Earlier this year, we sat down with our Swimming Manager (and 2 x Olympic Swimmer) Jemma Lowe to discuss her experience of college swimming in America and how it helped to prepare her for her second Olympic games. What made you decide to go to college in America? For me, I never really knew it was an option. I did my A levels and actually went to my first Olympic Games in 2008. It was after my first Olympic Games that I was struggling with my swimming and I wasn’t really enjoying it so much. It wasn’t quite as exciting in the UK anymore and an opportunity came up to go to America. One of the swimmers that was on the Olympic team was already out in America and they recommended it to me. I wanted to explore the option so I went on a visit out there and as soon as I saw the facilities I knew I wanted to go there. Going to America was the only option for me to save my swimming career and I wanted to know what the best in the world were doing over there. It was a good opportunity so I had to take it. Which college did you visit? I looked at the University of Florida in Gainesville and the facilities there are amazing so as soon as I saw it, I thought ‘yes. I want to go here’. Being in Florida obviously helps as well and I knew the swim team was really good. How was the whole experience of college in America for you? It was a lot of fun, really hard work and an amazing experience that I would never change anything for. You get a ‘team spirit’ experience which is awesome and something that you don’t really get in the UK, for swimming at least. It was just a really positive team environment, a lot of fun and very competitive with a lot of high-level swimmers. The coaches are really experienced and I learnt a lot from them. The support in general over there was great and I was really surprised and impressed by it. It was a lot of fun. How often would you compete at college? I was competing in America more than I thought I would in comparison to over here in the UK. You start competing most weekends in September all the way up until Nationals which is in March. Obviously you get a little break for Thanksgiving and then again for Christmas. Can you still compete for your country whilst you’re at college? Yes, that was quite important to me when I was going over there. I still wanted to compaete at the best competitions in the world, so I made sure I could still go to the European Championships, the World Championships and the Olympics. The swimming programme in America runs from September to early March and then once you’ve competed for your college (Conference meets and Nationals) then the qualifying competitions for swimming start in April. The main meets would be in the summer which isn’t when college swimming is running so if you’re still doing the work that you need to do for your classes and are still passing, then it’s not a problem for you to still represent your country. How did College help prepare you for your second Olympic games? The depth of swimmers was huge over there, competitor wise and there was a lot of high pressure competitions. The depth of competition over there is bigger so there might be 20 other swimmers that are of a similar standard and obviously in the Olympics, that’s the same. In the UK, the depth isn’t quite as big so there may be only 2 or 3 that are a similar level to you. I was also getting pushed every day by the training group. Even though I was one of the highest levels picked for the team, in training there were still swimmers that were beating me and I got challenged everyday. I think being in that challenging environment is a similar experience to being in the Olympics so the college experience was awesome for that. So we often get asked about coaches, were you close with your coach? Yes, in America one of my coaches was from the UK but had moved to the US ages ago to coach and he was very supporting, very welcoming and always made sure I was ok. Sometimes it’s also nice to have other coaches there just to get their view on things because I think coaches can get quite emotionally involved and they obviously want you to do well. College swimming is hard and they go through your emotions as well so they become kind of like your second parents going through the hard work with you everyday. It’s so important to get on with your coach Where did you live whilst you were there? For the first year, I was on campus. It was a really nice campus and obviously easier to get to everything. It was quite big so I ended up getting a scooter which was fun. After the first year, I moved on to an apartment with some friends which was just outside of the campus, so really close as well. Did you make a lot of friends whilst at college? Yes it’s like a big family. The was probably around 40 of us in the swimming team, so you end up hanging around with your teammates, then you also make some friends in different sports who you share classes with. You make friends for life. You go through a lot together and everyone wants you to win and do well so you do become a family. What do you enjoy the most about working for College Sports America? I love how passionate the team is and we all share the same passion. It’s great to be able to give the opportunity to swimmers like I had myself, especially when I didn’t know what opportunities were available in America when I was younger. What kind of person would be best suited to go to college in America? I think you’ve got to be brave. You’ve got to be someone who’s willing to work hard and is excited and passionate about their sport. Anyone who is open to opportunities and willing to take risks is a great fit as well. It’s quite a big thing to move away from home and your family so it would be best for someone who is really excited to experience college swimming. For more information about swimming scholarships in America, contact our team today for a FREE evaluation.