Jamie Shisler

Study abroad transforms gymnast into a Global Gator

Jamie Shisler was bored on a Wednesday night three years ago. Her solution?

Catch a flight to Budapest.

It’s the inspired and envious answer only a study abroad student can muster.

“We had no expectations for it,” Shisler remembered. “It ended up being one of the best weekends ever.”

Proponents of study abroad say the experience can change a student’s life. Shisler, a senior at the Heavener School of Business and a member of the University of Florida’s two-time national champion gymnastics team, is one of the converted. UF defends its title this weekend at the NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas.

Shisler spent six weeks in Brussels during the height of the European Debt Crisis in 2012. She was in the continent’s economic epicenter—Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union—and was immersed in the intrigue and significance of that historic time.

Those six weeks had two immeasurable impacts on Shisler: She switched majors from political science to business, and she wanted a career overseas.

“This was not the intended path,” said Shisler, “but study abroad opened me up to an entirely different world. I always knew it would be important, but in terms of how it’s shaped my career plans, I didn’t expect it to play as big of a role. I think it’s important to make yourself culturally aware of what’s going on.

“Who knows? Maybe if I didn’t go on that trip I’d be miserable taking poly sci classes right now.”

Shisler is anything but miserable pursuing her international career. She complemented her studies in Belgium with professional experience at the Institute for Public Private Partnerships (IP3)—an international development firm in Washington D.C. that serves as a training provider and advisor to foreign governments, financial institutions and public service entities. While Shisler enjoyed the experience, she was frustrated with government bureaucracy. So she turned her focus to the corporate realm and interned in the digital brands division at Nike, one of the world’s top athletic brands.

Nike seemed like the ideal place for Shisler to combine two of her passions: Business and sports. In addition to maintaining a 3.65 GPA and appearing on the College’s Dean’s List, Shisler has been a contributor to UF’s gymnastics success.

A torn left Achilles may have ended her season, but Jamie Shisler has big plans for her future. Photo courtesy of UAA Communications.

A torn left Achilles may have ended her season, but Jamie Shisler has big plans for her future. Photo courtesy of UAA Communications.

Shisler’s love for gymnastics was born from escaping the hot Florida sun. Shisler’s parents enrolled her in a program called Little Sports, a program in Miami where kids were introduced to various sports. Shisler liked gymnastics, the only indoor sport offered.

“Fortunately I ended up loving it for other reasons,” said Shisler, “but the initial logic was that it was inside and air-conditioned.”
While some of her peers were home-schooled to devote more time to gymnastics, Shisler attended public school. What little free time she had was devoted to her studies and gymnastics.

“When I had extra time at school and people were hanging out, I tried to do homework,” Shisler said. “That taught me time management.

“I’ve always been intrinsically motivated. There are so many opportunities available to you. You just have to go out and find them. That’s something gymnastics has taught me. It’s opened a lot of doors I probably wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Shisler is taking full advantage of those opportunities. She is unavailable to compete this weekend after tearing the Achilles tendon in her left foot in January, but will apply for a medical redshirt, which would give her another year of eligibility.

It would also give her an opportunity to add another Warrington degree to her résumé. Shisler said she is interested in pursuing a graduate business degree, most likely the Master of Science in Information Systems & Operations Management.

“I think big data is the future, and it’s a skill set that I don’t have a lot of experience with,” Shisler said. “It would be an opportunity to stay another year and enter the work force with something really unique.”

Until then, Shisler will be supporting her teammates as they make a run for a third consecutive national title, and endorsing study abroad to Warrington students.

“It’s a very unique opportunity, and very beneficial,” Shisler said. “Not only is it an academic benefit, but you grow as a person. That cultural factor is something you can’t teach in the classroom.”

• Jamie is the UF female athlete candidate for the Brad Davis SEC Community Service Leader of the Year Award.
• Jamie serves as Vice President of UF’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee, which serves as a liaison between team members and the athletic staff. She is also a member of the university’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, a faculty/student committee which recommends academic policies concerning athletics.
• Jamie is involved in numerous community service projects, but her favorite is Caleb’s Pitch, a program at UF Health where pediatric patients decorate canvases with paint-filled syringes.