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Former sports management student interns in Australia

Southwestern Michigan College alumna Celia Ash soared over mountains approaching her Central Michigan University sport management bachelor’s degree in May. Ash, 22, from Cassopolis, combined studying abroad with a Bicycle Network internship in Australia. With her stipend she met her mother, Cynthia, a Cassopolis Village Council member, in New Zealand for a week that included skydiving.

Last summer she was back in Mount Pleasant.

“This is my home now,” said Ash, who works in fundraising for the CMU Athletic Fund office in Carlin Alumni House, former home to four university presidents.

“I’d always wanted to study abroad. What a spectacular 10 weeks interning with the Bicycle Network in Melbourne,” said Ash, who helped organize an event for 1,300 cyclists.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better experience to round out my last year of undergrad at Central Michigan University. Working in the events team has been both challenging and rewarding. I made some great connections and created memories that will last a lifetime. I was very sad to leave,” she said. “Definitely one of the best times of my life. I miss it.”

Melbourne, coastal capital of the southeastern state Victoria, is inhabited by a diverse mix of more than 4.5 million people.

Ash selected Australia because the country speaks English.

The first quarter of 2017 coincided with summer down under, so the weather was “nice and hot” with abundant beaches and palm trees as well as fir trees.

Study abroad organization Academic Programs International (API) assisted Ash in making arrangements. It was founded in 1997 by four women dedicated to providing high-quality, affordable study-abroad programs for U.S. students. API sends more than 4,000 students abroad annually to more than 50 cities in 29 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and Oceania.

Celia and her mother met up in Queenstown, New Zealand, “the adventure capital.”

She’s not kidding about its adventure sports renown.

Queenstown sits on the shores of the South Island’s Lake Wakatipu, which hugs the Southern Alps.

There’s bungee jumping off Kawarau Gorge Suspension Bridge, jet-boating on the Shotover and Dart rivers and winter skiing on The Remarkables and Coronet Peak slopes.

And skydiving. “So much adrenaline! It was unreal. I loved it,” Ash said, recalling the “adrenaline rush” from her first time soaring birdlike over mountains and rivers.

Nearly every place they went in New Zealand someone pointed out which Middle Earth scene from “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy had been filmed there.

Ash, who participated in tennis, volleyball and cheerleading as a Ranger, interned with the Kalamazoo Growlers in the summer of 2015.

The Growlers belong to one of the top developmental leagues for elite college baseball players, Northwoods League.

More than 100 players advanced to Major League Baseball, including Max Scherzer, Chris Sale, Jordan Zimmermann, Curtis Granderson and Ben Zobrist.

Thanks to dual enrollment, Ash started SMC with 13 credits after her 2013 graduation from Cassopolis Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School.

She finished her Associate of Applied Science in Business degree a semester early with a 3.9 grade-point average, transferring in January 2015 to CMU.

Living 10 minutes from the Dowagiac campus allowed Ash to stay at home and save money while studying at SMC so that she could afford to enjoy dorm life once she transferred to Central.

Once at Central she became an RA, or resident assistant, for Campbell and Kesseler halls, two of seven buildings which make up The Towers.

At SMC she was best known as a Symphonic Band alto saxophonist.

She continued to play her horn in a band for non-music majors at Central.

“Coming to SMC made for a better transition,” she said. “A lot of people I know struggled. I was more prepared going to Central than coming right out of high school.”

Besides saving her money, Ash credits SMC for “helping me learn to manage my time.”

Before departing SMC for CMU she said, “I want a job where I can have fun and get up every day enjoying going to work. In the long run I want to be an athletic director for a big college or university. I know I’ve got to work my way up. I’m an organized person who used to help (Cassopolis Athletic Directors) Robert Guse and Matt Brawley with their paperwork. And if I could live (in the Carolinas) that would be great.”