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With the rise in South African sportsmen and women going to USA Universities, many people want to know what it’s like to study internationally and play for your country.

Sarah Lee Harris went to Arizona State University and represented both the South African and Australian National Water Polo Teams.

Sarah takes us through what it’s like to prepare for the Olympic Games and study in the USA:

Olympic Preparation vs. Freshman Year

When I think of my college career, I like to compare it to my Olympic Preparation. Every Olympic cycle is four years, which is the same duration as getting a degree in the USA.

During the first year of a new Olympic cycle brings a fresh crop of players, who are all excited, nervous and unsure of what the future holds. As a college Freshman, I had a similar experience; everyone is excited, nervous and unsure of what to expect in their new adventure.

The first year of my Olympic journey was a grind. It is all about finding your place, making new friends and rising to the challenge. In my freshman year of college, it was all about figuring out how to live with a roommate, making new friends and witnessing first-hand how amazing American food halls are.

In both environments, difficult decisions needed to be made such as; Should I have a breakfast burrito or fruit smoothie with some oatmeal for breakfast…

Sometimes this was a difficult decision, but Olympic gold was always on my mind.

Halfway through year one of my Olympic quest, things started getting tough. The excitement I had felt at the outset, began to wear off as fatigue set in and people started to fading away.

As a college Freshman, life is very exciting at the start; however, I began feeling homesick as the year wore on. The enormous workload, multitasking friends, and the practice schedule of a full-time college athlete became a daunting task, and I quickly realised how stressful being a well-balanced student-athlete is.

​By the end of my first year in the Olympic cycle, I finally got into a rhythm and began using the amazing resources at my disposal; such as my coach, teammates, and the support staff. After experiencing the hard work it takes to be an Olympian, I made a mental agreement with myself and promised to rise to the challenge that lay ahead.

As my Freshman year came to an end, it was a similar story. I finally settled into college life, built friendships with some amazing people and I realised that when life gets overwhelming, your professors and teachers are always there to help you.

If there is one lesson I learned in my first year of college and Olympic preparation, its is to make every second count.

Before you know it, your first year is over, and you have settled into the new norm. Don’t let opportunities pass you by, be sure to keep your goals firmly at the top of your priorities and know you are not alone in this process.

There are always people who you can count on to assist during the highs and the lows that will occur as you follow your dreams.