Jayhawk Softball Player Spends Summer Studying in South America

July 27, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas softball outfielder Maggie Hull left the comforts of Lawrence to spend the off-season studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Less than a month after leading the Jayhawks with a .346 batting average and 49 RBI this spring, the Lawrence, Kan., native traveled to the South American country for a six-week study abroad program at La Universidad de San Andrés. Despite being KU’s only student-athlete on the trip, Hull felt the support of the athletic administration, namely head softball coach Megan Smith.

“It was awesome how supportive my coaches and the athletic department were with me going this summer,” Hull said. “My family was also so great and supportive, too. I have an older brother and sister who went to KU and studied abroad for a semester. With softball, it’s not possible to do a whole semester away and still finish in four years, so everyone was helpful in getting me there for a summer instead.”

The All-Big 12 Second Team member raved about the experience, as well as KU’s reputation for being a highly-regarded study-abroad institution after putting in a heavy summer workload. The junior-to-be spent at least four hours a day, four days a week on campus in the heart of Buenos Aires. The intense work in the classroom revolved around the three upper-level Spanish classes she and her fellow KU students attended during the course of the program, May 28-July 20.

“During the week, school was very intense,” Hull explained. “We were in the classroom at least four hours each day from Monday to Thursday. We had Fridays off so we could travel. One of my classes really focused on us exploring different parts of the city.”

The hands-on experience gained from traveling throughout the largest city in Argentina not only gave Hull a more enhanced view of the country’s culture, it also further improved her fluency in the language. Hull is a double major at KU, working toward bachelor’s degrees in both journalism and Spanish.

After a two-month hiatus from an English-speaking country, the NFCA All-Region Team selection clarified that it generally takes a four to six-month stay abroad to become fluent in a country’s language. Making the most of her two months, she returned to the U.S. with the ability to express nearly any message she needs to get across using Spanish.

Hull will return to Kansas for her junior season after experiencing a summer unlike any other. In total, she traveled to three South American countries: Argentina, Chile and Uruguay. With her KU classmates, she attended Tango shows, took dancing lessons and rode horses on an Argentinean farm.

Other than a trip to Mexico with her family, Hull disclosed that her South American travels marked the first time she’s left the country on her own. The junior didn’t stop after her six-week stint in the classroom, however. Following her time at La Universidad de San Andrés, she and her roommate traveled to Viña de Mar, Chile, to live with a Christian missionary. While there, she volunteered with local orphanages and made connections with several Chilean university students.

“When I first got there, I remember thinking to myself `Wow! I’m going to be here for two months – that’s so long,'” Hull said. “But then my time there went by so fast.”

Turning down few chances to learn or see something new at her summer destination made time pass even faster. Aside from putting in long hours on campus and traveling with her classmates on Fridays, Hull fondly remembers time she spent with her host family. One of her favorite memories in Argentina was a birthday party thrown for a member of the family.

Admittedly, Hull needed time to adjust to living in the second-largest city in South America and discovered a new found admiration for Lawrence in the process. As a collegiate athlete and a sports fan, she enjoyed her host country’s love of soccer but, again, saw the differences from her hometown.

“There’s nothing like college sports in the U.S.,” Hull said. “We have so many different sports and rivalries that we promote here. It gave me an all new appreciation for the University of Kansas.””This trip really opened my eyes to other parts of the world and how the U.S. is viewed in those parts,” Hull said. “I would love to go back and visit, but it also made me appreciate Lawrence and the community we have even more now that I’m home.”

Hull kept a blog throughout the course of her trip, below are excerpts from her summer abroad.

The Andes Mountains
“The Andes Mountains are by far the highlight of Mendoza. Technically, they aren’t in Mendoza. In fact, after nearly oversleeping and missing our ride out there, we joined a small bus of about 20 other tourists and started the three-hour treck to the mountains. However, the three hours felt like 20 minutes, I was so mesmerized by the beauty as we kept getting closer and closer. We had several stops on the way where we would be able to get out of the van to take better pictures and really take in the view. From a distance you can see two of the three layers of the Andes: the foothills and what is the most distant, the snow-top mountains and glaciers. About two hours into the trip, as we were getting closer, we stopped at a place to grab some coffee, go to the bathroom and rent snow pants and boots for the day! Not too long after that, we were surrounded by snow!”

Tango Night in Mendoza
“Our program went to watch `Una Orquesta de Tango.’ Tango is a huge part of the Argentinean culture and tradition. Next week is the lessons, but this week was literally an `orquesta’ that played Tango music. However, it was nothing like I expected. All the male performers were in street clothes and had long, shaggy hair of some sort. There was one particular accordion player with dreadlocks that would almost dance with his instrument he was getting so into the music! The singer had a very strong vibrato voice and would change outfits for almost every song. It almost felt like we were watching a musical! The night was even more fun because we all dressed up and got to spend a night on the city even though it was a school night!”

Weekend Trip to Montevideo, Uruguay
“Upon arrival in Montevideo, we walked around for a little while in La Ciudad Vieja, or the older part of the city, where there are now a lot of ferias, kind of like markets throughout the streets where they sell all sorts of goods from clothes, art, food, jewelry, and there is almost always live music somewhere. We walked into Puerto del Mercado and could not believe our eyes. Imagine about ten different restaurants all crammed together and overlapping, each one with a huge grill that has every kind of large meat that you can imagine! We searched around for the cheapest place and sat down. Alexa(roommate) got the chicken while I had `tire de asado’, basically a huge piece of beef! Meat is a huge part of Montevideo’s culture, similar to Buenos Aires.”