JJ Lofthouse Smith is a former FirstPoint USA Soccer Scholarship recipient, who is enjoying his academic and athletic lifestyle at Stetson University in Florida.
We caught up with JJ this week to find out more about his new life in the USA, and what advice he has for any other talented young athlete considering a Sports Scholarship to the USA….
Hi JJ, can you tell us about your Sporting background?
I played for Hayes & Yeading when I was younger, then moved on to playing for football schemes with Wycombe Wanderers and Chelsea.
How did you find out about FirstPoint USA and what made you apply for a soccer scholarship to the USA?
One of my coaches whilst I was on a football and education scheme with Chelsea told me about his sporting background, and how he had an amazing expierience with a soccer scholarship to America. He went through First Point USA and passed me on to them.
Were you happy with the offers you received? What made you chose Stetson University?
I had a large number of offers even though I was on the programme for a short period of time…such as in New York, California, Hawaii and Florida!
Stetson University gave me a full scholarship and a complete offer I could not refuse. The location of Stetson in central Florida which meant amazing weather, a shorter flight and only -5 hours behind the GMT gave me an opportunity I could not refuse.
How did you find the service at FirstPoint USA?
The service of First Point USA was incredible in every way. I had no problems at all and every member of staff was approachable, regardless of their position. I would recommend to anyone and have on multiple occasions.
How did you enjoy your game against John Hopkins University? (a visiting US University competing against FirstPoint USA client team)
The first game I played in was an amazing and was also very educational. They were NCAA Division III and to see the standard helped a lot with what I would be faced with when I went overseas.
How has your life changed since going to University in the States?
My life has changed in a variety of different ways. I am surrounded and play in a team filled with a number of nationalities and cultures. Travelling around the country, you see how drastic one culture is to the next and learn to appreciate everyone.
What are the benefits of going to University in the USA compared to the UK?
I was fortunate enough to be given a full scholarship, so collectively I paid First Point USA a fee, I pay for flights back and forth to America, insurance and some spending money. This amount is minuscule in comparison to the debt I would have had if I studied in England. I travel around the US whislt playing the sport I love daily and after the four years, I have a degree to fall back on.
How did you settle in and make friends?
Everyone made me feel at home and were as curious of my culture as much as I was of theirs. My teammates helped me settle in immediately and helped me with schedules, classes and other things.
What is your training schedule like?
We come to school before every one else for pre season training, so have full days to train. When school starts we train at set times each day. Usually we have a weight session in the morning and then a ‘soccer practice’ in the afternoon.
How do you balance your academics with your athletics?
Balancing academics and athletics is not easy, but there is a lot of help given to you. Teammates will always help you and other students you become friends with. As a team, we have study hall sessions and have to complete a number of hours weekly. The athletic department also pay for tutors if you are struggling in a specific class.
What is your social life like at Stetson University?
The social life is good. There are always things to do and palces to see. I am very lucky as the town I live in is just between Orlando and Daytona Beach. Regardless of where you go, you are always experiencing something new.
How would you rate the University facilities?
The facilities you play in and come across are of an incredible standard! You are treated like a professional athlete and therefore have the facilities of one. Having physio’s at the ready for any injury and to treat you efficiently is something not everyone has the luxury of, yet it is part of the day to day life of a student-athlete.
Have you experienced any homesickness? If so, how do you cope with it?
Being homesick is something that will occur, but if you treat it in the correct way you can deal with it. I kept myself busy, worked out, studying and/or did new things to help. We are very fortunate to live in a time where we have things such as skype to help communicate with those back home.
What advice would you have for anyone considering a sports scholarship to the USA?
If you are considering a sports scholarship, do not go in half hearted. It is an experience that can change your life and if you put everything into it then the benefits from it will be outstanding. You mix studying, travelling and playing your favourite sport all into the time you have there and it will build you memories and friendships for life.
Would you recommend FirstPoint USA?
I would recommend First Point USA to anyone and everyone who is interested in a sports scholarship. They care for each individual and they seem to be part of a team that act like a family.
We would like to thank JJ for sharing his experiences with us, and taking the time out of his busy schedule to impart some great advice from someone who has been through the scholarship process.
If you think the life of a student athlete in the USA is for you, then why not register for your assessment with FirstPoint USA today!