Andrew Kuchmeister is a former FirstPoint USA client who has been studying at Missouri Valley College. He has been very accomplished both academically and athletically so far:
- Daktronics NAIA Menís soccer All American scholar in both 2009 and 2010
- Missouri Valley College Deans list in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010 and Spring 2011,
- Missouri Valley College scholar award for the business management major and named the most outstanding senior for the entire business division for the graduating class of 2011.
- Heart of America 3rd team all conference soccer player in 2010
- Missouri Valley College Soccer defensive player of the year in 2009
- NAIA Champion of Character award for the first round of the national tournament in 2010.
- Team Captain senior year and led team to its first national tournament match in the history of the school.
Andrew has kindly taken some time out to reflect upon his experiences in the USA with us:
Why did you choose First Point USA and the American scholarship route over any other?
The main reason that I chose the American scholarship route was that I wanted to continue to play football at a high level but at the same time I knew the importance of getting a college degree as any potential football career can end in an instant. As soon as I heard about the opportunity for a football scholarship it sounded perfect for me as it incorporated everything that I wanted to do as well as experience a different culture in a country that always appealed to me. I chose FirstPoint USA to handle the process because as soon as I met Andrew Kean I could tell he had a great passion for the whole experience and I liked how he has been over on a scholarship himself and was able to share his stories with me. I also liked the fact that he, like myself, is a Dunoon man who had gone over to play at a high level and achieved a great deal following his scholarship. In the end I am delighted with my decision as they secured me a very good scholarship and made the entire process so much easier by helping me through every step of what can otherwise be a very long and confusing process.
How did you feel when you first went to America and what were your main worries?
When I first went to America I was only 17, so it was quite a scary time for me. It was also the first time I had lived away from home so I was also quite nervous about that. I was however at the same time very excited to start playing and meet my new team mates as I knew that there were about eight other boys from the United Kingdom going to play at the same college. My main worries were, not knowing what the standard was going to be like and how I would compare, not knowing if I was going to be in good enough shape as I had heard that the Americans are physically very good. I was also very concerned about the heat and humidity as Missouri is sometimes as high as 40íC in August and has very high humidity and I was not sure how I was going to be able to adapt to the heat as it is not really a problem we have in Scotland!
What is your impression of the University and its facilities?
My first impression of the Missouri Valley College was that the campus was very nice. It was smaller than what I expected but since I didnít have car I was happy that I would easily be able to walk everywhere. The sports facilities were unlike anything that I had seen in the United Kingdom. College sports are so big over there and the amazing facilities really demonstrate the importance of the sports teams to the college. Even though my college was small in comparison to a lot of colleges in the country, there were still big stadiums for the sports teams and very well equipped gyms to work out in. My scholarship also included a food plan attached to it and the cafeteria and meals were of very good quality with the majority of foods focused around the fact that there were a high number of athletes eating there. For example, there was always pasta and also usually chicken, rice and salads to eat. I was also very surprised with the diversity of my team for some reason I thought it would be mostly British and Americans but when I got there I found that there were around 15 nationalities represented and the majority of the players came from Britain, Spain and Brazil with very few from America.
Can you reflect upon the benefits of having an American college experience compared to the opportunities you may have had at home?
I believe that there are many advantages to having an American college experience compared with back home. One of these for me was the opportunity to continue to play football. I believe that if I had gone to university back home, it would have been difficult for me to continue to play at a high level because of the student lifestyle and the time constraints that both playing at a decent level and studying for a degree have, However, in going to America, it meant that not only did I get to continue to play but it was of vital importance that I did in order that I continued to receive my scholarship. Another advantage that I believe I gained is the fact that my college, like many others in the country, is a liberal arts school. This means that you take a wide variety of classes in areas such as science and history in your first year and then specialize more on your major in the following years. The result of this is that you gain both a broad education across the spectrum of the arts and sciences and also a deep education in one specific field which interests you most. This allows people to take classes and find out what interests them most before committing to a major field of study which can be great for people who are not sure on what they want to study.
How easy was it for you to meet people?
When I went to America as a freshman, I was quite nervous about how I would meet people. However once I was there I found that it was very easy to meet people and socialize with them. At my college, the athletes who participate in fall sports (August to December) such as the both the menís and womenís soccer teams, the American football team and the womenís volleyball team all arrive on campus a week before the rest of the students, therefore there was a lot of time to meet new friends before classes begin. Also, although sometimes we would practice up to three times a day during the pre season, there was a lot of time between practices where there were team bonding activities so making friends was very easy. For all incoming freshmen, including those who are not athletes, there was also a day called freshman orientation where there were team games, bbq and pool party and just generally a time to meet people and make friends so that was another opportunity.
What advice would you give to other future potential clients about going to America?
