Wilsonville grad takes break from track to study abroad in Ireland
As she spent St. Patrick's Day in Dublin, a week in Amsterdam and traveled to eight countries, Kristen Burke says the last thing on her mind was soccer and track.
"I wanted to travel and experience different things," says Burke, an incoming junior at Linfield College, who took her sophomore track season off to spend January through May studying abroad in Ireland. "I tried to keep in shape the best I could, just going on runs and stuff, but it wasn't really a priority while I was there."
Burke says the opportunity to study abroad is what made Linfield stand out from the other colleges that recruited her while at Wilsonville High School.
"All the other schools I was talking to, they didn't really think it was an option because they wanted me every season," Burke says. "They (Linfield) were the one school that assured me I would be able to miss a season. That's the beauty of D-III. They know it's (athletics) not your life. That you're also there to do school or study abroad. It's really nice."
Burke chose Ireland partly due to her family heritage.
"Ireland is just always a place I wanted to go," she says. "Some of my family members had been there and said that is a good place to go. I loved it so much. I miss it."
Burke, a Sociology major, took five classes and stayed in student accommodation apartments in Galway, Ireland. Her three roommates were from Germany, Canada and Pennsylvania.
It was Burke's first time traveling outside of the United States.
"It was kind of scary but I loved it," she says. "I don't regret any of it. It was awesome."
Burke took a two hour bus ride to Dublin for St. Patrick's Day.
"There were so many tourists," Burke recalls. "It was so crowded. You could hardly walk the streets."
Burke went to Amsterdam to visit her friend Mara Al, a former exchange student, who spent a year playing soccer at Linfield.
Not having to balance school plus multiple sports, Burke suddenly had more free time.
"It was weird," Burke says. "I didn't know how to occupy my time. I think I made the most of it. I went out and did something every day. That was one of my biggest goals, and I enjoyed it. I really liked it, but I'm also super excited to have a schedule this fall."
Burke returns to McMinnville on Aug. 16. Linfield's first soccer match is Aug. 24 against Western Oregon.
Burke did return from Ireland in time to catch the end of Linfield's spring soccer season, which included a trip to play games in Canada.
"It was tough," she says. "I was not in shape and my touches were off. It was really bad, but it was still fun and it felt really good. I kind of got back into it."
The Wildcats have a new coach in Steve Simmons, who previously led the women's soccer program from 1996 to 2000.
"We're all super excited about it," Burke says of the coaching change. "In the spring, you could already tell we were getting so much better to a whole other level already. It's going to be a good transition for us."
Linfield finished 10-5-5 last season. Burke scored four goals and added four assists.
The Wildcats' 2019 roster includes nine seniors and four juniors.
"We're a pretty tight-knit team," Burke says. "I think last year we got used to our chemistry and who does what and how we like to play. I think we'll be a lot better."
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