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Unpredictably Perfect Path

By Ashley Stone

Growing up, she wanted to become one of two things: Mia Hamm or an artist. To an extent, she’s accomplished both by way of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Sam Areman, defender for Nebraska’s soccer team from 2011 to 2015, grew up outside of Lincoln, Neb. with minimal aspirations of playing at the University until her sophomore year of high school.

“Growing up, my dad was in the Marine Corps, and from a young age, the constant moving helped instill a love for traveling,” Areman said. “I wanted to expand my horizons outside of Nebraska for college, but when I toured campus and met the coaches, Nebraska was a natural fit. I could not imagine going anywhere else.”

Entering college, Areman began studying elementary education with hopes of being an English Language Learners teacher. A part-time job at a daycare center the summer between her freshman and sophomore years quickly confirmed another career path would better align with her passions.  

“The support from Nebraska’s academic staff was instrumental in the process of knowing how to best prepare me for life after sports,” Areman said. “I was unsure of my professional path after soccer. I knew I wanted a major that was broad enough, but also aligned with my interests. Thanks to the aide of Nebraska’s staff and professors, I made the decision to major in marketing and minor in Spanish, setting myself up for future success.”

Areman expanded her potential at Nebraska by coupling her new educational interests with a sales certificate and an entrepreneurship and management emphasis, but still felt limited in finding time to participate in an international experience.  

“Being a student-athlete and heavily involved with sports throughout the year, I didn’t have time to study abroad,” Areman said. “I still had a huge passion and love for travel and was trying to find a time that would work with my schedule.”

Two windows of opportunity opened the summer after she exhausted her eligibility – Nebraska’s inaugural NoFilter service abroad trip to Guatemala and an au pair experience in Spain. With one semester left to finish her classes, she seized both.

“My interest in an international experience while completing my undergrad initially wasn’t looking too feasible. Luckily, due to timing, I was able to participate in the NoFilter service trip to Guatemala in May 2015 and then serve as an au pair in the Canary Islands for a few months following that trip,” Areman said. “I had a great experience stepping outside my comfort zone and expanding my horizons while giving back, and knew I wanted to go back [to Spain] and continue to grow and intentionally impact my future.”

Areman returned from Spain to participate in a sales internship with NRC Health (National Research Corporation at the time) and complete her bachelor’s degree in fall 2015. Little did Areman know, Nebraska Athletics’ would launch a program that semester to assist her aspirations of completing an intentional and impactful experience in Spain and provide financial assistance.

That program, now close to three years old, is Nebraska’s Post-Eligibility Opportunities (PEO) program, which provides Nebraska student-athletes, like Areman, the opportunity to use a $7,500 scholarship after graduation for a one-semester internship, study abroad experience, or graduate school coursework at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

“When I found out I would be eligible for PEO, I knew I wanted to go back to Spain and use the internship component of the program to help kick-start my photography career,” Areman said. “I used PEO to complete a digital marketing internship at ProductionParadise in Barcelona, an outland directory for photographers and production companies all over the world.”

Above: Areman poses for a quick picture while in her Digital Marketing Internship at ProductionParadise in Spain. 

Areman made the most of her opportunity and interviewed photographers and producers from all corners of the world – individuals at the apex of their careers and known industry leaders. The experience directly influenced her first professional job at NRC Health and strengthened her network, confidence, and dedication to her personal photography career.

“My experience in Spain directly transferred to my full-time marketing position with NRC Health here in Lincoln,” Areman said. “In addition to beginning this full-time position, I was slowly building my own wedding photography business, Sam Areman Photo – starting with 10 weddings my first year, 25 my second year, and this year, I will have 29.”

It should be no surprise that with the growth of Areman’s business and natural passion for art, running her own business and pursuing photography full-time began to occupy every thought and second of her day. In June 2018, two years after completing her PEO internship in Spain, Areman made the decision to pursue her photography career full-time, while keeping her roots in Lincoln.

“I feel so fortunate to have a career that fulfills me and is something I am so passionate about that it never feels like work,” Areman said. “Pursuing my dream full-time inspires me daily to keep climbing the ladder to where I want to get in my career – commercial and international photography. In addition, it’s been so rewarding seeing the impact I can have on peoples’ lives through my photographs.”

While she didn’t necessarily predict she would be pursuing photography full-time when she started at the university, Areman credits Nebraska Athletics for helping her navigate and pave her unpredictably perfect path.  

“Every step of the way, the people at Nebraska were and are still amazing. They not only help get you from point A to point B; they go the extra mile and help get you from point A to point Z,” Areman said. “I didn’t think going back to Spain after graduation was even possible without me having to go into substantial debt. It is crazy how unpredictable paths can lay out so seamlessly. My internship in Barcelona fell perfectly into place with PEO. The confidence I gained while abroad and through my hands-on experience was immeasurable, giving me the internal strength and self-assurance to live my dream every single day through Sam Areman Photo.”

Since its inception, PEO has distributed more than $860,000 in scholarship aid to 121 participants for experiences in 6 continents, 14 countries, and 18 states. To learn more about PEO, visit huskers.com/PEO

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