By Chris Goldberg
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 11/26/12
Nolan Funchion said the first thing he did this fall when he began studying at the renowned Oxford University as a visiting student of Dickinson College was to seek out members of the lacrosse team.
“After being accepted into Oxford, I did some research and found out they had a lacrosse team,” said Funchion, a 2010 La Salle College High grad who played on the Explorers’ PIAA championship team in 2009 and also played for Twist Lacrosse. “I quickly got in touch with the team’s captain, who urged me to play for the team.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the level of play in England. In fact, I have several British teammates that have actually been playing lacrosse for longer than I have.”
Funchion was a reserve midfielder for Dickinson in 2012 when the Devils went 15-4 and won their second straight Centennial Conference title before bowing to Cabrini in the second round of the NCAA playoffs. At Dickinson he is a double major in Economics and Policy Management.
During his sophomore year, Funchion realized he had a chance of getting into Oxford’s rigorous visiting student program, which requires a minimum 3.8 GPA and a variety of writing samples and essays. Oxford was recently in first place in the Southern Premier League of BUCS (British Universities Colleges Sports League).
“One of the main reasons I chose to attend Dickinson is the encouragement and support that head coach Dave Webster emphasizes on studying abroad,” said Funchion. “This year alone, eight of our 14 juniors are currently abroad.
“I chose to apply to Oxford University because I wanted a unique study abroad program that would allow me to have a great social and cultural experience, while also expanding my knowledge and help me prepare for the future.”
Funchion is impressed with lacrosse at Oxford
When he began playing lacrosse at Oxford, Funchion was pleasantly surprised at the caliber of play, the commitment – and the social benefits.
“Although it may seem like a unique situation, the team typically gets a couple American players each year who are visiting students,” he said. “Although there never any Division 1 players – since you are not allowed to study abroad while playing for a D-1 school – the team does get several talented Americans each year.
“For example, last year a starter for Middlebury’s team played in the fall for Oxford. This year, besides me, there is also a player from the University of New Hampshire’s club team. In addition, the level of commitment to the lacrosse team is also higher than one would expect, as we have practices three times a week, and games twice a week.”
Funchion – who returns home on Dec. 2 – has thoroughly enjoyed his experience.
“Overall, my time at Oxford has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life,” he said. “The main thing that separates Oxford from typical study abroad programs is that, as a visiting student, you are treated just like any other student at the university.
“The integration as a visiting student in the university is a unique aspect of Oxford, and having the ability to play lacrosse has only further contributed to my satisfaction here. Playing lacrosse for Oxford’s lacrosse team has not only provided me the opportunity to stay in shape and eliminate the rust of study abroad, but it has also provided me with a great social opportunity.
“The group of guys on the lacrosse team all have a passion for lacrosse, but are also laid back and inclusive. This has allowed me the opportunity to have a set-group of British friends since the day I arrived at Oxford, as every Wednesday night we go out with a different girls’ sports team.”
The biggest difference between lacrosse in the United States and in England, he says, is coaching.
“Although most of my teammates have a solid knowledge of the game, the coaching and competition level in the United States forms a gap between the sport in the two countries,” Funchion said.
“However, lacrosse in England is continuing to expand, and most would be surprised with the talent level of certain players in the league. Each British University we play typically has either on or two Americans studying abroad, or graduate players.
“It is often common that some teams have players who are members of either the English, Scottish or French national teams. The style of play in England is comparable to the United States, just at a slower pace, as our set offensive pieces at Oxford are very similar to the offense we run at Dickinson.”
Lacrosse growth in England
Lacrosse is growing in the UK. Durham University, in first place in the Northern Premier League, consists of an entire American team. Durham University recently created a full-scholarship program for American lacrosse graduates to come to the University to complete their one-year MBA program. Because of this scholarship, Durham features an entire lineup of past Division I and III players, and in the past, has featured current MLL players.
“I believe over the upcoming years, lacrosse in England will continue to expand in high rates, which is phenomenal for the overall growth of the sport throughout the world,” Funchion said.
Funchion noted that the academics at Oxford are unique because classes are not lecture-oriented.
“One of the most intriguing aspects of an Oxford education is the university’s tutorial system,” Funchoin said. “Rather than taking lectures and classes, at Oxford, a student takes two tutorials a term which consists of one-on-one learning sessions one a week for an hour.
“Despite a short amount of time in the classroom, Oxford emphasizes independent research and studies, as you are expected to prepare at least 25 hours for each meeting with your professor. Besides the renowned academic culture at Oxford, I chose Oxford because of the connections and networking events it has for internships and future careers.”
His future is brighter
The opportunities from completing studies at Oxford are obvious to Funchion.
“Especially for a student, like me, who wants to work in the financial field after college, Oxford opens up a unique set of opportunities,” he said. “Nearly every night there are networking events from big investment banks, such as Barclays, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs, to elite boutiques and hedge funds.”
Tags: La Salle