U.S. Tennis, I have come up with two main conclusions:

 

1.) Commitment

Swimmers, from top to bottom, are flat-out more committed than American tennis players.  How many tennis players, honestly, would wake up at least three mornings a week and go to a 5 am practice for two hours and then go to another 2.5 – 3 hour practice every evening?  What about another 3-4 hour practice on Saturday morning?  Most swimmers that are Sectional-level and above practice at least 24 hours per week.  Most tennis players could not be bothered to play more than six hours per week.  I cannot tell you how many times juniors complain of having an 8 am match during tournament days – even at the Sectional level.

 

American tennis juniors also have a lack of commitment with their program.  (I will go into more detail on the power of a consistent message and training in a student’s program below.)  Oftentimes, when a tennis junior encounters a struggle that is a natural part of development in sport, they jump ship and head to another program.  In contrast, swimmers stay on their club team for years, through good times and bad.

 

2.) Consistency

One of the most clear-cut reasons that the U.S. is not developing great tennis players is the fact that it is extremely uncommon for a tennis player to be in one program for their entire development.  Typically, a tennis player will hit in multiple programs each week with different coaches who have different methodologies.  In my experience thus far, I would wager to say the vast majority of tennis players go to a minimum of six different programs during their junior careers.  In swimming, however, it is very uncommon for a swimmer to transfer to another club team.  The only way that this might happen is if a family is forced to move to a different part of the country or state.

 

The two swimmers listed below were both developed through my club team from the very beginning, and I had the opportunity to train with them daily for multiple years (both of these girls were Top 50 in the World in their respective events by the end of their careers):

Liz –

  • In high school, Liz was the #1 recruit (both male and female) in the country, 2x Missouri Swimmer of the Year, 2005 ESPY Athlete of the Year, and a 16x HS All-American
  • In college, Liz swam at Stanford University and was a 12x All-American and PAC 12 Individual Champion (among many other awards)

Jessi –

  • At the end of her high school career, Jessi was a Top 10 recruit nationally, placed 3rd in the 50 Free at the US Open and was a 3x HS All-American
  • Jessi was a member of the 2005 National Championship team at Georgia, team captain her senior year, an 11x All-American, a National Champion on a relay, and an American Record holder

I could list many more accomplished swimmers that came out of this same club team, but I am doing my best to keep this article brief.

 

One thing that I did not mention about the two girls above is that they are world-class swimmers in completely different events.  Not only did they swim for the same club team for 10+ years, they developed in different ways.  Liz could not be touched in the breaststroke or IM, while Jessi could burn everyone in freestyle events 200 yards or less.  Did Jessi get to train against the two girls that beat her in the U.S. Open on a daily basis?  No.  Did Liz have any girls during practice that could consistently help her raise her level in her events?  No.

 

How is this possible?  How did Liz and Jessi develop into world-class swimmers without getting to train daily alongside other swimmers who were faster than them?

Take another look at the honors listed above for the two girls.  Both are world-class swimmers and both got full scholarships to their respective colleges.  But did they get a scholarship during their high school years to continue swimming for the club team that they were developed through?  Absolutely not.

 

If they were tennis players, what would have happened when they achieved such enormous success during high school?  They would have been offered full scholarships to different academies and programs around the country that want to use them as marketing material to bring in lower-level players to fill slots.  These academies and programs did not develop them and likely would not further their game.  The academy or program giving them a scholarship would simply hope to keep the girls close to their current level so that, down the road, they could say that they developed the girls.

 

This is one of the biggest issues that tennis faces today. Everyone wants to go hit with the best people without doing any research regarding who truly developed those top players.

The simple fact is that most tennis players across the U.S. do not find a program that is effectively developing players and stick with it for years.  They tend to do little to no research, take the professionals at their word, and jump from program to program – following the “best” players and hoping that something will rub off.  This short-term thinking has not produced great American talent in some time.  And, if a change is not made, it will continue to be a struggle for the U.S. to develop top talent consistently.

So, how did Liz and Jessi continue to raise their level on a daily basis and eventually become world-class despite having no other world-class people training alongside?  The answer is simple: they had a great coaching staff who knew what they were doing (and had a proven track record of success); they had the support of their teammates; and, they focused on competing against themselves and getting better little by little each practice…..and they stuck with this program for their entire junior development.  They truly had commitment and consistency with their development.

 

This article is not meant to be depressing.  Rather, this is a HUGE opportunity for tennis players in the U.S. to change their future and the future of U.S. tennis.  But, they have to be willing to be the exception to the norm and do things differently.  It is a scary thing to truly go after your goals and hold nothing back.  After all, what happens if you give it everything you have and it is still not good enough?  A tennis player that finds the correct program (one that is actually developing players), believes in it and sticks to that program for years, and is willing to put in the hours and focus on improving every day, will play high-level college tennis.  No question about it.

 

The only question is: how many American tennis players are willing to be different?  How many are truly willing to sacrifice over the course of many years and put themselves through the long hours and the many ups and downs that are required to succeed at the highest levels?

 

From my personal experience, the sacrifice is well worth it. And I would do it all again without a moment’s hesitation.

By: Michael Farrington

Director of Fitness| Manager of Operations

Grand Slam Level Director of Fitness and Injury Prevention

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He picked up picked up his first tennis racket at age 7. This week in #StudentSpotlight Matthew a.k.a ‘Batman’

Matthew picked up his first tennis racket at age seven.  At the age of eight, he began spending a few hours each day at the local tennis rec. center. Recognizing Matthew’s increased interest and passion for the game, Mr. B (his father) and Mrs. B (his mom) wanted to expose Matthew to a more “professional” training environment, and that is when they found HAT!

Matthew a.k.a Batman
Matthew a.k.a Batman

We want him to play tennis pro. He loves tennis. His life is tennis.

While there are many caring parents who wish sports stardom for their children, there are really few who understand all of the hard work, investments, sacrifice, and drive that is required to succeed in any professional sport.   In fact, Mr. B., had dreams of becoming an acrobat/artistic performer himself for the traveling circus in his birth nation of Mongolia.  But, he was deterred by an unfortunate accident at age 4 that resulted in serious back injuries.  Similarly to Mathew, Mr. B was passionately and determinedly focused on his circus acts, and after four years of purposeful preparation and dedicated training he managed to make his dream come true.  Unfortunately, seven years into performing in his beloved circus Mr. B had to retire due to his ever-present back injury.  However, as he is often sharing, “I had fun and lived those years wholeheartedly happy”.

In 1999, Mr. B migrated to the United States.  After leaving the circus it was hard for him to find work in Mongolia due to the uncertainty of the political climate.  Drawn to the peaceful life in America, Mrs. B soon followed and joined Mr. B in 2001.  They haven’t returned to Mongolia since – they have found America to be a good place… a home with many advantages and possibilities for the future of their children.

Matthew came to love tennis… the game, the players, and everything connected to it.  He puts in tremendous effort and works purposefully every day to become the best player that he can be.  “It’s a good way to exercise.  It makes me happy!”  If you ask him who his favorite player is, he is likely to answer Roger Federer.  “Federer is a strong hitter and has great footwork.  I love his forehand.”  Even at a young age, Matthew has set his sights very high.  He wants to win many titles, such as Wimbledon and the French Open!