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
- 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)
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
- 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
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.