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Uppsala HK

Playing and studying in Uppsala
2020-06-04 06:00

Canadian student Bryndelle MacDougall, 21, is one of many foreign students that has combined studies at Uppsala University with playing handball at the local club Uppsala HK, and she likes it so much that she´s thinking about coming back.


Bryndelle MacDougall found out about handball when she was about 15 years old. At that time she was heavily into speed skating and was looking for an offseason sport.

- I tried out for my high school team and fell in love with handball. Soon after, I was picked up by the provincial program and juvenile national program. After a couple of years, I joined the senior national program. I have travelled a lot with the provincial and national teams. We have been to Germany, Iceland, Spain, Italy, Chile, Mexico, all over Canada and USA.


Why did you choose Uppsala for your studies/handball?

- I have wanted to play in Europe since I was 17 years old but an  ACL injury delayed my plans. When I took a Swedish language class at university and became quite interested in your country. Last May, after playing with the National team, I decided I wanted to go to Europe again. Since I knew a bit of Swedish and Sweden handball does well internationally I looked into schools I could do an exchange with and Uppsala University was an option… so I applied.


You came earlier - why?

- My exchange started in January 2020 however, I wanted to gain the experience of playing on a team here for a full season so I came already in August 2019 mainly to be able to train and play. 


What were your expectations?

- I came here hoping to learn and improve as a handball player, be open to experiencing a new culture and make some good friends. My time at Uppsala has been better than I could have hoped for, despite COVID-19.


Compare the differences between handball in Canada and Sweden.

- Handball is growing in Canada but it is still a relatively small sport compared to Swedish handball. Many of us start playing in high school, as they will take athletes who are transitioning out of other sports and start them in handball. In Canada, it’s often difficult for us to play at a high level regularly because of the sheer size of our country. We have to do a lot of travelling to gain experience. The ball speed and game level are higher here in Sweden since there are so many teams and players who start so young. We also play different styles.


Was it easy or difficult to adapt?

- The team was very welcoming to me which made it easy to adapt. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. I felt very welcomed. I would say the hardest part was learning handball language in Swedish (they don’t teach that in Canadian Swedish classes). Communicating with other players in games was challenging but once we figured out a system it worked great. 


What do you think about Uppsala as a city?

- I think it is a beautiful city and it is the perfect size for what I needed. It was easy to get around. It is small enough that you can bike everywhere but you are also close to Stockholm if need be. I found the cost of living was reasonable. There are lots of affordable places (nations) for students. 


What have you studied at the university?

- I am studying my bachelors, majoring in biology (with a minor in Scandinavian literature and language). At Uppsala University I took three courses: Behavioural Ecology, Marine Biology and Basic Swedish.


Which handball skills have you improved during the season?  

- I think decision-making skills while under pressure during games has improved. I now have a deeper understanding of the game. I also think I improved my hang time, you don’t always get a lot of shots as a wing so it’s important to make them count. For sure my communication skills improved. Since it was a different language I had to make sure I was saying the right thing to my teammates and the right person was getting the message. 


Which are your best memories from Uppsala?

- The team fitness training was really fun, it was hard but the atmosphere is so great. Everyone was so positive and supportive of one another. But I loved the feeling when we tied or won in the last second. The games were all so competitive it was so great! I also loved coaching the F06 girls. They were a lot of fun and worked really hard. 


You are going back to Canada in a few weeks. What are your future plans?

- I hope to come back and play with the team for another season but with COVID-19 everything is up in the air. So that may get postponed. I plan on continuing with the national team back home, I want to attend the Pan-Am Games in the future. Right now finishing my bachelors is the priority. Then I will decide what my next step for schooling but right now I am unsure. 


Any tips for foreign handball players who want to study in Uppsala?

- I definitely recommend it. I think Uppsala University provided a unique, very personalized experience that was really different compared to my home university. As well, lots of the girls on the team studied or are studying there so the team is super accommodating for student athletes.

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