Name: Danny Hodorowski
Hometown: Aurora, IL
Varsity sport participated in: Men’s Soccer
Majors: International Relations and Russian language
Study abroad semester and location: Fall 2012 Moscow, Russia- Russian State University of the Humanities
What was your proudest/most exciting moment abroad?
I became an English tutor on the outskirts of the Metro’s Golden Ring. I tutored an 8 year-old boy named Lova and his 5 year-old little sister Zoya at their apartment three days a week. Developing this relationship with not only these two but the family as a whole was very important to me during my study abroad. I was able to teach Lova how to say all the names of Star Wars characters and taught Zoya how to count to ten as well as the alphabet in English. The language we speak defines how we interpret the world so it’s nice to know that I helped shape their perception through English and of course they helped me with my Russian.
What did you bring home as a souvenir and why?
We traveled to an outdoor mall a few times called the Вернисаж (ver-knee-sage). I picked up two sets of Matroishka Dolls, one is comprised of the presidents of the U.S. from Obama to Reagan and the other is the 1996 starting line-up of the Chicago Bulls. I brought the presidents back for myself and gave the Chicago Bulls to my brother as a Christmas present. I also bought a hand-stitched vest with Putin’s face on the back from Red Square. It was really challenging and fun to haggle with people in a non-native tongue.
How were you able to get involved with your host culture while abroad?
I developed an independent project with help from the Office of International Education while in Moscow. Combining my passions for nationalism, identity politics and soccer, I traveled to soccer stadiums and interviewed football-hooligans and got to see some really excellent Russian Premier League games in the process. It was definitely a challenging experience. I was able to present my findings at Beloit Student Symposium Day as well as the Nelson Institute Undergraduate Conference on Global Affairs at Drake University upon returning.
How were you able to stay in shape or stay prepared for your sport while you were gone?
Luckily, I play the most globalized sport, soccer. It started snowing on and off in October but beforehand we would get a group of international and Russian students to play at the park across from our University a few times a week. I would also simply go on runs. There was a gym to go to but it was quite far from campus so I did a lot of workout-type things in my room. Even though there was a 10 hour time difference I would stay up and watch the live-feed of our games as well, especially in the post-season.
Has the time you spent abroad changed the way you think about your athletic experience or your sport in general?
Absolutely. Unfortunately our season conflicts with the semester that the Russian Exchange program is held. As a sophomore-starter, I was very involved with the team on and off the field. I believe our camaraderie off the field influenced our successes and failures on the field. That year we made it to the conference semi-finals. Missing my junior season, I wanted to come back as a senior leader, attempting to emulate that same camaraderie that brought us so much success in the two years prior. Saying I missed playing is an understatement. Coming back made me understand that though I was gone, the relationships I had built on the team made it seamless for me to get back to form on and off the pitch with my teammates and friends.
Some words of advice for other athletes who want to study abroad:
Though it was a very tough decision to sacrifice a soccer season to study abroad, I would make the same decision to do so 100/100 times. If it comes down to this for you, I suggest you do the same. You will open yourself up to a new culture that you can immerse yourself in. Sport really has a way of connecting people on another level. You’ll be sure to meet others who love the sport you do, this is quite comforting and always a topic you can talk about with nearly anyone anywhere you go. My last piece of advice is simply to follow your passions, whatever they may be. I was able to connect my passion for sport and my studies together into great memories in Moscow.