With one swift motion, Heidi Sartorius, a senior athletic training major, launched herself down the luge track. Just a minute later, after a few bumps and bruises, she reached the end of the track, adding one more unforgettable experience to her time in Europe. Although the ride was thrilling for Sartorius and her companions, it was just another day for the locals in the small German town. “It was funny because we were all excited and nervous about it, but there were little kids doing it just as a sport,” she says.
Sartorius had the opportunity to study athletic training in Europe through a program run by Chapman University. In a whirlwind three-week tour of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, she saw everything from a long-term weight loss facility in Salzburg to the Allianz Arena in Munich. Beyond sightseeing, though, she was able to gain new perspectives on athletic training.
One of the highlights of her Germany tour was the Bauerfeind factory in Zeulenroda. Bauerfeind makes prosthetics, athletic braces and compression stockings and has studied diagnostic ultrasound for joints and alternative forms of sports therapy. Bauerfeind’s products are popular in Austria, as well, where Sartorius gained more experience with them as she studied physical therapy.
“Their braces are really unique; instead of typical braces with metal and straps, these are more like sleeves,” says Sartorius. “It was so interesting because it was a type of brace I’d never seen before.”
Another highlight was learning about mountain rescue in Switzerland. Because the mountains are steep and dangerous, the best way to send rescue crews is by helicopter. “They showed us the helicopter,” Sartorius says, “and it had all the same things as an ambulance, only everything was more compact and precise. It was something I never would have seen here in Iowa, which was pretty exciting.”
After her three-week tour, Sartorius settled into the Central College Abroad program in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, and later in Vienna, Austria. While studying intensive German at the Goethe-Institut, Sartorius met people from around the world while enjoying the small-town feel of the city.
A month later, when she transitioned to Vienna, Sartorius continued learning about European athletic training, though that term is not used there. Instead, they have physical therapists and sports doctors. By shadowing a physical therapist for a month, Sartorius was able to gain insight into alternative methods of physical therapy.
“In the U.S., we usually do a lot of exercises for physical therapy,” she says, “but in Austria, they have a holistic approach. Their activities tend to be more relaxing than hard, so I was constantly learning something new and interesting.” She also attended several classes in a Vienna fitness studio, where she learned more she could apply to therapy and athletic training.
Her experiences made her think about the different options for physical therapy and what is in the best interest of the patient. She was surprised to learn that the difficult exercises used in the U.S. could be done differently. In the future, she hopes to attend graduate school or do an internship in athletic training or sports psychology. “Going to Austria made me really want to work with different cultures,” she says.
Although she’s not yet sure of her future plans, Sartorius does know one thing: “I want to be busy and learning constantly.”