NSR student-athlete, Joel Theissen entered the United States at the age of 22 to study and pursue his passion for football. As he begins his new career post-University,  we caught up with Joel  to chat all things travel, sport and education.

Joel Theissen celebrates scoring in a Semi final with a teammate

International experience

Having pursued his ambition to venture to the United States to follow a professional career in football, Joel spent a brief amount of time at the University of New Mexico. Soon after he relocated to the University of Rio Grande in South Ohio

Joel spent time living both off-campus with a few teammates and on-campus in dormitories with other students. On his experience meeting new friends at college, Joel found it to be a breeze.

“You realise when you get out here, that pretty much everyone likes Australian’s,” he jokes. “Coming out here is a novelty, people want to know you just because you are different.”

The Sydney-born athlete hadn’t been home in eight years since moving to America. Joel decided to visit home late last year and said it was nice to return to the casual coastal lifestyle for a short time.

“It’s never easy leaving everyone behind. It’s pretty daunting, but it takes a special kind of person to pack up and move across the other side of the world,” Joel said.


Moving to America to play soccer was an eye-opening transition for Joel, as he found it to differ from his Australian soccer days.

He was challenged as he found himself playing as one of the more senior athletes in contrast to his Australian stint playing primarily against older men. This opportunity allowed Joel to meet other foreign athletes and form bonds with them over their common ground of being an international student.

National Semi Final - 2009


Joel was also pleasantly surprised by the outstanding facilities that some of the sporting colleges offer.

“I walked in there and the facilities were phenomenal, they’re second to none. The athletes are treated like professionals,” Joel said.


Joel graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Business Management and Marketing and is now paving a career as the Regional Director for Crunch fitness in Columbus, Ohio.

As a young man, Joel didn’t particularly fancy himself as an academic and was primarily focused on his chances at turning his soccer passion into a career. However, graduating at 26 left him feeling that the prospect for a future in professional soccer was unlikely.

Reflecting on these early feelings, Joel can’t stress enough how important it was for him and any athlete in the US to obtain a degree to benefit them in the future job hunt.

“Like anyone that comes over here, you want to play once you’re done. Me being a little bit older, it was very important for me to get a degree that I’d be able to use.”

“If you don’t have a college degree, you won’t even be looked at,” Theissen admitted.

Joel’s successful life in America post-college is a reflection of his dedication to his education and sport. He admits it wasn’t easy and that a lot of hard work ensued, but he is grateful for his experience.

Joel encourages students to consider this invaluable opportunity.

”My advice for anyone coming out here… is that it’s definitely worth it because it’s an experience. It’s just something that you’ll never get anywhere else.’

Rio Grande - National Semi Final 2009


“Take it seriously, have a good time and get to know as many people as you can, but getting it done in the classroom is something you have to do,” he said.

Congratulations Joel on your successful career, we look forward to hearing from you soon!

To view some of Joel’s video highlights of his time playing football in the US, click here.