Name: Jubie Gruenhagen
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Varsity sport participated in: Volleyball
Study abroad semester and location: Spring 2014, Australia (James Cook University)
Describe your favorite place in your host city/country and why.
My favorite place I have discovered thus far in Australia is Magnetic Island, which is about a 20-minute ferry ride off the coast of Townsville, the city I live in. This island is absolutely breathtaking, with pristine beaches and crystal clear water. I love spending time just walking the beach and enjoying the plentiful sunshine. Kayaking here is also awesome, especially last time when I spotted a giant sea turtle in the water. The island offers many hiking trails, where koala bears are often found too. Several cafes line the beachfront road, and are my favorite to grab lunch at, as they have great fresh seafood.
What was the best meal you have had abroad and why?
The best meal I have had in Australia was fresh-caught fish and New Zealand mussels. Seafood back home does not even come close to comparing to what is available here, considering I live right on the ocean. Most restaurants have fresh-caught fish options that are actually caught on that day and it’s amazing. The fish n’ chips is absolutely delicious here as well.
What were the three most important things you packed in your suitcase and why?
Sunscreen is definitely the most important thing I packed, as the region I am living in is known as the sun cancer capital of the world. My raincoat is another crucial item that I brought along with me, considering when I first arrived in Australia it was the rainy season. Rain here is a completely different experience than back home. It literally rains sideways and you unavoidably end up soaking wet even when you do wear a raincoat and use an umbrella, but I like to think it helped a little. Lastly, I am glad I packed athletic shoes because they have been great for exploring the city, hiking and my adventure into the outback doing fieldwork.
How has your study abroad experience affected your athletic experience or your identity as an athlete back at Beloit?
Studying abroad has made me incredibly more appreciative of the opportunity I have to participate in athletics at Beloit. In Australia, competitive sports at a college level don’t even exist. Furthermore, the majority of recreational sporting opportunities available are restricted to those students who live on campus. This is the main form of “intercollegiate athletics”, where each residential hall has a team but that’s it. Being away from my team has also made me truly realize how important they are to me and how much support they provide.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were gone?
I have taken advantage of the beautiful weather in Australia and have been running a lot to stay in shape. There are so many great running paths that go along the river right by my house, making it easy to fit a daily run into my schedule. I also have been doing P90X and Insanity workout videos in my backyard. Biking is my only reliable mode of transportation here, so that has kept me quite active too.
Did being an athlete provide you with any advantages while you were abroad? If yes, what were they?
Yes, being an athlete actually enabled me to find a part-time job refereeing beach volleyball here. I also have gotten to play a bunch of beach volleyball at the club where I referee as well. Through this, I have met so many local Australians that I never would have without my previous volleyball experience. Everybody at the club is so friendly and has really made me feel welcome and a part of their volleyball family. I have also been asked to play in both beach and indoor volleyball tournaments, which have been some of my favorite experiences while abroad. I am so grateful that my identity as an athlete has positively impacted my experience abroad.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
DO IT! Studying abroad can actually enhance your athletic experience at Beloit and shouldn’t be viewed negatively in regards to athletic participation. There are definitely ways to stay in shape and be dedicated to your sport while abroad. If you are really feeling worried about it, talk to your coach to find ways to stay in shape as well as connected with your team while abroad.