Emma Porteous - From Hibernian FC to Seton Hill

9 min read
Emma Portoeus made the journey from the UK to the US on a soccer scholarship. She†now plays her football at†Seton Hill University in†Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Before heading to the States, Emma played with Hibernian FC †and has also played at International level. She joins former FirstpointUSA client and staff member Andy McNab, who is currently head coach at the Seton Hill women's team. †We caught up with Emma who spoke in great depth about her first year in America.
  1. Can you tell us a bit about your sporting background pre-scholarship?
Before I attended university in America, I was playing for Hibs Ladies Development in the first division in Scotland. I had been at Hibs from U15s, and worked my way through to the ladies teams. I was also a part of the South East regional squad. Just before applying to firstpoint, I also was lucky enough to be included in the Scotland U18 squad, and gain my first caps for the national team.
  1. What originally made you choose FirstPoint USA and are you glad you did?
From about the age of 8, I had always dreamed of attending university in America on a soccer scholarship. So when the time came for me to decide to what I wanted to do after high school, I came across firstpoint USA online. I had also heard about it from other girls who I played with, and they had gone through the process. They had received lots of good offers and were in the process of heading out to the states. I'm glad I choose this company as it allowed me to attend seton hill university, which is a great place to be and live, and I couldn't imagine being at another university.
  1. Were you happy with the offers you received and what made you choose Seton Hill in Pennsylvania?
With the offers that I received, I was happy with the options I was given. I liked that I had options all over America to choose from, such as California, Missouri, Alabama, New Hampshire to name a few.†In the end, I chose Seton Hill for multiple reasons. As it is located just outside Pittsburgh, I liked that it was near a big city. I wasn't too keen on the universities that I had interest from that were in the middle of nowhere. In addition, being on the East coast meant that I wasn't as far away from home. After travelling on the west coast i have realised that there is in fact a huge difference in being only 5 hours behind Scotland than 8 hours.†I also chose Seton Hill because the assistant coach, who is now the head coach, is from Scotland, and I had previously met him at firstpoint trials when he worked for them. Knowing that there would be a familiar face there, and someone from the same country came me more confidence.†The PSAC conference that we are a part of was another reason in choosing Seton Hill. It has the number 1 team in the nation as well another half a dozen nationally ranked teams. This meant I knew I would be playing against talented and challenging opposition which is something you always want as a player in order to keep improving.
  1. Whatís been the highlight of your first year in the States?
I have actually been in the states for 2 years now, but overall there have been many highlights. In terms of soccer highlights, I think that being regionally ranked last season for the first time in the women's soccer program's history was something that stood out, as well as beating Kutztown University who are one of the top teams in the nation. Both of these highlights were big steps for the program.†In my spare time, I have made sure to visit other places outside of Pennsylvania such as Arizona, New York City, Las Vegas, and Cancun. Travelling to these new places that I may otherwise never have been lucky enough to have seen has definitely been one of the highlights of my time in America.
  1. What are the facilities like at Seton Hill?
The facilities at Seton Hill are great. We are lucky enough to have our own pitch that is solely for men and women's soccer in the fall. Also, I think this summer there is another 3G pitch being built that can be used for soccer just in time for the new season. We have 2 gyms, 1 for athletes only where we do our lifting in the off-season, and another that non-athletes use, as well as athletes in their spare time. There are multiple halls that we use in the winter months for indoor soccer when it is about -25 degrees outside!! †On top of all that there is of course the baseball and softball fields, basketball court, football stadium, etc. that are great facilities where we go to watch the other teams on campus.
  1. How does the focus on college athletics compare in the US to the UK?
It's unbelievable the focus the U.S. has on college athletes. The whole university is basically centred around the sports that go on. The money put into the facilities speaks volumes itself. It's obvious how much goes into the Athletics in the universities in the U.S. as they offer so many scholarships that are worth millions per team, allowing individuals to afford to go to university and play their sport. The difference between the focus in the U.S. and the UK is the reason I decided to go to America. I wanted to continuing playing football in Scotland but at that level it would have required so many hours from me a week that I feel university would have been very difficult to go to and do well in. With university being my main priority yet still wanting to play football, I knew America would be my best option. There they focus on making your sport fit in with your classes so that you can do both pretty easily.†It's important to remember though, as coaches always say, that you are a student before an athlete, as you won't get to play if you're not passing your classes!!
  1. Have you had any opportunities or plans to make any money while in the US †(Student/weekend jobs or coaching etc)?
Unfortunately, due to the amount of scholarship I receive from Seton Hill, I do not qualify for a "work study" job as they call it over there. Even if I could work, I do not think I would have enough time along with football and schooling. However, if you do qualify then there are opportunities throughout the different departments in the university that offer positions that enable you to work for them. These might include filming for basketball games, or the receptionist in the library.
  1. How have you managed your time between studying/training/socializing? It is difficult to manage your time between all 3 but it is doable if you are organised and good at time management. Now that I have been in the states for 2 years it has gotten a lot easier to split my time but in the 1st semester in particular I found it much more challenging.†I think a big thing for me is that I make sure that all my homework is done and submitted before we leave for soccer games so that I can concentrate on the game ahead and not have to worry about missing any deadlines whilst being away. This is especially important for overnight trips.†Our practice schedule rarely changes throughout the week therefore we know the hours ahead of time that we are required to train so this helps to balance my studies and training.†In terms of socialising, being part of a team and training together makes socialising an everyday thing! †On Saturdays, after our game is over, we usually do something as a team or with our friends to relax after a hard week of classes and soccer. Sunday's are our off day therefore this would be the time to maybe go to the mall, the movies, etc. and do your homework. There are so many fun things to do in the states when we are not busy with school or football; for example, we often enjoy going to Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games, or music concerts in the city in our free time. Socialising is big during the school holidays such as spring break, so make sure to travel the country as much as you can and take in everything the U.S. Has to offer.
   
  1. What advice would you have for anyone considering a sports scholarship?
My advice for anyone who is considering a sport scholarship would be to do it!! There's no better way to attend university and play sports at the same time. It's such a great opportunity to see another country, study abroad, meet new people from all over the world, and to become independent, whilst playing your sport and earning a degree. Make sure you start the process early so that you get a good amount of footage to showcase to coaches in America. This will be probably the only thing they see of you play rather than in person so it is important to make it the best it possibly can be.
  1. Would you recommend FirstPoint USA?
I would recommend firstpoint USA to anyone looking to pursue a scholarship in the states as they deliver exactly what you want. They take you through each stage of the process from rounding up all your footage to helping you pick your health insurance plan before you leave. Without them there is so many parts of the process you would have no idea existed yet are so important. They also ensure that you are promoted to all the best coaches, allowing you to have a number of offers available to you, and they will help you pick the best one that suits you. They got me to where I am today, and I love it so I am very thankful for everything they helped me with.

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