This past week, LEAP Worldwide got to talk with Kellie Joyce, an American hockey player who took the LEAP to Belgium! Read on to hear more about her story and life while playing abroad!

Kellie began playing hockey when she was in elementary school at age 12. After playing throughout the rest of her schooling, upon graduating high school she went to play at the University of New Hampshire for four years in the NCAA Division One, which is America’s top league at the college level! At the end of her senior season, she tried out for the U.S. National Team, and was invited to train for four months. Now, Kellie is currently playing on the U.S. Women’s Development Team, and it committed to play at a high level for as long as possible.

After training with the National Team, Kellie started looking into playing abroad, “because it is a great way of gaining international experience.” Her method for finding out more about overseas opportunities was by reaching out to a few college coaches she knew had connections abroad. She says, “A former assistant coach at Northeastern University, Ben Howarth, coaches at a club program in Brugge and that is where I first heard of the opportunity to play in Belgium.”

 Though Kellie wasn’t aware of LEAP before she headed for Belgium, she reckons using the app to secure her abroad opportunity would have been very helpful. She says, “I think it could have been a huge benefit because I did not have much knowledge or guidance on how to choose a club…I have had a great experience here so I do not regret my decision, but it would have helped to have more information.” Kellie tells us she would definitely consider returning for another stint abroad in the future, and the LEAP Worldwide looks forward to helping her find that next destination! Though she doesn’t have a specific dream team, she tells us, “playing in Holland at a high level would be a great opportunity. I have also thought about playing in countries such as Ireland or Australia.” With LEAP Worldwide, Kellie will be placed in direct communication with coaches and leagues in whatever location she chooses to pursue. Plus, she’ll even be able to connect with other international athletes that played abroad in those places prior!

Kellie chose to live with a host family while playing in Belgium, and that decision resulted in the connections that now make up her favorite part of the entire abroad experience! She says, “I now feel like a part of the family and it is an amazing way to really experience the culture.” What makes this even more amazing is the language barrier that Kellie and her host family had to overcome! Kellie tells us, “For the first month I arrived, my host parent and I communicated solely through google translate on our iPhones. After two months of being around the language and having to coach the children of the club in French, I can speak a lot better and do not need to use it anymore!” Kellie came out of this situation that many would describe as vulnerable not only with new language and cultural skills, but with an entire group of people she now can call family. Invaluable new relationships make up one of the many amazing things that stem from playing overseas, and LEAP Worldwide wants to help you reap the benefits of competing abroad.

We want to thank Kellie for taking the time to share her experience with us, and we wish her the best as she puts in work for the U.S. Development Team! To keep up with Kellie and the rest of the LEAPers, sign up with LEAP Worldwide! Click below and join the always growing international community!

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