By sportswriter Su Bin
PARIS, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- For the young striker Zhao Yujie, studying and playing football is not a zero-sum game. Aged 19, Zhao is currently playing and pursuing her degree at Florida State University, a NCAA Division One side.
"I want to play football abroad, but I have to pursue my studies at university at the same time," Zhao told Xinhua during the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France where China qualified through last year's AFC U-19 Women's Championship.
Born and raised in Shanghai, Zhao won a Youth Olympic Games gold medal in 2014, and China's National Games U-18 division title with Shanghai three years later.
"My parents didn't want me to fail in my studies because of playing football," Zhao said. "It's acceptable. I think not many parents want their kids to be exposed to the sun or play football in the pouring rain ... coaches also helped a lot in changing my parents' mindset," Zhao said.
The unpleasant dilemma was soon over as several coaches advised her to play in a foreign college team while pursuing her degree.
"For those who had similar experience before, they knew that it would be a valuable experience for a Chinese player if she could overcome the difficulty of studying and living abroad," Zhao explained.
She began to prepare for some compulsory exams and had to sacrifice some rest to take online classes. After receiving her scores, she applied for American universities.
She didn't wait long for a full scholarship offer from Florida State University. "It was not just about a dream coming true, but also about paving an excellent path for other girls like me," Zhao said.
Flying to the United States this January, Zhao has finished her first semester, appearing to strike a good balance between her studies and training.
"The first semester there was fine for me ... next semester will be a huge challenge, as the team flies everywhere to play NCAA matches," said Zhao, adding that she is considering transferring to another major. Zhao was called up to the Chinese national team early in 2016.
"It's a dream for every girl who plays football. I learned a lot from veterans as their fighting spirit motivated me," Zhao said.
Zhao has another bigger dream in mind. "I want to play in a foreign club, like Manchester City or Arsenal. It's a long way to go, and you never know what awaits you next," she said. "Firstly, I hope to make some contributions to Shanghai where I grew up," she said.