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United States students Emily Dunkel, left, and Giada Bambi, who came to Otago in semester one as part of the Study Abroad programme, are farewelled by their Otago University Association Football Club coach Hamish Philip.

United States students Emily Dunkel, left, and Giada Bambi, who came to Otago in semester one as part of the Study Abroad programme, are farewelled by their Otago University Association Football Club coach Hamish Philip.

There weren’t too many culture shocks for United States undergrad Emily Dunkel when she came to Otago in semester one, but there was something that threw her.

“I was really surprised to learn that rock paper scissors is paper scissors rock here. Hearing that for the first time was a shock,” she says.

Another difference? Soccer is called football, but that hasn’t been such a problem for Emily, who played for the Otago University Association Football Club’s women’s premier team during her semester at Otago.

“I have such a passion for soccer that I wanted to continue to play while I was away from home. Some of my school’s alumni played soccer while they studied abroad, and they recommended the Otago club.”

Emily is in her final year of a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. She came to Otago for semester one as part of the Study Abroad programme.

Giada Bambi, who has just finished her third year of a Bachelor of Science in psychology and neuroscience at Grinnell College in Iowa, was also here in semester one as part of the programme and she also seized the opportunity to play for the OUAFC women’s premier team.

“I thought playing football would be a great way to meet new people while also continuing to practice so that I’m best prepared for returning to play back home. I’m super grateful that it all worked out so well,” Giada says.

“The team has been doing really well this year, placing second in the local competition and advancing to the South Island League (SIL). They will continue through that journey after I head home and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them. I’m sure they’ll crush it.”

Head coach of the OUAFC women's premier team Hamish Philip says Giada and Emily played a big part in the team doing so well.

“Each season we have players from all around the world join us and we welcome them with open arms. Giada and Emily both made a huge impact to the team and club. They brought positive energy and absolute class on and off the field. They are a coach’s dream.”

The OUAFC women’s premier team

The mighty OUAFC women’s premier team placed second in the South Island Qualifying League and has now progressed to the South Island League.

There are eight games left in the SIL, with the team next playing Coastal Spirit in Christchurch.

“Even with both Giada and Emily gone, the lasting effects on the remaining players will live for years. They were an absolute blast to have around, and we wish they could have stayed longer,” Hamish says.

“They’ve set a standard for all the players, and we wish them all the best. We also look forward to meeting the next international players who want to join us.”

Giada and Emily can both attest to the warm welcome they received from the club and their teammates.

“This team is one of the kindest, most welcoming teams I’ve ever been a part of,” Giada says.

“My coach Hamish, and all of my teammates made a great effort to make sure I felt welcomed and to create such a goofy and sweet environment for a small sense of community away from home.”

The team is made up of some of the friendliest, funniest people she knows, Emily says.

“They shared some New Zealand insights each practice and we had a lot of fun bonding events. The coaching staff as well were so accommodating. They allowed us to have the flexibility to travel and experience New Zealand while still playing soccer.”

As Giada and Emily prepare to return home to the United States, both women say their experience here has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Study Abroad has been an amazing experience filled with heaps of memories of seeing so many new people, places, and things,” Giada says.

“Going on exchange and picking this programme are definitely some of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Emily says being able to juggle her interests with study was a definite positive.

“There is just so much to do and see in New Zealand and on campus. I felt that it was fairly easy to find a school-life balance here allowing me to travel, play soccer, enjoy the social culture and still focus on school.”

During her time at Otago, Emily also played club frisbee and enjoyed morning dips at St Clair Beach.

“My favourite part though was the tramping [hiking]. There were so many beautiful places that I was able to travel to.”

And in true Dunedin student style, she spent some time ‘under the roof’ at the city’s stadium.

“I really enjoyed going to Highlanders games. I found a new love for rugby!”

*More information about the Study Abroad programme

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