Auf Wiedersehen (for now)

Franzi Wilhelm concludes year-long exchange 

Wilhelm (#13) saw her playing time increase steadily throughout the year.
Wilhelm (#13) saw her playing time increase steadily throughout the year.

Returning home to Germany, Franzi Wilhelm will be leaving behind the women’s volleyball team, but she hopes it won’t be the last time she gets a chance to play for the Gaels. 

Initially coming to Queen’s on exchange, Wilhelm only expected to stay one semester to study business and potentially have the chance to practice with the women’s volleyball team. 

However, as luck would have it, she ended up being a key player for the Gaels, picking up an incredible amount of assists throughout the season as the starting setter — including 35 assists in their playoff match against Ryerson.

Wilhelm’s path from exchange student to varsity athlete was what she likes to call a “funny story”. She originally only wanted to see if she could practice with the Gaels to stay in game shape before returning to her home team.

While attending the tryouts, Wilhelm realized she had a good shot of making the team. The coaching staff realized the same and offered her a spot, along with an athletic scholarship that would allow her to extend her exchange into the winter term. 

For Wilhelm, the difference between volleyball at Queen’s and in Germany was mostly the quality and organization of the team.

“In Canada, I felt much more professional than in Germany, given the level that we play,” she said. “The practices here are more intense, well organized, and playing in general is more analytical.” 

A part of the change in pace for Wilhelm was the great difference in time commitment. 

Her home team would only practice twice a week, for two hours at a time, unlike the Gaels, who have far more practice time, along with a strength and conditioning program. 

Adding in the 16-hour roundtrip bus rides to certain games and crossing a province nearly three times the size of Germany, the time commitment at Queen’s has been a significant change for Wilhelm. 

The added stress of being a varsity athlete while adjusting to life in another country could cause issues for most student. Yet Wilhelm viewed her time with the volleyball team as an opportunity to help her settle into life abroad. 

“Volleyball meant here not only to have a huge commitment, but a chance as well — the chance to get to know great people, a unique community and a university sports spirit that is rarely lived like that in many other countries,” she said. 

“I am amazed that I can feel at home somewhere I basically have no family.” 

Volleyball has helped Wilhelm become so well adjusted, she admits she even feels like she is a Canadian at times, despite having to return to Germany for next semester. She said there’s a chance she may return to the Gaels in future, this time as a Masters student.

Amidst the sadness of having to leave what she considers “the best seven months of my life,” Wilhelm said she’s excited to continue playing with her team in Germany. 

“May it be the good or bad, all together my time here has created this amazing experience. It sounds cheesy, and it probably is even, but it’s true.”


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