Directing Their Future
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” Dr. Suess’ aforementioned quote from Oh, The Places You’ll Go! is often used to inspire and encourage recent graduates regarding their next step(s) in life.
Suess’ words are also symbolic and reflective of Nebraska Athletics’ Post-Eligibility Opportunities (PEO) Program. The program not only provides financial support to recent graduates for an internship, study abroad experience, or graduate school, but it also allows them to direct their future and participate in experiences they may have initially thought unrealistic.
For international student-athletes, the unrealistic idea of being able to gain hands-on experience outside of the United States due to immigration policies is made possible by participating in an internship in their home country. Mate Koroknai, track and field letterwinner alum from Debrecen, Hungary, and Izabella Zgierska, tennis letterwinner alum from Miesbach, Germany, are two of the first international student-athletes to utilize PEO funds in this manner.
“I enjoyed the opportunity to intern in Germany because everything I learned during my time as a student-athlete at Nebraska is applicable to real life and other countries as well as in various situations,” said Zgierska, Marketing and Event Management Intern for Miesbach Sport and Tennis Club. “The internship allowed me to test out my career field, put into practice what I learned in my marketing classes in college, and connect with a number of high-level professionals in the sport and hotel marketing industry.”
Upon graduation, it’s common to see international student-athletes return home to train and compete for their respective national team.
“I was glad to find out I could complete my PEO experience in my home country, because I wanted to keep competing for our national team,” said Korokani, Electrical Engineering Intern at Medikai Innováció Kft. “My internship allowed me the flexibility needed to get my daily workouts done and gain hands-on experience in learning new programming languages and developing applications I didn’t think I would have had the skill set to develop a year ago.”
With limited work experience, both participants saw how the skills they gained as Nebraska student-athletes directly transferred to their internship success.
“Time management, being a team player, and the ability to work under pressure are three characteristics that helped me excel in my internship,” said Zgierska. “I was successful managing my time as both a marketing and event management intern and working in groups to prepare and organize presentations, meetings, and big events for the company.”
Koroknai also mentioned in the importance of teamwork as a track and field athlete and being able to carry out projects successfully within the workplace.
“Teamwork is the most effective way of getting the job done even in an individual sport like track and field,” said Koroknai. “With my internship, I realized that carrying out a project successfully is pretty similar to winning a Big Ten trophy – they are both a team effort.”
Having completed their PEO internships, both are eager to put their experience and skills to use as they direct their futures. Koroknai will continue working as an electrical engineer for Medikai Innováció Kft, while Zgierska plans to pursue an entry-level position with a large marketing and communication agency in Munich.
Reflecting on their experiences both as student-athletes and PEO participants, Zgierska summarized the gratitude they both hold for Nebraska and the continued support and opportunities they have received.
“My experience as a student-athlete not only gave me the opportunity to receive a degree and become a better athlete, it also turned me into a better person. Even when I graduated, the support from the university never stopped. There is truly no place like Nebraska, and I wouldn’t change the opportunities I had for the world.”