There is nothing like being a 21-year old kid studying in Europe for a full semester. After a couple of months, most such US students reflect on what they would be doing back home with a deep sense of drowsiness.
Such an opportunity to experience all life has to offer is something that, given the opportunity, thousands of students eagerly partake in. Brendan Farley, a 21-year old marketing major at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, realized after completing a home-stay in Cadiz, Spain in the summer of 2008 that studying abroad was essential.
The only thing that was standing in the way of his studying in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities was his left foot – literally.
While at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, Farley excelled in the classroom and on the soccer field. As the team captain for the state sectional champions, he was being recruited by Division II and III schools from all over the east coast.
“I love playing soccer, but I wanted the chance to actually enjoy everything that college offers,” said Farley. “I needed a school that would let me do that and not make my life all about the sport, but the experience.”
At the end of his senior season, Rolf Piranian, the head coach of Washington and Lee, offered Farley a scholarship to play Division III soccer for them.
“I was ecstatic!” said Farley, with an exaggerated smile. “The school was perfect for me. It had everything I wanted out of a university.”
But before Farley was going to sign his letter of intent, he wanted to make sure that he and Piranian saw eye-to-eye with the other thing Farley felt passionate for.
“Ever since my summer-stay (in Cadiz), I knew I wanted to go abroad,” he said. “I needed to make sure my coach and I could agree on a plan that can allow me to play soccer and go abroad my junior year.”
Fortunately for Farley, Piranian had no problem with his players studying abroad. In fact, he understood how great an opportunity it would be for his players during the offseason and didn’t want to neglect them of this once in a lifetime chance.
The only issue was that for Farley part of him felt a sense of guilt. “Earlier this year, I kind of started to second guess whether or not I should go abroad or stay true to my teammates,” he said. “I love this game so much and thinking about not having the chance to play for five months was something I wasn’t sure I was ready to accept. I was in a serious dilemma to say the least.”
While in need of some soul searching, Farley turned to the man who encouraged him to go abroad from the time he was a senior in high school – his coach.
“He reassured me that I wasn’t letting anyone down but myself if I wouldn’t study abroad,” said Farley with a laugh. “He metaphorically slapped me upside the head and said, ‘Hey dumbass, you’re going.’”
The only promise that Farley had to keep to his coach and teammates was that he would continue to lift weights and stay in good shape while abroad.
Not really, even if the humble Farley tells you otherwise. Unlike the normal US student studying in Prague who only has to focus on going to class, touring Europe on the weekends and partaking in large consumptions of alcoholic beverages every night, Farley has to do that, but also has to train everyday.
“I made a commitment to my teammates back home that I would be loyal to the system,” said Farley. “It would be unfair for me to just completely ignore training and leave them out to dry.”
Every day is the same routine: Farley wakes up between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., eats breakfast and goes on a three-mile run around his Prague 1 neighborhood.
He attends his classes and goes to the gym in between. At night, he will be like every other American student living in Prague and go to a local bar or club and do, well, what college kids do best.
As far as his future in soccer is concerned, he knows that there isn’t a future at the professionals for him, but he just is doing what he loves.
“I love the game and that is why I play,” said Farley. “I know I’m not going to be playing professionally, so I’m just playing for the love of the game. I might as well play as much as I can competitively until I can’t do the things I can do now.”
So far, Farley has visited Budapest and Krakow while on his four-and-a-half-month excursion in Europe. He is planning other trips to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome, Venice and Croatia among others during his tenure overseas.
He has a lot on his plate, but is confident he will be able to balance his schoolwork and his social life with his training. Although he isn’t scrimmaging against equal or similar competition, he is still doing the best he can with the situation he is in.
And he isn’t complaining. “I’m in Prague, man. What do I possibly have to complain about?”