By Erick Lehman, MANAGING EDITOR
Being a college athlete is a great honor, and a great privilege for many.
You’re able to continue your athletic career beyond high school and earn an education at the same time.
It’s something all athletes want to do.
For Jordan Ewald, being a college softball player is a truly a blessing.
“As cheesy as it sounds, being a college athlete is a dream come true,” Ewald said. “I get to continue to play a sport that I love and continue my education at a higher level.
“It’s something I’ve worked towards for as long as I can remember, and being a collegiate athlete is all I could really ask for.”
Ewald, however, is not just a college athlete anymore.
She can be considered a college athletics ambassador, of sorts.
Over spring break in early March, Ewald found out she would be representing the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the United States of America in France for the 13th-annual International University Sports Federation (FISU) Forum.
Ewald, a sophomore infielder and journalism and communications double major at UM-Dearborn, will be one of two representatives from the United States in Montpellier, France from July 4-9.
Each university in the country is allowed to nominate one athlete to be potentially selected to represent that country at the event.
Ewald was approached by head volleyball coach Eric Stark about the opportunity, and was told she was going to be nominated.
Ewald said when she was working her shift at the Wellness Center, Stark came in and asked what her plans were for the summer, informing her of the event.
“He told me about this forum that was open to all universities in the country, and each school got one nomination and he wanted to nominate me,” Ewald said.
After an application process, a short essay and a phone interview with the board, Ewald was informed that she was going to be representing the school and country in France.
“I am really excited,” Ewald said. “I’m a little nervous because I’ve never left the country before, and I’m apprehensive because I’m going alone, essentially.”
Ewald and another representative from Columbia College in Columbia, Mo. will be heading to France to speak with other collegiate athletics from all over the world.
At the forum, they will be listening to speakers and breaking off into groups to discuss sports, education and culture.
The FISU forum is a conference that meets every two years at a different location all over the world, with representatives from 60 or more countries.
“You get together to talk about sports, culture and education and how they all interplay with one another, and their impact that they have,” Ewald said. “My understanding is when I get there, they’ll do speakers in the morning and you’ll get in small groups and discuss, so you’ll spend your days going back and forth to those types of things. They also have culture fairs.”
Ewald is hoping to take a lot from the event and learn as much as she can from the different speakers and people she will interact with during the six days.
“I’m excited to see what other countries have to offer with sports,” Ewald said. “They asked me in the interview if I was aware that other countries don’t have collegiate sports, and I wasn’t. I’m interested to see how these kids go on, if it just ends after high school.”
Ewald is excited to learn about the importance of sports in other countries as well, and if sports get as big of an emphasis as they do here in the United States.
“At some point in your life, you want to be a professional athlete, and I’m interested to see if those are the types of dreams those kids had when they were growing up,” Ewald said. “I want a better understanding of what is going on in their minds.”
The excitement about the opportunity to travel and partake in the festivities is accompanied with some nerves and apprehension, however.
“I’m nervous about being so far away,” Ewald said. “I don’t know what the communication level will be like.”
The communication with friends and family back home is not the only type of communication levels that worry Ewald. Being around athletes from different countries means there will be a language barrier present.
“Honestly, I didn’t think about the language barrier until people started asking me about that,” Ewald said. “They might have translators, but there are a lot of universal terms in sports that might be a common ground. I’m interested to see.”
Ewald will be the first person from UM-Dearborn to head to the FISU Forum, and there is a lot of excitement from faculty members in the athletic department.
“We are extremely excited for Jordan,” athletic director Matt Beaudry said. “She embodies being a student athlete through her commitment to excellence in competition, the classroom and community. It is a tremendous accomplishment to have one of our student athletes selected to represent the University of Michigan-Dearborn, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the United States. She’s very deserving of this honor.”
Ewald shares the same excitement, as she is taking on the responsibility as an ambassador for collegiate athletics in the country, and for the university.
“I’m really excited and proud of myself. Everything I’ve done for so long is coming together,” Ewald said. “Working really hard with schoolwork and sports and making great relationships, it feels good to represent a school I’m really proud of.
“Some people look down on UM-Dearborn and don’t appreciate what’s going on; it’s really nice to be able to represent them and put us on the map. You want to go out and represent your school and your sport elsewhere. We put a lot of work in around here and sometimes we don’t get the recognition we deserve.”
Ewald and the other representative from the United States will leave a few days early from Detroit and fly into Paris to spend a few days sightseeing and doing tourist activities.
The two will be accompanied by Lori Thomas, a board member of the United States International University Sports Federation.
They will then take a train to Montpellier to take part in the six-day event.
The biggest takeaway Ewald hopes to get from this event is to gain better knowledge about sports and the sports culture in other countries — mostly about women in sports.
“I want to go into sports broadcasting, and in my interview they talked about how women are underrepresented in sports and over here they have it better than other places,” Ewald said. “I want to know what it’s like in other countries and how they deal with it. It might give me better opinions when I come back from a global consensus.”
It will be an opportunity and a time that Ewald likely will never forget. Not many college athletes can say that they are one of two student-athletes going halfway around the world to say they are representing their country. Ewald is one of them.