Austin College women’s basketball players Brooke Melton and Erin Riley got the experience of a lifetime over the summer when the duo participated in the Beyond Study Abroad program, taking them all the way to Costa Rica to compete against the Costa Rica National Team and help conduct clinics for local children.
Melton, a senior from Arlington, and Riley, a senior from Battle Creek, Michigan, were two of seven women’s basketball players selected to make the trip, along with 13 male basketball players from across the country. The women’s team was comprised of players from across NCAA Division III ranging from California, to Massachusetts, to Florida and several states in between.
“This is an amazing opportunity and I feel fortunate enough that I had the opportunity to go,” said Melton. “Being able to experience a different culture, explore a different country, and play the sport you love all at the same time was one of the greatest experiences of my life.”
The pair played alongside student-athletes from New York University, Whitman College, and St. Olaf College among others as they took on the Costa Rica national team and several other local club teams. Former Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball player and Beyond Study Abroad participant Marshall Morris coached the team during its trip to Costa Rica.
“It was such a great experience for me to see a different part of the world and to also learn how differently the game is played,” said Riley. “I made a lot of great friends from different schools, with friendships that will last a lifetime.”
The Beyond Study Abroad program was founded in 2010 with the goal to connect people across the globe through sports, and was founded by former Willamette University student-athletes Josh Erickson and Grant Leslie. Both Melton and Riley were able to work closely with Erickson throughout their trip to Costa Rica, in addition to participating in various other activities.
Among those were events such as zip-lining the rural area of La Fortuna, speaking with native tribes, hiking national parks and spending time at the beaches in Manuel Antonio, and exploring the local markets. One of the most rewarding parts of the trip was working with elementary school children in San Jose, coaching them through drills and teaching them more about the game of basketball.
“Erin and I still talk to the girls almost every day,” said Melton. “They are wonderful people and I feel lucky enough to have met them. I truly treasure the experience I had in Costa Rica.”
Austin College athletic teams participate as a member of the NCAA Division III and the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference.