As of last year, Franklin University Switzerland offers study places to student athletes who are interested in earning university credit while participating in competitive sports programs. The program is supported by PASS (Prep Academy Sport System).

Second row, third from the left: Heather Bodenhamer

Study abroad student Heather Bodenhamer was the first student to participate in the PASS program at Franklin. Heather is a junior at Marymount University in Arlington, VA, USA, where she studies Health Promotion and Exercise Science. After competing in a Swiss/Italian soccer tournament last spring, Heather was invited to play soccer with the local FCF Rapid Lugano team, while she spent a semester at Franklin. The experience of engaging with a local team has not only helped her improve her Italian language skills, but has been, as she describes, a truly amazing opportunity.

Playing soccer in Europe as opposed to back home in the States offered a new perspective on the sport itself. “Playing here is different, because in the US the sport is based on a lot more commitment, fitness and accountability. Here I find it to be much more technical and tactical. I also notice the team and coaching dynamics are more communal than at a university in the US.”

Despite the language barrier, Heather has built close relationships with many of her teammates, and was still able to communicate effectively. “My team has been very welcoming,” says Heather, “even though we don't speak the same language, we still manage to joke around with one another and communicate also with gestures. By hanging out and becoming friends with my teammates I was able to get a close look at Swiss culture.”

Interacting with local teammates has also proved to be helpful in the classroom, as Heather is also taking an Italian course at Franklin, along with a course on Epidemiology, CLCS courses and Academic Travel. “I have learned how big the world is, and discovered so much about different cultures, including through the opportunity to visit Greece and Turkey during my 2015 Academic Travel.

Heather says she would recommend the PASS program to other prospective student athletes because it has given her the opportunity to travel, as well as live, study and - importantly - continue to play the sport she is passionate about while abroad. “My experience has been life changing and I am so happy I had enough courage to participate in this program. It has been so amazing, from the people to the trips and learning the culture and language. I know this experience will forever alter the way I perceive the world and those around me. Nothing could replace what I have learned at Franklin, and I struggle to put into words what this has done for me.”