My name is Nadine Burbrink and my journey to come to the US to get my bachelor’s degree started in 2016 when I played at a volleyball tournament in Germany for Bavaria. We were at the Bundespokal and Sandra came up to me and my teammates asking us if we already had plans after Graduating high school. As Sandra talked to us about the possibility of playing volleyball abroad, I realized that I could accomplish both, traveling the world and playing volleyball, two things I love a lot. So, I eventually reached out to her and asked her for more details.
Everything afterwards happened very fast, and I started having coaches reach out to me and receive offers from schools, which was very overwhelming. Sandra really was helping me out because I was not able to make out which school would be a good fit for me since I had no idea about the American school and sport system.
I finally decided that Hillsborough Community College (HCC) in Tampa, Florida will be a good fit for me. Everything was set and I was so excited to start my journey for the fall semester in 2018, but then everything changed when I dislocated my shoulder and needed surgery. I had to cancel all my plans and press pause with the hope that the junior college in Florida would still want me in a year after my recovery. I was very fortunate and lucky that my surgery went well, and I worked hard to get back into shape as soon as I could by doing my rehab. So, I was finally set to go to the US in summer of 2019.
Looking back now my first year was like a blur because everything was new; new language, new school, new teammates, new coaches, new living situation, new friends. It was very overwhelming but also fun. Adjusting to a new environment came with challenges, but being surrounded by teammates from all over the world who are going through similar changes really helped make my first year easier.
Playing for a junior college was a great experience for me because I got to gain experience right away as a freshman as a starting middle. We even made it to nationals which was a surreal experience, but really bonded me and my teammates even more.
My sophomore year on the other hand was the year Covid hit, unfortunately we did not get to compete at the level we wanted to. However, I was also given another year of eligibility which I am grateful for. After finishing my junior college, I was not sure if I wanted to keep studying in the US, so I considered my options in both countries, the US and Germany. In the end, the US won, and I decided to continue my academic and athletic journey at Regis University in Denver, Colorado.
Both schools provided great experiences and friends that I will treasure for life. I think that the way that academics and athletics are connected in the US gives athletes a great opportunity to balance getting a degree while also following their passion and perform on a high level. I used to practice 3 days a week and I worked out once a week while playing in Germany but in the US, we practice up to 5 days a week and work out three times a week. Even though it felt like a lot, it was a lot easier to balance my academics with my athletic schedule.
A big part of this was that the coaches always allotted time for us to be able to study before or after practice as well as during travel time for matches. There are also plenty of resources that have helped with any course I’ve been struggling with on campus, as well as my teammates who might have taken the same class. In the end it comes down to time management and personal accountability.
On the other hand, once you step foot on your home court everything is forgotten because you are surrounded by family, friends, and fans that came to support you. This makes this experience feel almost surreal, knowing that I worked so hard to get here alongside my teammates and wanting to make our coaches proud.
Spring season is a complete other story because in the spring there are no official games, and you get to do more things outside of volleyball. During my time in Florida, my teammates and I would go to the beach or when my family came to visit me, we visited Disneyland.
Since I have been in Denver, I got to do a lot of outdoor activities in the Rocky Mountain National Park, I have also visited my friends’ families for holidays in Kansas and Nevada at Lake Tahoe. The US has a lot to offer to do during your free time and depending on the area you are in; you can plan little day trips or even longer trips than that.
The best experience I had so far since coming to the US was traveling to Brazil with my volleyball team here at Regis for or international tour. We got to do some sightseeing as well as experience sports in a different country. This trip really helped me and my teammates bond and makes us even more excited to go back in the gym and work together as I am now entering my last season here in the US.
I graduated last spring with my bachelor’s in business administration with a specialization in International Business and like I mentioned before because of Covid, I was granted an extra year during which I will work for a master’s certificate in project leadership.
I will always cherish the last 4 years I have had in the US and all the great memories I got to make with my friends. I am just as excited to start into my fifth year and make it the best one yet.
A great lesson I learned from playing volleyball here is how important it is to have shared values no matter your different backgrounds or views. As you step on the court you have the same goal and a shared set of values that you stick to. I grew so much during my time, and I would not change it for anything because it made me live my dream of getting a degree, playing the sport I love, traveling, and making genuine friendships. The most important thing to remember when coming to a new country is to be fully open to the new culture and take any opportunity as it presents itself to you.