Conversations on Studying Abroad

How I Made the Decision to Spend a Semester Abroad as a Student Athlete

Sep 9, 2019 11:25:00 AM / by Ellie LaFountain

To study abroad or not to study abroad? This was a question that Ellie, a gymnast at Ursinus College, mulled over for years. In her very first post of many for our blog this semester, she shares how she triumphed over her obstacles and eventually made the important decision regarding her future. Ellie's journey starts right...here!

Greetings readers! My name is Ellie LaFountain and I will be the Dublin CAPA blogger this semester. In today’s blog post, I will be sharing how and why I decided to study abroad! My journey to this decision was extremely challenging, but I am so thankful for where is has led me.

Studying abroad is something that I had always heard about and been urged to do. However, being a college gymnast I did not really think that it was an option for me. During my time at Ursinus I had been told that no gymnast had ever studied abroad, with the exception of summer programs. I had also not seen a lot of other student athletes take the opportunity to go abroad. So, during my freshman year I accepted the fact that study abroad was not in the cards for me. I basically made up my mind that I only had 4 years for gymnastics with my team and that I should take full advantage of this as gymnastics is not a “forever” sport for most.

Urisinus in FallI will miss this place. (Ursinus College)

At the end of my sophomore year, I began to explore the idea of studying abroad once again. I had just been awarded as an All-American on the Floor Exercise and was feeling pretty proud and satisfied with what I had accomplished thus far in my career. I decided to talk to one of our Study Abroad faculty members about my options and the next steps to take. I ended up applying and getting accepted to study abroad with CAPA in Sydney during the fall of 2018. I was so excited but had not yet made a decision. Then I got the news that my coach was retiring at the end of the season. This meant that I would miss the entire first semester and all of preseason with our new head and assistant coach. I knew right away that I had to again say no to studying abroad. The faculty members were understanding but still urged me to continue to think about it; my parents and siblings suggested the same. But how could I risk my junior year season and damage my first impression with my new coach? Gymnastics was one of the reasons that I chose Ursinus, so I knew that it had to be one of my first priorities. I chose my new coach and my junior season over studying abroad.

The next part of my “to study abroad or not to study abroad” journey starts with another decision to just go for it. It was January 26th that I decided that I was going to apply to study abroad as a senior, because I finally had to listen to my gut. I did not want to be like the many alumni that told me “my biggest regret was not taking the chance to study abroad.” I wanted to be the one that said “studying abroad was the best decision that I ever made!” So, I told my parents about my decision first over dinner in Philly on the night before my third competition of the season at Temple.

Ursinus College in Winter Even beautiful in the snow! I’ll be back in time for winter in PA.

Unfortunately, the next day I fully ruptured my Achilles tendon at my Temple University competition. After being evaluated and sent to the hospital, I had the chance to talk to my parents. I asked them if they thought this was a sign to withdraw my application. They surprised me by saying “No, Ellie, we think this is a sign that you should take this opportunity now while it is here!” I thought a lot over the next few months about how hindsight is 20/20. I decided to not study abroad my junior year because I thought that it would hinder my junior season, but in reality I had no idea that my junior season would have been hindered no matter what.

Me after injuring my Achilles tendonBeing injured was tough for sure, but at least I had a cool ride. People liked to call me “hot wheels"!

Telling my teammates and coaches was a hard task for me to do, as I worried that they would feel that I was abandoning them. I am very lucky of how accepting they all were of my decision. It would have been much harder for me to feel ready and excited to go abroad if it would not have been for the support from my family, friends, and team members! Even though this journey was not easy, I know that it will be worth it. Thank you for allowing me to share my story with you all!

Picture of my Gymnastics TeamI’m going to train very hard these next few months to be as good as a teammate as all of these girls have been.

Thanks, Ellie!

Ellie LaFountain


Ellie LaFountain is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2019, sharing her story in frequent posts on CAPA World. A Media & Communications major at Ursinus College, she is studying abroad in Dublin this semester.

Ellie's journey continues all semester so stay tuned.

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Topics: Dublin, Ireland, Why Study Abroad