Name: Hannah Richter
Hometown: Spokane, WA
Varsity sport participated in: Women's Swimming & Diving
Study abroad semester and location: Fall 2013, University College London, London, UK
Describe your favorite place in your host city/country and why.
My favorite place has to be the Tate Modern. I'm a huge fan of art museums in general, and London has a lot to offer in that department, but the Tate Modern is the first modern art museum I've been to that made me fall in love with modern art. I could spend hours there in one room and be perfectly content. And best of all, it's free, like most London museums.
What was the biggest difference between Beloit and your host city/university? Similarity?
The biggest difference between Beloit and University College London, or London generally, is simply the size. UCL has 25,000 students, undergraduate and graduate, and London is a city of millions. That is just orders of magnitude different from Beloit, on a physical level and it takes some getting used to. What I found to be most similar about UCL and Beloit is that obsession with clubs – UCL's club fair at the beginning of the term was massive and ran for two days. I joined a variety of clubs, and it reminded me quite a lot of my first semester at Beloit where I also tried to join more clubs than it would actually be possible to participate in.
How did your identity as an athlete influence your experiences abroad?
I joined the UCL Swimming Club, which is a brand new club run by medics (slang for medical school students). The athletic and social experiences I had with that club, and the things I learned about the UK from those particular students definitely affected my study abroad experience. I met students from multiple countries, doing all sorts of programs, but we were all brought together by our love of swimming, which is an international pastime.
Has the time you spent abroad changed the way you think about your athletic experience or your sport in general?
I swim because I can't imagine life without swimming and because I love my team at Beloit. Swimming abroad made me realize the advantages I have being a NCAA Div III athlete at Beloit – a pool next to my dormitory, a fantastic coach, a dedicated team. In London, the nearest pool was a £5 overground ride or a 40 minute walk away and we didn't really have a coach aside from our team captains. But I still loved swimming, and I know that no matter how much effort it takes to be able to get in a pool, it's worth it.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
Go. Make the best of it – if you have sports facilities available, use them. If you don't, there are plenty of workout routines that you can do on the floor of any dorm or house. Studying abroad is worth missing part or all of a season. You're at Beloit for four years, use the other three for a dedicated Beloit athletic experience and take a semester or a year out for yourself and your life experience. Then come back and put your renewed energy to work.