In this interview, you will learn more about the experiences of Slamstox hockey player Joséphine van Wijk as a student-athlete in America! Joséphine has been playing hockey her whole life and made the transition to Lafayette College a few months ago. Lafayette College is a prestigious university located on the outskirts of Pennsylvania, where she combines college field hockey with her studies. Want to know more? Read below!

Joséphine van Wijk – Lafayette College

Let’s start from the beginning, would you like to introduce yourself briefly?

I am Joséphine van Wijk, 18 years old, from The Hague, and I have played with great joy at HDM throughout my childhood.

Did you know for a long time that you wanted to go to America to combine hockey and studying? And how did you come up with the idea to do this?

I think I first heard about this concept (combining hockey and studying in America) when I was 14 years old. At that time, I wasn’t really focused on my future plans, so I didn’t give it much thought or consideration until it came up again later. I heard that a former teammate of mine was planning to do it. Additionally, I had a conversation about it with my grandmother, who was an English teacher and helped Slamstox athletes prepare for the English admission tests for America. She had a lot of contact with athletes who were heading to America and with Slamstox, and that’s how the ball started rolling naturally.

You are now a freshman at Lafayette College, how did you experience the first few months?

That question is very easy for me to answer: I absolutely love it! I knew quite early on that I wanted to come to America, and I was really looking forward to it. I’m thrilled that I took this step, and I can see that it’s a perfect fit for me.

I have found myself in an amazing team with incredibly kind girls, and we have developed a strong bond in a short period of time. Looking back on the hockey season, I feel really good about it. We train daily and often play multiple games per week, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Right from the beginning, I felt a lot of support from my teammates and coaches, which allowed me to step onto the field with joy and confidence. Game days were definitely my favorite days of the week, and something I always looked forward to.

I can’t say anything else but that I have not had a single moment of regret about my decision to come here, and I still appreciate every day that I have been given the opportunity to embark on this adventure.

What was the reason for choosing this university for you?

Making the final choice was definitely difficult for me. I was in discussions with several universities and I wasn’t quite sure what I valued most in making the decision. In the end, I narrowed it down to a top three of my favorite schools and had extensive conversations with coaches and players from those teams. The conversation with the girls from Lafayette was incredibly enjoyable, and I immediately felt a connection and resonated with their values regarding hockey, academics, and social aspects. That conversation certainly stuck with me and gave me a preference for Lafayette. But overall, Lafayette was simply the best option for me because it offered the level of both hockey and academics that I was looking for.

How was it for you to find yourself in a new environment? Was it easy to make new friends?

It was definitely a bit of an adjustment in the beginning, as expected. You find yourself in a completely new environment and culture, with a different language as well. However, I was fortunate to have an amazing team around me right from the start, and everyone here is always willing to help. During the first few weeks, we were in pre-season, so we only had hockey and no school. As a result, I was with my team practically 24/7, which made it very easy to quickly form a close bond with my teammates. Once school started, I also got to know people outside of my team, and that happens quite easily here. People are very open, and since Lafayette is a small university, you tend to see people on a daily basis.

How is your relationship with your team, and how is your relationship with your coach?

I find my team to be the most enjoyable aspect of being here. My team is incredibly close-knit, and we do everything together. A team here is much more than just the people you play hockey with. I live with a teammate, have the same classes as my teammates, and we often do things together outside of school and hockey as well. Since college is a four-year experience, you’re in a team with people of different ages, which is really fun. Everyone in my team gets along very well, and I find it incredibly special to feel such a strong bond within a team.

What is your game day ritual with the team?

That’s great! Could you please tell me more about your game day rituals in the locker room and on the field?
In the locker room, we all write something on a piece of paper about the game, and then we take turns reading them out loud. The funniest one wins, and that’s what we shout as our yell when we leave the locker room. This ritual brings some humor into game day and helps to alleviate some of the tension.

Then, on the field (when we play at home), after the line-up, we gather in a circle and our favorite song, “Alive,” is played.

How does a typical day look like for you as a student-athlete?

At the moment, it’s the Spring season, and we don’t have league games. We sometimes have a morning session with hockey where we train, lift weights, or do fitness exercises. Then we have our classes, and in the afternoon after school, we have a training session or a team meeting.

In the Fall, things are slightly different as it is the hockey season, and our focus is more on the actual hockey rather than fitness. We don’t have morning training sessions, so the day starts with school. During breaks between my classes, there’s time to enjoy a cup of coffee with friends or do homework if needed. Then, in the afternoon after school, we have our training sessions. After training, we always have a team meal together, and then we often go to the library to do homework.

How is the combination of sports and academics organized at your university?

I am very pleased with how it is organized for athletes here. Since Lafayette is a relatively small university, there is a high percentage of student-athletes compared to other universities. The combination of sports and academics is well taken into account, and both my coach and teachers are very flexible when there are overlaps. I haven’t encountered any major issues in balancing sports and academics since I’ve been here. Of course, some weeks can be busier and more stressful than others, especially when there are exams and assignments, but it is always manageable. Additionally, I have twenty other teammates who are going through the same experience, and they can help if any problems arise in planning and balancing hockey with studies. In addition, all athletes have a “mentor” in their first year, with whom they have weekly meetings to evaluate how things are going.

Do you have any tips for people who are hesitant about making the transition to the United States?

The only thing I would say is: just do it! I understand that it can be daunting and people may have doubts, I had them too. But this is such an incredible opportunity that you shouldn’t let it slip away. I absolutely love being out of the familiar Dutch “bubble” where I have spent my entire life, where you know exactly what to do and everything is familiar. The whole experience is so much more than just hockey and school. You get to explore a whole new country and its culture and, most importantly, meet a lot of new and amazing people. I am so glad that I took the leap to come here, and I have not regretted my decision for a moment. I am already looking forward to the next three years and can’t wait to start the new hockey season again!

Can you finally tell us a fun story about something you experienced this school year? For example, the funniest moment in the locker room, the most beautiful memory, an amazing atmosphere during an important game, or any other memorable experience with your teammates or other student-athletes.

I have had so many great experiences and stories to share, but if I have to choose one, it would be the game against Princeton. We, as Lafayette College, were perhaps underestimated in that game because we are a smaller college, while Princeton is widely known and ranks much higher in the field hockey standings. We played a strong game, and in the last minute, we earned a penalty corner. We were trailing by one point, so it was crucial for us to convert it into a goal. And we did! Eventually, we ended up tying the game and went into overtime, which we won. It was a remarkable achievement for us and will always stay with me as a memorable moment.

If you, like Joséphine, are also interested in combining your sport and studies through college field hockey in America, please fill out this form. We will be happy to contact you and discuss your possibilities.