Tjorven Bruns

Harris Stowe University (formerly JFV Bremen)

After more than four months in the US, I have returned home for a few days to take a little break from the biggest adventure of my life so far.
 
Before I started my journey in July, I was extremely nervous, and sad to leave all my friends and family behind. When I arrived in St. Louis, our coach picked me and two other teammates up from the airport. I was fascinated by the new country and the environment. The first few nights in the apartment we had to do without blankets and pillows. But since the temperature went up to 40° in the summer, that was no problem. Even with that, we were able to settle in and get everything taken care of, even if not having a car came with some difficulties (Carrying water containers 2 km to the metro). But now, I can laugh about the experiences.
After that, more players came back from their home country, and we immediately bonded as a team. More than 15 nations were represented in our team, and each came from a different part of the world to play football at this university. That realization had strongly connected us since the start. I have never been part of a team that was so close, and I was overjoyed to get to know different people from diverse backgrounds.
 
After a week we started preseason and the first fitness tests. Training twice a day at 35° was different than I was used to. After two weeks of that, we switched to training once a day and soon after, the first games started along with lectures. Fortunately, I was able to become a starting player because we did not have many options in the central defender position, and we were able to start the season with a great record before heading into our conference season with only one loss in about 10 games. Things went very well during our conference season. As a team, we have grown more into a family through our daily training sessions, lectures, living together and hanging out. Many of the courses and especially the exams were multiple-choice and online, so I had no problems with the academics.
 
In the conference we were able to reach 3rd seed after 8 games and went on to the quarterfinals of the playoffs against the 6th seed. An opponent 20 minutes away from our university and against whom we were able to win in extra time during the season. Over the course of the season, the university and the entire community became increasingly interested in football. People from all over the world and not just Americans, began to take notice but also, more students became interested in our program and attended our games. After that, we went from having around 50 fans at the beginning, to about 200-300 in the playoffs. In the quarterfinals, we were able to win the game on penalties and then move into the semi-finals. At the same time, the 7th seed had won against the 2nd seed which allowed us to have a home game in the semi-finals and to move into the final with a 1-0 victory in extra time (against 1st seed).
 
We went to Arkansas the day before the game and were able to stay at the hotel. The anticipation and pressure was quite high. Harris-Stowe State University had not won a championship in twenty years and had not even made it to the playoffs in recent years, and then this year nobody expected that we would be in the final of the Championship Tournament.
 
After an intense and passion-filled game, we unfortunately were defeated 2:1 and the team was heartbroken. Our women’s team was also able to make it to the final, but also lost in the championship game. Even after many days you could feel that everyone still felt the pain of losing but with that time, we were able to rebuild well and are now motivated for next season. Whether or not I will stay is not certain. My plan was to stay for a year but since I enjoyed my time in St. Louis, I will think about staying another season. In these past six months, I have been able to learn more than ever before. Not only at school but from all the people I got to know and about the country that still fascinates me and of which I want to see much more.

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