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"Entering a completely different culture is difficult, but in no way negative"

Mhari Smith of Rocky Mountain College is a recent undergrad that has seen her hopes of securing an OPT (Optional Practical Training) slashed due to COVID-19. Having recently returned to Scotland we spoke with the Rocky Mountain star about her plans for the future and campus live within the 'treasure' state of Montana.

You begun your career in Scotland, can you tell us a little bit about which academy you were brought up in

I started playing for my local club Boroughmuir Thistle FC when I was around 9 which I loved. I decided to make the move to Hibernian FC at around 14 and had a really successful time there. During that time we won trophies both domestically and abroad, and I made my debut for the first team at seventeen which was a really proud moment for both my family and myself. I was also a part of the Edinburgh Sports Academy and the South East Regional team which helped develop my game all around.

How did your move to the US happen/why did you decide you wanted to make the move?

I had wanted to play in the US for quite a few years before I actually made the decision to do so. When I was younger there wasn’t a huge amount of awareness surrounding the women’s game and the US seemed to have that. There were also more opportunities to combine both education and very competitive football/soccer which I think would have been a lot harder for me in Scotland.

Eventually I heard about a smaller recruiting agency and reached out to them to get the ball rolling. They helped me through every step of the way and made the whole process as stress free as possible.

Tell us about experiences you’ve had and some highlights during your four years?

To be honest, it’s quite hard to sum up my four years over here. There have been plenty of ups and downs but without question the biggest highlight for me came in my senior year and that was being part of the team that got to the last sixteen of the national tournament. This was so special for me and us as a team because it was the first time in programme history that we had advanced that far. It was my final year and it was like all the hard work from the last four years finally came together. We were massive underdogs as soon as we got to the national tournament, so to beat teams ranked much higher than us and to be a part of school history is a feeling that's hard to describe.

How has life been since graduation? What are your plans moving forward?

It’s a weird time right now with COVID-19 and there is a lot of uncertainty but so far I’ve enjoyed life after graduation and the freedom it brings. The virus has impacted my plans for after graduation. I had planned to apply for my OPT (Optional Practical Training) where I can work in my field of study for one year after graduation in the hopes of staying and working potentially full time. In the end, I decided it would be best not to apply and move back to Scotland. My plan, as of right now is to take a year out and then head to graduate school.

Finally, what advice would you give to anyone looking to go to the states on scholarship?

As for advice for anyone thinking about going to the US, I would very strongly recommend going through a smaller agency. The one I used made sure that I was placed at a University that was the right fit for me. They were with me every step of the way and followed my journey all the way through. They didn’t settle for just any offer and focused on ensuring that both me and my coach were going to have a positive experience. The other thing I would say is to be open minded. Entering a completely different culture is difficult but in no way negative. I’ve built relationships and made memories that will last a lifetime as well as learning a lot about myself and others along the way. I’d also definitely recommend bringing your favorite sweets with you, American “candy” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!



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