From the pitch to the podium: Swedish athlete earns degree in public relations
Karin Winka’s journey to college began more than 4,000 miles away from Georgia Southern University’s campuses.
Winka, originally from Sweden, didn’t plan on going to college. She wasn’t sure what to expect after high school, but she did know one thing: she wasn’t ready to give up playing soccer. She had played soccer for the majority of her life, and her passion for the game was what led to an introduction with Athleticademix Ltd, a company that specializes in helping student athletes attend college in the United States.
“At first, I couldn’t see myself doing it because it would be such a huge life change to move to another country when I haven’t even lived away from my parents yet,” Winka said. “Especially when I wouldn’t even be able to take a quick trip home on the weekends.”
While her initial reaction was fear and uncertainty, Athleticademix worked with Winka to show her the possibilities that came with attending college in the U.S.
“I went to a showcase where they explained the process and we got to meet with college coaches,” Winka said. “I started to see the opportunity and think that this was something that I not only could do, but needed to at least try. I realized that this is the kind of opportunity that not everyone gets, especially back home. I knew if I didn’t put myself out there and try, I would regret it.”
After speaking with numerous universities and coaches, Winka made her decision.
“I narrowed it down to two places but the connection I had with the coach here made me feel comfortable making the move,” Winka said. “I felt like if I was doing this, I needed to do it 100%. Georgia Southern was the best choice because it is a large university, but in a small town where so much focus is on the University and college life. I knew it was going to give me the full college experience.”
Winka charged into her college experience, jumping straight into soccer practices, pre-season and conference play when she arrived.
“It was a big transition adjusting to college soccer here,” Winka said. “It was a lot more intense with so many practices and games, but also with the heat that I wasn’t used to because it was right at the end of summer.”
It was her team that encouraged her through the challenges and helped her settle into her new life.
“Coming in as a freshman and meeting all of the girls, they were amazing,” Winka said. “They were a big part of me becoming more comfortable here. Coming into a team gives you connections to people who automatically have similar interests. It was nice because, coming in, you’re already part of a group.”
The community not only introduced Winka to individuals from around the world, but also created a safe space for her to explore her new independence.
“Having these people around me and experiencing every day with them is something that I will take with me forever,” Winka said. “It’s such a close community, that being a part of it gave me the confidence to become more independent and grow. The people here became like family and they are what made me feel like I have a home here too.”
Among her Statesboro “family,” Winka also found a best friend. They both enrolled at Georgia Southern and began playing on the women’s soccer team in fall 2019.
“I met my closest friend here, Alejandra Gracia, in my freshman year and we became close friends early on,” Winka said. “She’s truly been the one that stuck with me through all the ups and downs. We’ve shared so much together, and she has had a major impact on me and my experience here.”
Winka’s family in Sweden also stood as a major support system, despite being an ocean away. While her mother was able to visit at the beginning of her freshman year, the COVID pandemic made it difficult for her family to visit after that. Her parents were finally able to come to Georgia Southern together in fall 2022 to celebrate the women’s soccer senior day with their daughter.
“My mom had been here during senior day in my freshman year and saw the families celebrating together,” Winka said. “She made a promise that she was going to be here for mine. Both of my parents were able to come and that meant everything to me.”
Her time on the women’s soccer team and commitment to academics earned Winka placement on the 2019-20 Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll, as well as spots on the 2020-21 and 2021-22 Sun Belt Conference Academic Commissioner’s Lists.
Winka will cross the stage at Allen E. Paulson Stadium on May 9 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations from the College of Arts and Humanities. Following commencement and a trip through the U.S. with her parents and three brothers, Winka will return to Sweden where she will play soccer professionally while also pursuing a career in public relations.
“It’s a big deal for my family to be able to come here and celebrate this major accomplishment,” Winka said. “I’m graduating from college and I’m the first one in my family who has done it like this in America. It’s pretty amazing.”