For senior soccer player Rachelle Snyder, the move from California to the East Coast was just the beginning of her adventure during her time here at Penn. Right from the start, Snyder showed that she was an integral part of the Quaker team, making an immediate impact her freshman year, playing in every game. In her first year on the team, Snyder showed her West Coast skills would change the face of Penn Women's Soccer, as she set the record for the number of points (8) and goals (4) scored in a single game, and scored the fastest goal in Penn history (14 seconds).
While soccer was an important part of her time at Penn, she wanted to explore the opportunities the school had to offer. So, after a successful sophomore campaign in which she was an All-Ivy Offensive honorable mention selection, and a junior season in which Snyder found her way into the record books once again (eighth all time in points with 31), the San Diego, Calif. native decided to head across another ocean, and explore the possibilities Italy had to offer.
The idea of studying abroad was one that had been considered by Snyder for a long time especially since her father was a visiting professor in Florence, Italy.
“I decided that I wanted to study in Italy the summer before my senior year of high school when I went to visit my dad in Florence with my family,” she said. “I decided to switch from taking Spanish to Italian when I got to college so that I could study in Italian when I took my classes overseas.”
With many opportunities available, Snyder decided to study in a town where she could improve her language skills and enjoy the culture. She chose to go to Padova because of the options available through Penn. It seemed like a perfect fit, a relatively small town, classes taught all in Italian, and foreign students were able to live with Italian families.
Making the trip a little bit more difficult was the fact that Snyder was going with basically nobody that she knew.
“I found out about a month or so before I was leaving that there would be another kid that was a mutual friend of one of my good friends here at Penn.That was the only tie I had and it was kind of a tenuous one at the time, so I felt like I was going alone completely,” Snyder said. “I definitely remember getting off the plane with all the new “friends” I was supposed to make and just wondering what I had gotten myself into for the next six months. Fortunately, it ended up being pretty much the best experience of my life and I made some wonderful friends.”
As she settled into Italian life, Snyder found herself adjusting and enjoying her new surroundings. “I lived with a single mom and her 16-year-old daughter in a little apartment outside the main town. At first, it was so nerve-wracking because I wanted so badly to be able to just sit down, relax, and talk to them, but there were so many barriers. By the end, I felt like I had acquired a whole new family. The mom would even call me if I were home too late. It was awesome."
While school and soccer were still on her mind, Snyder took the semester abroad to explore and enjoy her time off.
“I really spent a lot of time traveling, eating and enjoying the atmosphere. Unfortunately, this didn't leave a lot of room for soccer playing.” Yet every once in awhile Snyder found herself kicking the ball around.
“Italians don’t really exercise that much, especially the women so it was always a surprise for them to see me playing when I did get out there. There were a few small fields around the town so I bought a ball and would play pick up every now and then, but the boys really didn’t like to play with a girl, especially if she beat them,” she remembered fondly.
Snyder didn’t just spend all of her time in Padova; throughout the semester she had the chance to explore the rest of Italy and some of Europe.
“I traveled quite a bit while I was away, primarily within Italy just because trying to speak the language was always so fun I didn't want to leave,” she said. “I did manage to get around, though, to name most: Holland, Germany, Austria, England, Portugal, and Tunisia.”
After her semester abroad in Italy and she decided work in London for the summer. By the end of August, Snyder found herself adjusting once again to life at Penn.
“By the time I got back to the United States after having been abroad in Italy and working in London, it had been almost eight months,” she said. “It was a bit tougher adjusting back to home’ especially when I couldn't seem to be able to relate my stories to the people I had left.
Yet on the soccer field Snyder has found herself adjusting quite easily. With six goals already this season, Snyder has shown that Penn soccer wouldn't be the same without her. After a semester filled with memories that will last a lifetime, and hopes for travel abroad again in the future, Rachelle Snyder will be able to leave Penn with a strong sense of fulfillment and achievement.
~Written by Meghan Goddard, C’05, for the Oct. 27, 2004 Game Day Program.