“It has opened my eyes to how much there is to experience in the world. I never would’ve imagined myself living in another country, let alone for four and a half years!” – Justine Wright.
One of NSR’s earliest student-athletes, Justine Wright, didn’t quite have it all figured out when she headed to college in the U.S. in 2010. She caught up with us recently to fill us in on why being uncertain of what you want to study is totally okay, and why you should follow the U.S. college journey anyway!
Justine voyaged to the U.S. in 2010 in the hopes of pursuing her soccer, but wasn’t entirely sure on what she wanted to do academically.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do originally, the experience was more about the soccer for me. Academically I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my degree.”
Despite this, Justine found that the U.S. college system catered for her particular situation well.
“You can go over (to the U.S.) without having a degree specified, that’s a cool idea because a lot of people don’t know what they want to do straight away. Having that as an option, you can still go over there and study and play sport at college level which is pretty cool,” Justine said.
Justine studied Kinesiology at both Iowa Central and her second University in Georgia. Similar to Exercise Science in Australia, Kinesiology is a general degree and suited Justine’s position well as she wanted to go to college to study and play sport but wasn’t 100% sold on a specific avenue of study.
Admitting she was an average student in high school in Australia, Justine credits the U.S. college structure with their support for her high academic performance.
Justine graduated with honours and a 3.9 GPA, achievements worthy of praise.
“In high school I didn’t really focus on my academics or apply myself as much as I should have. Going to college and having them say how important your academics are to get you through your college career as a student-athlete really pushed me to do my best, and I ended up graduating with honours which was really cool. I guess it just pushed me to do my best. They (coaches and professors) want the best for you in both areas and they really encourage you,” Justine said.
“I don’t know where I would be right now if I went to University here (in Australia) because I didn’t know what I wanted to do academically,” Justine admitted.
While the humble student-athlete appreciates the space the U.S. colleges gave her to explore her study options over her four years, she also enjoyed absorbing the whole international experience with travel and sport.
“Going over there gave me time to figure out what I wanted to do while still being able to experience life in different country and being able to play soccer at a different level. I was able to travel to Florida, New York, Arizona, Minnesota and Chicago. It was kind of crazy, a lot of my friends at college would say; you’ve seen more of America than I have!” Justine said.
Justine returned home to Mackay in Australia after completing her degree and spent 2015 working and traveling Europe, before coming home again to begin a new degree at Central Queensland University in Mackay!
She is now studying Medical Imaging, hoping to work as a Radiographer on completion of her degree.
Justine has been able to catch-up with her life-long college friends and although she struggled to select just one highlight of her experience among many, she admits making close friends was one of the best things to come from her U.S. college journey.
“Just the friends you make…it’s unreal. You make friends all over the world and then you’ve got connections everywhere. They end up becoming some of your best friends, friends for life and I know I have a family away from home now too,” she noted.
When asked what advice she would give to student-athletes who are in the process of considering this tertiary education pathway, Justine had some positive reviews and encouraging words to share.
“Absolutely keep going with it. I know there’s so much to do to get there but it’s all worth it in the end. Make the most of every single moment over there. Once it all came to an end, I thought; that just happened way too quick. I felt like there was so much more I could’ve done while I was there. Even though I did so much, you really have to make the most of it because it’s such an unreal experience and not everyone gets to do it,” she said.