Carla Guennewig – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Carla Guennewig
Carla Guennewig

Carla Guennewig
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

When I first came to the United States I was in 10th grade and I studied abroad in West Virginia for 6 months. I joined the high school volleyball team as I previously played at USC Münster, in my hometown in Germany. The high school team wasn’t necessarily one of the top schools but the memories I made are unforgettable. Having the school band play at home games, with dancing cheerleaders on the sideline, and the whole school cheering in the stands added up to an atmosphere that I had not experienced before. This was my first little glance into the American school sport system. After returning to Münster to finish high school, I knew that I wanted to go back and experience more of the American way of life.

But how and where do I even start? Sandra opened up exactly this opportunity for me. Having sport as an outlet to come back to America and combine studying with my passion for volleyball was a huge blessing. I knew I wanted to come back to America but there was no way I would have figured out all that goes along with it by myself. Lucky for me I had Sandra by my side for all of it. From the first time I got in touch with her, I knew I was in good hands. Having Sandra as a guide with her positive spirit, her own experience, and her unlimited passion to find a good fit for me made me extremely comfortable with planning the next steps and getting closer to making my dream come true. After developing a player’s profile, Sandra helped me to evaluate the offers based on location, the university program, the team, coaches, and the level of play. It was really overwhelming as it felt like a huge decision to make and I had no idea about how the system in the US worked, so having Sandra help me narrow down the offers was exactly what I needed. I decided to go to Temple University, a University with great diversity, a ranked business school, an energetic volleyball program, and a great location being in the middle of Philadelphia. From the first time I talked to the players and coaches, I felt connected to them. Making the decision is the one thing, but going through the application, the registration process and all the paperwork is a whole other level. Sandra was a huge support during this time and made sure that everything went smoothly whether it was applying for the language tests, getting the scores for the pre-requisites, or applying for the visa. With Sandra’s help I was sure that everything was in place right on time before starting the big adventure.

Philadelphia – being the 6th biggest city in the US was the contrast program to the city where I grew up. Adjusting to a new team, new surroundings, and new culture while juggling preseason and starting my school courses was a lot at once. Yet, it was the most exciting transition of my life and I enjoyed every step of it. Being able to check in with Sandra and having her not just as a recruiter but also as a mental supporter was such a blessing. Once I got used to the new rhythm, I loved getting to know so many new people and habits. It is incredible to look back at the four years at Temple. From traveling through the whole country, to playing a tournament in Puerto Rico, to getting stuck in Texas for 10 days with the whole team, to playing against Penn State, Nb. 3 in the nation, there are so many memories that I could have never imagined I would be able to make. I even got to play against some of my German friends that were playing at other Universities at the same time. I decided to stay at Temple for all 4 years as I pursued my bachelor’s degree in Marketing. The support that the school gives to its student-athletes was incredible and so different to anything I was used to. When playing D1, you are likely to miss many classes and exams, but the program managers always made sure that you succeed in the classroom. Even if that means that you’ll take an exam in the hotel room after a game late at night.

Traveling was a great part of the whole experience as I got to see so many other universities and cities all over the place, however coming back to Philadelphia after a weekend of traveling quickly felt like coming home. It is a very diverse city with lots of history and character and loving people all around. As one of the biggest cities on the east coast, it never got boring as there are a lot of different attractions. There is always a party, a public city event, or a new park to explore. And don’t get me started on the food! Philadelphia is packed with good restaurants, famous for its food-truck culture, and let’s not forget the famous Philly Cheesesteak. Within an hour you could also travel to New York City, the beach, or the mountains so I was able to get tons of different impressions without having to travel very far. One experience that I will never forget is when the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018. The moment the final minute ended, more than 700,000 people went downtown to celebrate the team and its win over the New England Patriots. Being in the middle of the hundred thousands of people who stormed Center City was absolutely incredible and will forever be a night to remember.

Having experienced all these incredible moments with so many lovely people around me makes me unbelievably thankful for the opportunities that Sandra’s helped me to achieve. Her constant support throughout the past four years has led to a friendship that I know will continue for many years more. I was able to extend my visa and work in Los Angeles for a year now. Sitting here on the beach and writing about the past 5 years in America puts a huge smile on my face. What an amazing situation! In general, if you are unsure whether you should take this opportunity or not, do it. It is an incredible, enlightening experience that will equip you with lifelong friends, connections all over the world, and everlasting memories that no one will be able to take from you. You will not just grow as a volleyball player, but also a person.

As my visa will end soon and I will return back to Europe, I cannot wait to meet Sandra for a coffee, laugh about the past and brainstorm about the future. I would recommend her and her VolleyUSA team to anyone who is looking into coming to America to play college volleyball.