WOLFVILLE, N.S. - Instead of joining her fellow graduates on the Acadia graduation trip to a sunny and hot southern destination, fourth-year Axewomen Soccer player Sarah Charnock decided to not only reward herself for her hard work in obtaining a Bachelor of Kinesiology with Honours but also turn her trip to Nice, France into an educational experience.
Charnock made the choice of traveling to France as a volunteer for the Women's Soccer World Cup. Assigned to Nice, France, Charnock celebrated her academic achievements and had a wonderful experience she will never forget.
She applied to attend men's World Cup Russia last summer but felt uncomfortable traveling on her own to the former Soviet Union.
"I applied to Russia last year but wasn't comfortable going to Russia on my own with everything going on and I had intended to stay in Wolfville to work on my honours thesis. When I heard it was going to be hosted in France, I decided I would apply. The Women's World Cup seemed like a much better fit because I speak French and I really like France", noted Charnock.
Charnock went on her own to France, knowing it was more of a work experience opportunity than a holiday. The Women's World Cup did not provide transportation or accommodations to volunteers and she spent three weeks on a pull-out couch and rode a bike to the competition site for the first week but then worked on carpooling and bus tickets provided by the WWC.
"I went without knowing anyone. It was definitely a chance to step out of my comfort zone. Being in a new country, immersed in a different culture, and speaking another language was a challenging, albeit amazing experience. There were people from many different parts of the world," commented Charnock on her decision to travel alone.
Sarah was tasked with providing accreditation for all those involved in the Women's World Cup at the stadium in Nice. She was relied on for translations with English speaking visitors that included Australian, Scottish and English team staff, players and administrators.
"I was affectionately known as Snickers during my time in the accreditations center and they were surprised to find out the 'nice' stereotype of Canadians was true," noted Charnock.
When people arrive to collect their accreditation, they needed to present their national identity card or a passport. If there was as much as one letter off or one number in their birthdate incorrect, FIFA mandated that accreditation was not issued.
"This happened numerous times. We must then create a new request for accreditation and it gets sent to FIFA then to the police for a background check," noted Charnock.
She recalled an incident that was resolved. "There was one journalist from the UK whose accreditation could not be printed, and he had a press conference to attend in mere hours. I put in a request for the approval to be completed quickly. I took his phone number and every two minutes, I refreshed the page in order to see when it was ready to print. He said I "saved his trip" and invited me to have coffee next time I'm in England."
On match days, Charnock was in the stadium or at the entrance and would check tickets; provide information and welcome spectators. She found it handy to speak English and met people from all around the world on match days.
"I was involved in the rehearsal for the national anthems and stood in as the captain of a national team. We accompanied the children on the field and completed the entire pre-match ceremony multiple times. I was able to watch at least half of every game hosted at our stadium and sometimes I even had a seat in the first or second row. I was at the stadium a minimum of seven hours and sometimes for as many as 15 hours," recalled Charnock.
"Most of the accreditations team was French and had worked at the Euro Cup in 2016. I worked with people from Germany, England, the US, and many corners of France. In the accreditations team, there were people who spoke six languages, some were young, others were retired, and one was a former French international goalkeeper. It was a very diverse group and amazing people to work with," said Charnock.
In addition to staying near beautiful Nice, she got to explore Barcelona, Spain, and Milan, Italy in addition to many places in the Cote d'Azur or also know as the French Riviera.
This past season Sarah was named as an AUS All-Star Keeper along with being honoured as a recipient of the AUS Community Service Award and her travel to France was an experience in so many ways beyond being in a different country.
"I'm hoping to play professionally after Acadia and then stay involved in sport, either as a physician or in organizing big events like the World Cup. Olympics or Commonwealth Games. I have been a part of many smaller events, but really wanted to see what went on behind the scenes at an international event," added Charnock.
When asked what her most memorable moment was while in Nice, she noted several experiences beyond her job in Nice.
"I rode a Harley to the stadium on our first game day, sailed on the Mediterranean and had a lovely conversation with a French football legend Lara Georges. It was incredible to hear the Marseillaise sung by more than 30 000 fans, but I think the most memorable moment was seeing the Australia vs Norway game. It was so intense right until the end and witnessing the passion that those women have for the game and seeing two world-class goalkeepers in a penalty shootout was amazing."
An experience that will never be forgotten, Charnock returns to Acadia for her fifth and final year of university soccer. The Axewomen open the AUS regular season at home on Friday, September 7 vs Mt. Allison beginning at 5:00 p.m.