COLUMBUS, Ohio Five years ago a star soccer player from another side of the world packed her bags and came to the United States to get an education at The Ohio State University and to play soccer for coach Lori Walker and the Buckeyes.
Today Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008 that classy young lady Lara Dickenmann, from Kriens, Switzerland walked through the graduation ceremonies at the Jerome Schottenstein Center with her parents in the stands, a degree in international business in one hand and enough wonderful experiences, opportunities and memories in her rear view mirror to ensure a lifetime full of success and achievement...on the soccer field and in her career pursuits. And that’s they way it should be when someone leaves home for a strange but exciting new place.
Dickenmann, who speaks four languages now, which will supplement her degree in international business extremely well, will soon leave Columbus, Ohio, and return to Europe to begin a career as a professional soccer player in France, in the French 1st Division. In advance of her departure, the all-time assists leader at Ohio State recently answered questions about her Ohio State career and her future endeavors. Here are her thoughts:
Where do you hope your degree in international business will enable you to work and what would be your dream job after soccer?
LD: “I would really love to work for a business or organization that is very international, where I could travel a lot and use different languages. The business should also be connected to sports somehow. My dream job would be working for FIFA or Nike, but who knows.”
What has four years been like in the United States and specifically at Ohio State?
LD: “Hmm, I could really write a book here. I got so much out of these four years, more than I ever could have imagined. The most obvious are that I learned a new language and got a degree. I really enjoyed learning about another culture and meeting people from all over the world. On the soccer team, I experienced what it means to go beyond your limits and challenge yourself every day. I got pushed very hard and learned a lot about myself physically and mentally as well.”
How has being in America changed you?
LD: “I think I'm a lot more open minded now that I got to know a different culture. Since the US is so much bigger than Switzerland, it really changed my view of the world. I think I appreciate my home country in a much different way than I did before, and in general am much more appreciative and thankful for the things I get to do in life. I'm much more independent as well, but that had to happen sooner or later anyway.”
What would you tell another foreign player about the benefits of coming to Ohio State to pursue a degree and play soccer?
LD: “First of all, Ohio State is a great school with great academics where you can get any degree you can possibly think of. Besides its size that is bigger than anyone in Europe can imagine, OSU has a very international crowd where you can make friends from all over the world. I even had a little Swiss family here. Additionally, connecting school and sports the way its possible here does not exist on this high of a level anywhere in Europe, which makes it much easier to get the degree you want while playing the sport of your choice on a high level. All the athletic programs are on a high level and the athletes are taken care of very carefully, whether it’s physically, mentally, or academically. For me personally, it was also great that I could go away from home, become more independent, but feel comfortable so far away from home so fast.”
What did you like about Columbus?
LD: “To me it was great that Columbus was a bigger city than where I grew up, but not as big as other cities in the U.S., which made the transition of moving away from home much easier. I also like that it’s a growing city with lots of potential for the future. The most time I spent off campus was probably in the Short North, which looked a little bit like home because all the stores are in walking distance from each other and there are a lot of cute boutiques and bistros around.”
Talk about the league and the team you will soon be playing for professionally.
LD: “I will be playing in the French 1st Division for a team called Olympique Lyon. Lyon is about two hours away from the Swiss border and about 4.5 hours from my parent’s house. It’s a pretty big city but not as big as Paris. I'll be living in an apartment by myself, however, the apartment will probably be in a huge complex where all the other international players from the team already live.”
Have you played with anyone on the team before?
LD: “No. I have played against some of the French girls on the U19 level with the Swiss National team. I went to their pre-season camp in the French Alps this summer for ten days, however, so I got a taste of what it’s going to be like. I met all of them [the team’s players] at the camp, but since then two or three more players that I don’t know yet joined the team.”
Do you speak French?
LD: “Yes, however not perfectly. I learned it for seven years in primary, middle, and high school.”
What other languages do you speak?
LD: “Swiss German, and German. They are pretty similar though.”
Is starting a professional soccer career a dream come true?
LD: “Yes! Ever since I was little I wanted to be on a professional team, however, I never thought it might actually happen since there aren't many opportunities for girls to become professional soccer players, at least not where I'm from. I still can't believe it and will only really do so when I get my first paycheck (lol). But money is not really important to me; I would have joined the team with or without the professional aspect. Of course, it’s nice to get paid for doing what you're most passionate about, but the fact that I can learn French, learn about another culture, eventually continue my studies and be a little closer to home played a big role in the decision to join Olympique Lyon, too.”
Will you work and play soccer or will it just be soccer for a while?
LD: “I probably won’t start grad school as soon as I get there. Therefore, I will probably take French lessons and maybe another language or some other classes, take the GMAT and maybe work for the first part of the year until I know whether I get into a [graduate] program.”
Will you wear Ohio State gear and will people know what Ohio State is when they see it?
LD: “Yeah, I will definitely wear Ohio State gear all the time! I made sure I have one of every piece of clothing before I leave. I don't think most of the people will know where and what Ohio State is though, but I'll be glad to explain.”
A Recap of Lara Dickenmann’s Ohio State Career:
- A four-year starter who exploded onto the college soccer scene in 2004;
- Named the national freshman of the year in 2004 and a first-team All-American;
- Helped the great 2004 Ohio State team advance to the NCAA Elite 8 and to a school-record 19 wins;
- Named all-Big Ten Conference all four years;
- The first Buckeye to be named to the MAC Hermann Trophy watch list, the award that goes to the national player of the year;
- Owns Ohio State single season records for goals (13), assists (12) and points (38);
- Also ranks first in career assists with 32, second in career points (89) and sixth in career goals (27);
- A three-time academic all-Big Ten honoree and a four-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete.