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Study Abroad in London Creates Lasting Impact Through Basketball

Students in the UConn in London Summer Olympics program took on a team from Westminster Academy during their sports day. (Holly Hennick/UConn Photo)

Students in the UConn in London Summer Olympics program took on a team from Westminster Academy during their sports day. (Holly Hennick/UConn Photo)

In a city currently teeming with large sporting venues, national team pride, and world-class athletes, 40 UConn students are helping to create a basketball culture that will last well beyond the Olympic closing ceremonies this weekend.

The students are spending six weeks this summer in London, England, learning about community building and coaching local kids in basketball fundamentals as the internship component of the UConn in London Summer Olympics Study Abroad program. The internship placements are in London schools, inner city youth projects, and the local women’s basketball sector.

“It’s interesting to come to a country where basketball isn’t a predominant sport. In most cases, we had to teach the children from scratch,” says UConn student Danielle Foraker ’13 (ENG). “Although difficult at times, it has really been a great experience. It was cool to see the kids be so passionate about a sport that most people do not play in their country.”

The internship placements were identified by Dave Hopper of Education, Training, and Citizenship, a London-based non-profit organization, and the UConn students are trained, mentored, and supervised by Hopper and Holly Hennick, a UConn student and former UConn in London participant, who helped recruit students for the Summer Olympics program.

The resident director for UConn in London, Jill Fenton, says, “I read the students’ reflection logs each week, and over and over again they express their absolute joy in passing on basketball skills. Our students are delighting in making a real difference in communities where everyday life is really very difficult.”

From left, UConn students Amy Pandolfi, Megan Portz, Molly Ross, and Emily Spriegel show their patriotism during the Summer Olympics in London. (Holly Hennick/UConn Photo)

From left, UConn students Amy Pandolfi, Megan Portz, Molly Ross, and Emily Spriegel show their patriotism during the Summer Olympics in London. (Holly Hennick/UConn Photo)

Inspired by UConn’s strong presence at the Olympics, with head basketball coach Geno Auriemma and six alumni representing the U.S. at the Games, the UConn Summer Olympics Program seeks to align the culture of basketball with the broad goals of UConn in London’s global citizenship track, says Dorothea Hast, assistant director of UConn’s Office of Global Programs.

In addition to the basketball internship, students take courses in which they learn about complex global issues, ranging from gender inequities in sports to urban poverty. The courses are: London and the Olympics, a Cultural History; Shakespeare; Media, Politics, and Society; and London’s Global Geographies. Classes are held at the Florida State University Centre in central London.

“The best part is that we learn things in class, then immediately go out afterwards and see what we’ve been discussing,” says Molly Ross ’14 (CLAS). “I read two Shakespeare plays, and then got to see them performed live at The Globe. It really gives you a more complete view of what you’re learning. I had a completely different impression of the plays reading them vs. watching them.”

From left, Christine Sutter, Kelsey LaBranche, Hayley Knowles, Cosette Chaput, and Megan Puglia worked as volunteers at Victoria Park during the Olympic Games. (Holly Hennick/UConn Photo)

From left, Christine Sutter, Kelsey LaBranche, Hayley Knowles, Cosette Chaput, and Megan Puglia worked as volunteers at Victoria Park during the Olympic Games. (Holly Hennick/UConn Photo)

No trip to London during the Olympics would be complete without attending a sporting event, and each student is provided with tickets to two basketball games. They also attended a reception in honor of Geno Auriemma and the UConn alums on the U.S.A. Basketball Women’s National Team, where they met and collected autographs from the basketball champions. The reception was hosted by the Alumni Association, the UConn Foundation, the School of Business, and the Office of Global Programs.

For more information about Study Abroad programs in London, which are offered in both the fall and the spring as well as during the summer, visit the UConn in London website or the UConn Study Abroad site.

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