Each year a handful of students here at Keene State College students pursue their education abroad with hopes of indulging in fascinating new cultures.
Leann Lam’s semester across the globe to New Zealand last spring was no different.
Lam is a 21-year-old senior at KSC and part of the women’s rugby club. She has been a part of the team since her freshman year on campus. Lam considered it a goal of hers to travel to New Zealand. According to Lam, New Zealand is known for its elite rugby play.
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“Since I started playing rugby, it was a dream to get to New Zealand at some point,” Lam said. “I was just really interested in their culture.”
Lam left in spring semester of last year for New Zealand and arrived after a nearly two-day flight.
She remained there for the next four months in the Wellington area, where she played rugby for the Old Boys University Club.
Going to a new culture and attempting to join a new team may seem overwhelming, especially when her new teammates are some of New Zealand’s best rugby players, but Lam took everything in stride. “It was amazing, I got to play with a Black Fern national player of New Zealand and played with and against other national players without even knowing it, so it was interesting,” she said.
Despite missing the spring rugby season at KSC because of studying abroad, her coach, Karen Johannesen, knew what an opportunity Lam had been given.
The KSC Women’s Rugby Coach, Karen Johannesen said, “I missed her while she was gone, but I think it’s a great opportunity for anyone, especially going to New Zealand for someone who is so involved with rugby.”
Johannesen added, “They are kind of number one in the world for that.”
Co-captain of the rugby team Caroline Hall added, “I was instantly jealous, but you know she really took the initiative. It’s good to know she was learning from the best and getting the experience of a lifetime.”
Lam said she was able to do things that she could never do anywhere else.
“I hiked a glacier and ATV’d through the mountains from ‘The Lord of the Rings.’ Everywhere you look there was an amazing sight. I lived in a house with nine other girls and the people I met were amazing,” Lam said.
There were also experiences on the rugby field that she was able to bring back with her.
“I went to all the practices and I learned so much that I am getting to apply here which is pretty awesome,” Lam said.
Her coach and teammates also took notice in differences since her return.
“I know that she brought back some new drills and some new ideas for us to try that have worked out very well,” Johannesen said.
Hall added, “I felt like she got recharged essentially. She is more committed than ever and I really noticed that she runs harder, tackles lower, and really motivates everyone to do the best that they can in a way that I know I have a hard time doing.”
Hall continued, “Most of our team now is consisted of freshmen and people who have never played rugby before so to see someone who was in their shoes a couple years ago and go abroad and have a great cultural experience,”
Caroline Hall added, “But also further their skills is a really encouraging thing.”
The women’s rugby team hosted its alumni game on Oct. 14.
The next game is on Oct. 20 at 10 a.m. against Western Connecticut State University.
Jay McAree can be contacted