Dan McCarthy secured a soccer scholarship, through FirstPoint USA, to the University of West Alabama, in 2012. This week, we caught up with Dan to reflect on his first year in the US, and what his hopes are for his future at UWA:
Being given the chance to study a degree in a fantastic country combined with being able to play the beautiful game day in day out is one I would recommend to any sport fanatic who is looking to take their game to the next level. The first few weeks adapting to the different culture in America, the bizarre heat that Alabama holds & the whole 'leaving the parents' thing is hard, but they are some of the challenges I faced. Being able to release myself by practising twice a day and playing a few times a week helped this massively and allowed me to socialise with my team mates and make friends abroad, I will never forget. Being a first year program was difficult in places but making history as the first Men's Soccer team in UWA history was cool and with recording a 12-6 record with a 2nd place finish in the Gulf South Conference was something I am very proud of, also that feeling of scoring a goal in front of the fans in a 2-1 win over Delta State was a magical feeling.
Highs & Lows
In all honestly judging by the whole experience I've had in the states, there have definitely been more highs than lows. Some of the highs I listed above were ones that stood out for me, but also meeting new people from different countries, experiencing Thanksgiving & Spring Break, and improving my overall game were also enjoyable factors. Of course, there were lows along the way; leaving my parents and friends behind, suffering from heat exhaustion, and being injured a lot more than I planned set me back but these are things you have to take on the chin and move on with when being a full time student/athlete.
I achieved many things in my first year I am proud of and will take with me into my further 3 years; being made captain of the team was a fantastic feeling, scoring my first goal in a league game, making the semi final of the conference finals, achieving 3.7 GPA's in both semesters, and many more. I hope to achieve even more in my following years, with more goals, that first trophy and a better GPA is what I am aiming for.
Adjusting to the Lifestyle
Of course, it is hard to adjust to a different lifestyle when you are moving to the other side of the world having lived in England for the past 19 years, but though it took time it was an experience I'm glad I took on and if I'm honest I am starting to prefer the lifestyle of American people and the way they live. I feel the people here are a lot more friendly, and of course, having that English accent always helps, everything here seems so simple and made for you. Something I've really noticed, is how much cheaper most things are here. The fact that you can buy clothes and shoes here a lot cheaper, and also the Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving are a steal; you even get free refills on drinks everywhere which is something new!
Going into my Second Year
I am very excited to be going into my second year of college here in the States, I am one year older, with one year's more experience under my belt, and I am ready to improve on all aspects to make this year more enjoyable than last year. My main aim is to improve my performances for the team as I believe I have more to offer than last year with all the training I have done, running and weights have helped this & I feel fitter stronger and faster than ever. I also am looking to achieve that 4.0 GPA that every student craves and also to just enjoy my time as much as I can and take everything head on that comes at me.
Saying Thank you to FirstPoint
Everything I have achieved and wrote about in this blog is all thanks to the guys at FirstPoint USA, without them and their fabulous work ethic & services none of this would have been possible for me, and I thank them greatly for allowing me to pursue this dream. A special thanks goes to Barry Neville & Nicola Pitticas for their skills as my consultants and, of course, Mr Andrew Kean for making everything possible, My first year at the University of West Alabama has been one I will never forget, a roller coaster ride with up and downs but ones I wouldn't change for the world!
We'd like to thank Dan for taking the time to answer our questions, and wish him the best of luck for his 2nd year at UWA!