Study abroad trip lasts for lifetime

Photo courtesy of RU Athletics
Radford University has enabled many of its student-athletes to study abroad this summer. One of those is lacrosse player, Colleen O’Connell.

Radford lacrosse player, Colleen O’Connell, took a three-week study abroad trip to China this summer that changed her life.

O’Connell, who started four games as a freshman before sustaining an injury, applied to be a Kirk Scholar in the fall of 2016 and was awarded the scholarship in January.

The Kirk Scholars study one year or eight hours of Mandarin Chinese and take a Chinese culture class. With a grade of B or better in these courses, they then receive a partial stipend to study for three weeks in the summer in China. While in China, the Kirk Scholars continue their language studies, travel in the country and visit sites such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and other locations.

Her counterparts for the trip included her Chinese language professor, Fu I-Ping, and three other upperclassmen students that were also awarded the scholarship.

“I am so lucky to have found a school that allows me to play lacrosse at the Division I level in addition to giving me study abroad opportunities,” O’Connell said. “Coach Marvine has been so supportive of my desire to learn Chinese and encouraged me all year long to continue my studies in China. My trip to China was unbelievable. It was amazing to see how culture in Asia differs from the norm of what we are used to in the United States.”

The Johns Creek, Ga., native explained her favorite day spent in China was visiting Shanghai Normal University. The students spent the whole day with Chinese college students and were intrigued to see what college life was like for students on the other side of the world.

“We really learned early in her recruiting process that Colleen wanted much more out of her college experience than just a degree and a Division I roster spot,” Radford lacrosse head coach Haley Marvine said. “She is truly someone who wants to get the most out of every experience and she puts so much passion into everything she does.

“Lucky for us, that applies to lacrosse just as much as it does her studies. For a Division I athlete, who performs at the level that Colleen does, to have this opportunity to travel abroad is almost unheard of. The fact that she was awarded a scholarship for the trip is even more amazing. I am so confident that Colleen is going to have a great career as one of the best attackers in the Big South and after that she is going to have a brilliant professional career doing something she loves. I hope that more young women who are pursuing college lacrosse realize that at the right university and with the right work ethic, these opportunities are within reach.”

O’Connell went on to say that walking on the Great Wall of China was one of the most sublime experiences of her life. She claimed, “It felt as if I was walking through history.” She also mentioned that climbing parts of the wall was not easy and when the wall came to a challenging section and the steps became steeper and steeper, she thought back to all the lacrosse conditioning workouts she did at Radford and was super thankful.

“Over the course of three weeks, I saw five major cities, was submerged into an entirely different culture, saw a country on the other side of the world and made memories to last a lifetime,” O’Connell concluded.

O’Connell is excited to begin her second year at Radford and continuing her Chinese studies.

— Courtesy of RU Athletics