Four years of college all come to an end with graduation, and for many student-athletes, this is the end of their athletic career. For others, this is the beginning of a whole new journey, be it continuing with their sport or going abroad to teach. We sat down with three student-athletes to ask about their plans after graduation. Below, Karen Gonzalez, Dylan Hite and Julie Spencer share their post-grad plans.
Rowing: Karen Gonzalez, global business marketing and Spanish
Senior rower Karen Gonzalez fell in love with Spain the fall of her sophomore year in 2017 when she studied abroad in Granada. She returned to Spain this past summer 2018 for an internship in Mallorca, where she met even more people and began searching for more opportunities to return.
While on an excursion, she met two nurses teaching English in Madrid. Meeting them piqued her interest in returning to Spain to teach.
“As a global business marketing major, I had never really imagined myself teaching,” Gonzalez said. “I volunteer at César Chávez and I tutor and those opportunities have given me an inside look to what I’m going to do in Spain.”
After graduation, Gonzalez will participate in the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE). The program will help her find housing in Spain, help her apply for a visa and other insurance documents and will place her in a school in Madrid to teach English.
She said she wants to travel to learn about the rich cultures and histories of other countries.
“I want to grow up and learn more about myself,” Gonzalez said. “I want to travel and be able to make connections in Spain because ideally I want to work with clients abroad and use Spanish in an everyday type of situation.”
As for her team, she’s sad to leave the Pilot community but grateful be a part of it for these years. Her coach supported her with early morning interviews with representatives from the program that cut into rowing’s early morning practice time.
“They’re so excited,” Gonzalez said about her team. “My coach was very helpful and flexible with the process because she understood that I am an athlete but I’m also a student seeking a job and something else outside of the school so it was great to have that support.”
Women’s Track & Field: Dylan Hite, elementary education and French minor
Learning French has been a constant in Dylan Hite’s life for the past eleven years. She first heard about the Teachers Assistant Program in France (TAPIF) from her French professor, Madame Booth, during her freshman or sophomore year and always kept it in the back of her mind as an option for after graduation.
“I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to combine all my teaching and my love of the French language,” Hite said.
After graduating this spring, she will be a resident English teacher for primary-age students in Toulouse, France. As an elementary education major with a French minor, she feels that this program is the perfect synergy of her university studies.
“So much of my motivation and identity relies in French, in speaking French and learning French,” Hite said. “When I went to apply to the program that was a huge basis of my motivation.”
As a Division I runner, she never had the opportunity to study abroad through UP, so she found time to travel to France on her own time. Two years ago, Hite spent six weeks in France, traveling with her father as a pair of first-time travelers to Europe. The second half of the six-week period she spent with an old UP running teammate, Mathilde Sagnes, who lives in Montauban.
“I have this image of myself in a classroom with a bunch of kids speaking French,” Hite said. “I want to bridge that gap between French and English and be able to use both the languages I know in the classroom.”
While in Toulouse, Hite will spend time working in a classroom, but will also make time for eating in cafes, immersing herself in a different culture and continuing her passion for running.
“They know how important this is to me and how much I wanted this,” Hite said of her teammates. “They’ve been hearing me talk about going to France for three, four years and when I finally told them, they were like ‘yeah we knew that was going to happen.’”
After TAPIF ends next April, she plans on returning to Portland to continue her education with Pacific Alliance for Catholic Education (PACE), Portland’s two-year masters program. As part of the program, she will be sent to a lower income school in the Pacific Northwest, which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii.
“My biggest goal is to continue to figure out how to be the best teacher I can be,” Hite said thinking about the upcoming three years.
Women’s Basketball: Julie Spencer, social work
Coming into senior year, Julie Spencer wasn’t quite sure what she wanted to do after graduation. While reflecting on what she could do in the future, she realized that basketball has always been a bit part of her life and maybe she could bring that talent into her future.
“My coaches told me that they think I could play at the next level, that I have the height and that stats so I should look into this,” Spencer said. “It kind of sparked a dream inside of me that I didn’t know was possible until someone else told me it was.”
So Spencer decided she wanted to try to join a basketball team in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). Former assistant coach Brianna Chambers helped her put together a player biography and highlight film to send to agents. With the help of assistant coach Skylar Young, she’s been training every day to get better.
After seeing her play in the US, an agent from Denmark reached out, offering to help find her a team. She found a team, Pacisa Alcobendas, in Madrid and plans on signing after graduation.
While overseas, she is determined to find a volunteer service opportunity to give back to God and the community.
“Part of what I’ve always wanted to do and why I’m majoring in social work is because I want to work with the most vulnerable and marginalized populations,” Spencer said. “I feel like that’s what Jesus did and I really have a heart for it. This is something I want to make a priority.”
God and service are central motivations for Spencer’s actions. Reflecting on her time at Portland, the learning moments have been the most memorable.
When in Europe, her goal is to immerse herself in another culture and allow herself to grow and be shaped by the new relationships she will build abroad.
“These last four years there’s been a lot of great moments, but there have been more learning moment of struggle and character that were really hard to go though,” Spencer said. “I wouldn't have the work ethic, tenacity or drive today if I didn’t see myself as a person who needed to grow.”
Morgan Wahler is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.