Edinburgh’s Emma Porteous found a new home in London this year having taken the long route – via Pittsburgh, where she excelled as a Seton Hill scholar-athlete.
In this exclusive Q&A with FirstPoint USA, Emma tells of her experiences in the States, offers advice for those thinking of following her footsteps and shares her pride in brother Ryan’s achievements.
FP: How are you today, and how have you coped with everything this year?
EP: I am doing well thank you. This year has of course been a strange one for everyone but I’m lucky enough to be healthy and keeping busy with daily life and work.
FP: Tell us what you are up to now - both professionally and in football.
EP: In academic terms, after returning from the States, I pursued a MSc in Global Security at the University of Glasgow. I graduated in December of 2019 and have since moved to London during the pandemic for work, sadly saying goodbye to the student life! With football, I continued playing whilst living in Glasgow for both the university and Glasgow Girls in SWPL 2 both of which were a competitive standard following on from Seton Hill. Having just moved to London, I will be looking to join a new team down here once Covid restrictions are less strict.
FP: Going back to the beginning of your involvement in football, when did you first kick a ball?
EP: I don’t really remember not playing football. It’s always been a huge part of my life and my family’s lives. My brother and I were always playing football together growing up. But I joined my first club, Bonnyrigg Rose, when I was 11 and have played ever since.
FP: Were you always keen to play football or were other sports pursued in your youth? What made football the one?
EP: From the age of three to about 15, I was dancing which, alongside football, took up any spare time I had outside of school. I had to give up dancing eventually as football training became a daily commitment as I started to get older. I always enjoyed football a lot more as I am a very competitive person, and so the winning side of the game always motivated me more than dancing would, therefore I chose football. Football was (and still is) a constant in my house too so that probably pushed me in that direction as well.
FP: Your brother Ryan was also developing as a young player - how helpful was it to be working towards similar goals in the same household?
EP: We grew up kicking a ball in the garden every day together until we started breaking windows and fences and we were forced to go elsewhere! No matter the weather, we were constantly playing, slide tackling and smashing shots at each other, which I'm sure has helped over the years in achieving our goals.
FP: During your school years, where did you want football to take you, what were your ambitions?
EP: I always knew I wanted to attend university and earn a degree in order to pursue the best career possible in what I wanted to do in the future. However, I didn’t want to give up football and so when I learned of the opportunities available in the USA, I knew it was the best option for me. I actually knew I wanted to do a sports scholarship from about eight years of age when I saw the movie Bend It Like Beckham! From that moment I knew it was what I wanted to do. Growing up, I always hoped to play for Hibs, the club I have always supported, and to play for Scotland. I was lucky enough to do both, playing for Hibs at senior level and earning caps for Scotland u19s too before moving to America.
FP: At what stage did a scholarship in the States become a possibility and why was it the right choice for you?
EP: I applied to FirstPoint when I was in fourth year of high school after researching possible ways to make my dream of studying and playing football in the States a reality. I then began the process of building up a portfolio to promote myself to the universities. As I have already mentioned, I knew it was the right choice for me in order to be able to balance my studies with football, whilst also being given an opportunity to see more of the world.
FP: Tell us all about the Seton Hill experience? Such as the facilities, the campus and the overall life experience?
EP: Going to the States and attending Seton Hill was one of the best experiences of my life so far and I’m so glad I chose to go there. The people I met and the fun memories I made were some of the best. In terms of the campus, it was an ideal atmosphere for me. It is such a close-knit community with a family feel to it. Walking through the corridors or going to the cafeteria, you would see so many familiar and friendly faces, which makes being away from home so much easier. I am very thankful to Andy McNab for giving me the opportunity to attend Seton Hill. I met him when he worked with FirstPoint, and he would then go on to be my coach at Seton Hill for all four years. It was nice to have another Scottish accent around campus! In terms of the facilities, they were great and to have it all on your doorstep (literally a two-minute walk from my dorm room) was perfect, especially when you have 6am training to wake up for and you can just roll out of bed!
FP: What were the highlights of your time in the States?
EP: The main highlights of my time in the States would be in my final year when we qualified for the play-offs in our conference - the PSAC. It was the first time in program history that the team had managed to do so whilst in the NCAA so to be a part of that team was very special. That season we were also nationally ranked on several occasions, which was exciting for the program.
It was also great to be able to travel to so many amazing places whilst being over there. With time off during Spring Break, Easter, etc. I made sure to take advantage of that. I visited places such as San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Cancun, and Miami.
FP: Do you keep in touch with many of your old team mates and classmates?
EP: I keep in touch with lots of my friends that I made both on and off the pitch. Time difference can be a pain though! If it weren’t for Covid, I had planned a trip this past April to fly over for Seton Hill Women's Soccer alumni weekend, which would have been great to see everyone again. Hopefully next year! Covid depending, I am also due to fly to Arizona in April 2021 for a Seton Hill friend’s wedding where I will be a bridesmaid! The friends you make will be the best part of your whole experience at university.
FP: What advice would you offer any future scholar-athletes before they begin their own sports scholarship journey?
EP: My advice for anyone who is considering a sport scholarship would be to start the process as early as possible so that you can obtain a good amount of footage to showcase to the coaches in America. This will more than likely be the only time they get to see you play and not in person therefore make it the best it possibly can be. I would also encourage potential student athletes to be open-minded in the recruitment process. Make sure to choose the university and program that fits you. I remember being advised not to focus too much on the location of potential schools but to look more at what that university can offer you. I am an example of that in moving to a small town I had never heard of before just outside of Pittsburgh and having it become my home away from home, and the place I have made some of my best friends and memories.
FP: How much did the overall experience help shape you as a young person and give you tools for success going forward?
EP: My experiences through Seton Hill provided me with the best platform for gaining life experience and skills to prepare me going forward. It was such a great opportunity to live in another country and culture, study abroad, meet new people from all over the world, and to become independent, whilst playing your sport and earning a degree. Having been through the process of several job applications after university, during the interview stages, my experience in the USA has intrigued the interviewers the most and definitely makes you stand out amongst the other applicants. The overall experience made me a much more confident person and pushed me to do things outside my comfort zone.
FP: What are your ambitions heading into 2021 and the future?
EP: Going into the new year, I hope to continue settling into my new life here in London and, like in the States, make lots of new friends and memories in a new environment. I hope that I will grow within my new career, and more importantly, continue to enjoy what I am doing.
FP: How much pride do you take in your brother's rise at both club and country level in the past year or so?
EP: As with my whole family, we’re all very proud of Ryan in everything he has achieved so far and hopefully continues to achieve in the future. We miss watching him play every week, although it has been good for the nerves! I have taught him everything he knows though and I'm sure he would agree!
FP: Finally, going back to your US sports scholarship experience, what would you say to young people thinking this route might be for them too?
EP: For those looking to take the same route as I did, I would massively encourage it as it truly was the best experience I could have ever imagined. I’ve made friends for life from all over the world and made so many fun memories. If you want to pursue a degree at university and continue playing football or any other sport at a high level, it’s definitely the best path to take. The support you will receive from your university and coaches will allow for you to balance the two so well and allow you to excel both on and off the pitch.
Inspired by Emma? Find out more about scholar-athlete opportunities in the US via FirstPoint’s free digital platform: https://www.firstpointusa.com/