Soccer player Abelardo Rodriguez widens his horizons through exchange program

University of South Carolina Aiken graduate Abelardo Rodriguez hopes to channel his love for soccer into a sports management career. The international student from Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico played soccer and studied as a Pacer for four years, spending his final semester abroad.

Rodriguez earned his degree in exercise science with a concentration in business management, taking his final business courses in Paris through the IESEG Exchange Program. He believes this experience will add to his marketability in the sports management arena. "I will have a story in the United States, a story in Mexico and a story in France. These experiences have broadened my vision of sports around the world," he says.

When Rodriguez arrived at USC Aiken, his dream was to play professional soccer. "But that was four long years ago, and things go different ways," he jokes. Instead, he plans to use his training and education to run a sports management agency for young athletes. Beginning this summer, he will attend the University of San Francisco to earn his master's degree in sports management, where he will also play out his final year of NCAA eligibility. He hopes this experience will open doors to a job in Major League Soccer before he branches out on his own.

The Mexico native says that Paris appealed to him after meeting many Parisians through soccer and the exchange program at USC Aiken. While living in a foreign country can be challenging, as an international student, this was not a new experience for him. "The people in Paris were super nice and interested in my culture," he says. "France is very globalized. You can meet people from all over the world, and they make you feel at home."

As an athlete, Rodriguez must adhere to a strict diet and training schedule, so immersion in the French food and culture was difficult. "It was hard knowing how to enjoy the experience," he says. "There are so many things to do, and you know your time is limited. I wanted to go to the gym, eat well and study, but there was also this big city of Paris."

Although Rodriguez admits he didn't eat much French food, he did enjoy the sights. He saw the Eiffel Tower nearly every day, taking long walks along the Seine River for the best views. Apart from the tower, his favorite landmarks were Pont Alexandre III, often cited as the most beautiful bridge in the world, and the Place de la Bastille.

He also had the opportunity to play street soccer with locals and attend El Clasico in Barcelona between Spanish soccer rivals FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. Rodriguez says he was comfortable in France and enjoyed the ease of travel between cities. "I actually felt at home there from the beginning," he says.

Currently home in Mexico before departing for San Francisco, Rodriguez says he will always be grateful to Elizabeth Dille and the Office of International Programs for making his experience possible.

"Studying abroad was a great experience because it gave me a lot of tools to continue navigating my professional path," he says. "I will always value the memories. The spring 2023 semester was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and turning 23 in front of the Eiffel Tower made it even more remarkable. Every day I spent in Paris was simply extraordinary."

For more information, contact Christen Engel, (803) 641-2825,