Reflections From a Recent Graduate

DSC_3471Melody Li graduated last month with a master’s degree in Sport Management from the Neag School of Education. She recently reflected on her time as a student at UConn.

Why did you decide to attend graduate school at UConn?

I wanted to go to a top-level U.S. university with a solid academic sport management program and strong NCAA Division I athletics. New England is also at the similar latitude of my hometown area in northeastern China, so I thought the weather and the landscape would be similar. Connecticut is also close to cities like New York City and Boston with rich sports cultures, which I wanted to experience.

Why did you want to study sport management?

I grew up in a community where academic achievements surpassed everything and playing sports was only for boys. With huge academic pressure and limited access to athletics, I never played a sport growing up. Pursuing a career in sports wasn’t anything I even imagined. Then in 2008, as a junior broadcast journalism major at the Communications University of China, Beijing Olympics Broadcasting, the company that produced live radio and television coverage for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and Paralympics, came to my school to recruit students for the games.

I became the broadcast liaison officer for tennis and was kept to work as a broadcast liaison officer for track and field for the Paralympics. The experience opened my eyes to a brand new world and made me fall in love with working in sports. After graduation, I started to think about combining my journalism background with sports. This led me to opportunities in China with the Asian Games, China Open professional tennis tournament and Harlem Globetrotters tours. After three years, I thought it was time for me to pursue a secondary degree in sport management. I decided to come to the U.S., where professional and amateur sports markets are well developed, so I could incorporate what I learned back into China’s growing sports market.

What was the biggest challenge attending school in the U.S.?

The biggest challenge at first was juggling a completely different academic life as a graduate student, while adjusting to new living environments. There was some culture shock. The second biggest thing I’m about to experience will happen when I move back to China. I will need to readjust my way of thinking and lifestyle. I also need to find ways to translate the knowledge and experience I gained in the U.S. to a different business approach in China. Life is all about change and how you handle it. My time in the U.S. has made me mentally stronger to face any changes and challenges.

I recently read an article that said recognition in adult learning occurs when the new knowledge or skills are applied, which might occur hours, days, months or even years after a learning event. I totally agree. For now, I cannot truly measure what ways my experiences in the U.S. have changed me. I’ll discover them in the coming months and years.

What did you like most about attending a university in the U.S.?

Experiencing an established higher education system that encourages freedom, creativity and independence; provides easy access to resources, services and opportunities; and is dedicated to creating an engaging and enriching campus life.

Who has been your favorite professor here and why?

My favorite class in my major was Dr. Jennifer Bruening’s “Sport in Society,” which focused on sports as a social and cultural phenomena. My favorite elective course was Dr. Richard Dino’s “Opportunity Generation, Assessment and Promotion.” It’s about how to identify, evaluate, and shape new business opportunities through a comprehensive assessment framework. The most important thing I took away is to not only have an entrepreneurship spirit in business, but also in life.

What was the adjustment like when you first arrived?

In China, I lived in cities with millions of people. Living here in a small town was far different. Not having sufficient public transportation was definitely a challenge the first few months. Though speaking English was never a challenge, I still felt it difficult to fully embrace conversations, especially when phrases, jokes, movies and other American cultural icons were mentioned. It was also challenging to change my diet.

You worked a few internships while attending school here. Where did you work and what was your role?

My first internship was shadowing Event Services staff at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY. It was a fantastic experience to see how different events in a state-of-the-art arena were staged, such as going from a basketball arena, to a reggae concert, and then to a WWE ring.

My second internship was working in Marketing/Communications at the International Tennis Hall of Fame and Tennis Hall of Fame Championships in Newport, RI. I had the opportunity to see how a professional tennis tournament was organized in the U.S., as well as how the new class of hall of famers was celebrated. I got to see my childhood idol Martina Hingis being inducted, which was a memorable moment.

My third internship was working as a graduate intern with Event Operations at UConn Athletics. It was great to see how Division I college sports home games were operated. There is not a well-established college sport system in China, so it was a great opportunity for me to experience that.

What will you miss most when you leave UConn?

I will certainly miss the beautiful Storrs campus, the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion where I spent many nights working on basketball home games, and all the other sports fields that I worked on. I will also miss the BodyWise fitness studio and Diary Bar ice cream.

What have been some of your favorite memories?

I’ve loved the UConn pride, especially when the men’s and women’s basketball teams won the double national championships this year. It was something beyond words to describe.

What were your favorite foods while living here?

I’m glad I found guacamole. We don’t have avocados in China. I’m proud that I make great guacamole now, at least according to my friends. I found anything with avocado in it, even in sushi, makes it more delicious.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m actively looking for sports marketing communications opportunities in U.S. and Asian countries. With the aim to become a global player in the sports industry, I hope to work for an international sports organization in which I can fully incorporate my bilingual communications skills, my China/U.S. work experience and the sport management knowledge and skill set I gained from UConn.