One piece of advice that I would give to potential clients about going to America is that it is vital that you remember that you are going over there as a student-athlete, each of these terms is just as important as the other one as if you decide that one is not important then your time in America will be short. On too many occasions we had players in our team who loved the soccer aspect but did not take the academic part serious and found themselves below the grade requirements which made them eligible to play and therefore lost parts of their scholarships. It is really not difficult to attain this minimum grade level but it does require you to attend classes and this was the downfall of a lot of players in my team. Another piece of advice I would give to clients is, I know we all have dreams of attending one of the enormous schools but donít dismiss the schools which are slightly smaller when deciding where to attend, Missouri Valley College has only around 1,700 students which is tiny in comparison to a lot of colleges but I found this to be a positive experience as the campus was very friendly and it was very much a sense of community. Also, the class sizes are much smaller which means that you have more one on one time with your professors. Another piece of advice I would give is donít worry if you do not go over there and become a superstar in your first season. Often it takes time to adapt to the game in America, it is very fast and the players are very athletic. With a very short time between when you first go out in August and the start of the season, it can be difficult to adjust. In my freshman year I found myself sometimes coming off the bench sometimes playing a half and it was frustrating at times but you really just have to give yourself a season or two to settle in and it will come good for you.
What have been your main achievements academically and in athletics?
I have managed to be quite successful in my time in America with regards to achievements in academics and athletics. Academically, I was a Daktronics NAIA Menís soccer All American scholar in both 2009 and 2010, I was listed on the Missouri Valley College Deans list in Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring 2009, Fall 2009, Spring 2010, Fall 2010 and Spring 2011, I was also given the Missouri Valley College scholar award for the business management major and named the most outstanding senior for the entire business division for the graduating class of 2011. Athletically, I was a Heart of America 3rd team all conference soccer player in 2010, Missouri Valley College Soccer defensive player of the year in 2009, given the NAIA Champion of Character award for the first round of the national tournament in 2010. I was also named the captain of my team in my senior year and lead my team to its first national tournament match in the history of the school.
What has been the highlights for you in American college life so far?
My entire experience in America has been something I could never have dreamed about. There have been too many highlights to name them all but here are a few. Meeting new friends is one of the main ones. Over the past four years I have met so many great friends from all over the world, I now have friends in over thirty different countries in the world and this is something that I never thought would be possible, football has also been unbelievable. I have developed my game so much in the past four years. When I went to America I was an attacking midfielder however after my freshman year, my coach told me that he believed that my game was more suited to center back so I managed to put on about 2 stone of muscle through a lot of hard work in the gym and turned into a tough tackling center back. So much of my development has been down to my coach Vladimir Simic who was fantastic and I owe him so much for everything that he has done for me. Another highlight for me was meeting my now fiancť two years ago. She is an American girl and we are getting married next summer which I greatly look forward too. Another highlight for me was managing to earn a full academic scholarship to the University of Missouri to do my Masters in Business Administration next year so I look forward to continuing my studies in America. All in all the entire experience has been amazing just experiencing the American college way of life is something that I feel very lucky do have done.
What has been your stand-out moment in your football career at University so far?
The stand out moment in my college football career was undoubtedly my final season when I was captain. In my second last season we had lost the conference playoffs by a penalty shootout at home which meant that we did not make it to the national tournament the whole
team was devastated. However, in the last year we came back stronger and managed to get ranked in the top 20 in the NAIA which was the highest ranking the college had ever achieved. After this we managed to win the conference tournament which was another first for the college. Then we got to go to Nebraska for the national tournament where unfortunately we were beaten by the eventual winners from Hastings, Nebraska but the whole experience was unforgettable and something that will live with me for a long, long time.
What are you studying and how did you find the balance between your study and Sport?
When at Missouri Valley College, I did a double major in management and finance. Sometimes the balance between studying and sport can be quite challenging. It is worst when you have a long away trip and a test the following day, this can often lead to you trying to read a textbook with a bus full of singing boys which can be very challenging let me tell you and often some very late nights. However, the professors tend to give you plenty of warning for tests and also assignments that may be due so it is important to organize and plan your studying accordingly. If the team are not doing particularly well in classes, our coach would sometimes make us all go to a study hall at night where we would all bring our homework and he would sit at the front and make sure your working.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
I am not entirely sure where I will be in five years time. Following my masters in business, I hope to gain some experience working, possibly in a management position, and then perhaps one day start my own business of some kind. I also hope to continue playing and look for teams to go on trial with following the completion of my masterís degree so perhaps I will be able to keep playing. But whatever I go on to do, I will always look back on my experience in America with great memories and I owe great thanks to FirstPoint for their hard work in making the whole experience possible.
We would like to thank Andrew for taking the time to reflect over his experiences with us and wish him continued success in the future.