No Italian, no worries as water polo breaks language barrier

The words seemed alien to him, but the flailing arms of his Italian coach spoke volumes to water polo player Harry Shaw during the international study experience of a lifetime.

Meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis was just one of the cultural opportunities for the Bachelor of Information Technology student who is now home in Sydney after a study stint at the Australian Catholic University’s Rome Campus.

An agreement between ACU and Italy Serie A1 club SS Lazio enabled Shaw to train with some of the world’s best players.

Neither the coach, nor his teammates, could speak more than a few words of English so the goalkeeper discovered the international language of water polo could be just as effective.

“During a training drill, the coach pulled everyone over to the side and there was no way for me to know what he was saying,” Shaw said.

“But I could pick up quite a lot from his gestures. When he was throwing his arms around a lot I knew that meant swim and I could figure out from his hand movements when he said fake.

“I didn’t have to speak Italian to work those out.”

The 21-year-old New South Wales Institute of Sport athlete eventually learned some key phrases – ordering coffee became vital – during his Italian spell.

Shaw’s experience was facilitated through ACU’s Elite Athlete and Performer Program (EAPP) which uses the University’s unique multiple campuses to broaden the international academic and athletic horizons of its elite student athletes.

It provided him an opportunity to study internationally while developing his craft with one of the world’s best water polo clubs. In addition to meeting Pope Francis, Shaw also participated in the University’s community program by assisting at a homeless shelter.

“Being a student in Rome was amazing. Doing the classroom work only to then go witness those world issues first hand outside in the city of Rome was a new and unexpected experience,” he said.

“The campus gave a great sense of place within the city, and the contrast between Rome and home.”

The second-year student from ACU’s North Sydney Campus has been testing his internationally sharpened skills for Drummoyne in the recently-commenced Australian Water Polo League.

“The Italians are really focused on individual skills, on the development of the player,” Shaw said. “I picked up so much watching their goal keeper – he played a really aggressive style, which I liked.” 

ACU’s EAPP can support can support students in many ways, including early timetabling, access to travel grants and scholarships and academic support.

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