McKendree update! We catch-up with Issy and Rhian as they begin their second semester

McKendree Bowling

English bowlers Issy Allen and Rhian Dobinson have flown-back to the USA to continue with their studies at McKendree University in Illinois.  We caught-up with them both as they begin their second semester..

[ SW ] After a great first semester and then the Christmas and New Year holidays you must be keen to get back to Illinois and re-join the Lady Bearcats.

We’re all wanting to know how did the first semester pan-out for you both, and did you find it an exciting if not slightly worrying time being away from family and friends? 

Issy Allen
Issy Allen

[ IA ] “My first semester was really enjoyable. It was so much more than I expected and I am so glad I made the move over here.

“The first few weeks away from home were hard, as I was going into the unknown but once we started team training and I settled in to my classes it now feels like home. Everyone over here especially my team mates, Shannon and Bryan have welcomed me so well and they are like my second family now.

“I am still able to FaceTime my family everyday and it makes them feel like they are just around the corner rather than thousands of miles away.


Rhian Dobinson
Rhian Dobinson

[ RD ] “Classes went well they were very enjoyable. 

“It was good to start with the General Education classes that help make up my degree.   They were a mix of face2face and virtual learning to keep the number of people in a room down because of COVID-19.

“It was different being away from home with the hardest thing being the time difference between the two countries, but  it was exciting to be on my own.  I did FaceTime Mum & Dad, my Sisters and Grandad regularly especially when stuck on an assignment.



[ SW ] What did you both get through academically during the opening semester, and what lies ahead for you this semester and beyond?

[ IA ] “My first semester consisted of just general education classes as I am still undecided on my major. I am either going to pursue Criminal Justice or Psychology but I want to make sure I choose the right one. I will make the decision at the end of the year.  This semester I will continue with general education classes such as American Politics and Computing.

“Each semester depends on the amount of credit hours you do, which then your grade accumulates into your end of semester GPA (grade point average). For the spring semester I am taking 16 credits, and for the four years you need 120 credits to be eligible to graduate. Within those credits you have to take a certain amount of general education classes, which is why I am currently studying them now.

[ RD] “I had five different classes the majority covering the General Education element of my degree.  One class I had to do was on American Culture which covered important differences in the two countries like the legal drinking age being 21 instead of 18 and not to get out of the car when a police officer stops you

“Overall the classes went well but there is a quite a difference between the teaching and writing styles of the English and the American school systems.  It  was a struggle at first for me and the tutors (they thought I was speaking another language!) but after a while I got the hang of it, getting honours grades at the end of the term.

“Most of my classes for the upcoming term are connected with my major in athletic training such as principles of training which I am excited to start.


[ SW ] How has it been making new friends whilst at University?  I imagine the team are welcoming, Shannon and Brian also, but what about other students in your academia? Are you a totally modern student using iPad and laptop for note taking and similar such as we see most, if not all students do on YouTube now?

[ IA ] “The team, Shannon and Bryan have been very welcoming. Everyone gets along really well and we are a tight knit group. I have definitely made some friends for life in the team. It is hard to meet new people outside of the team in the current circumstances, as most classes are online.

“I take my laptop everywhere on campus so I would definitely agree with that, if I am not bowling I am studying! 

[ RD ] “Making new friends wasn’t as hard as I thought, as my posh English accent and my goth T-shirts seem to break the ice.  I can’t count the number of times I have been asked  to say certain words e.g. like “Harry Potter”.   The Girls finds my accent harder to understand than Issy’s even though we do use the same words.  It took the both of us to explain what a plaster was. 

“The team are very welcoming and are always up for a chat and happy to help with anything.  Especially giving us lifts to the bowl everyday and to get take-out when we need a change from the College weekly meal plan.  

“Shannon and Brian are great and so supportive.  They regularly check on us as they understand it is difficult to be away from home, especially Issy and me.  Also with the restriction put on us with Covid 19.   

“Shannon and Brian were particularly great  when I had to stay a few more days after the term had finished and they invited me to their thanksgiving.  This was a good  opportunity to be part of my first American thanksgiving. It was an interesting was a good job I love all sports so  I was able to discuss the American Football with Brian.  During the day there was a confusion on my part  to understand what they meant by “a pie”.   I do love a steak pie but this not what pie is in America.  A  pie is a sweet thing  and eaten cold.

“I like to think of myself as a modern student as I use my laptop and iPad most of the time but occasionally I can still do notes the “old fashioned way“ . It is easier when on zoom meetings just to write notes down on paper. 


[ SW ] How has the experience been bowling as part of the McKendree Lady Bearcats?   Have you bowled yet in any tournaments, and if you have which ones and how did you get on?

[ IA ] “Bowling with an NCAA team (National Collegiate Athletic Association – ed.) is something I wish everyone could do. The sheer support your teammates and coaches have for you is amazing.  My first NCAA experience at our home tournament (the Hammer Bearcat Open – ed.) was so much fun, and I took so much away from it. It makes me so excited for the spring semester, and the chances we have as a team to continue to be the best. 

“It was unfortunate that two of the tournaments last semester were cancelled that we were planning on going to, so I am really looking forward to our first tournament back next weekend and competing with the team again this semester! 

[ RD ] “It’s been great bowling with the girls, everyone is encouraging of each other.  I didn’t get to bowl in the first formal tournament which was in our home bowl but because of Covid we couldn’t support.  But I did bowl in the boys vs girl in house tournament (based on the Ryder Cup)  which was challenging, especially as I was moved up to 15lbs that week and I still managed  a 200 average for the week,  winning some points for the girls side. We didn’t win against the boys but it was great to bowl with the girl in a competition setting.


[ SW ] There are 7 tournaments starting at the end of January this year, this must be a wonderful feeling knowing the opportunities are available to you, especially with the UK and most of Europe beck under ‘lockdown’?  Are you going to participate in these? 

[ IA ] “Yes, at this current moment we are planned to go to a lot of tournaments scattered over the USA this semester. The first two tournaments that are planned are the Columbia 300 Saints Invite at Maryville University in Missouri and the Prairie View Invitational in Arlington, Texas. I

“It is a great feeling to be able to bowl in new places with the team and to be able to have the opportunity to bowl whilst I know many others around the world are not able to do so right now so I am really grateful that we can compete.

“We have to do a minimum of 12 hours of academic work up to a maximum of 18 hours a week. This means I do an average of 3 hours of classes in the morning then I go to training with the team.  This leaves plenty of time either at night or weekends to complete assignments . 

[ RD ] “I might participate in some of the tournaments but as a freshman I didn’t expect to get picked for the tournament squad in my first year, but you never know what will happen. 


[ SW ] Can you tell us a little about your typical week at Uni?  How often do you study, how often do you train and what does the training comprise of?

[ IA] “So the typical week (if we are going off the fall semester) would be 8am-1pm of classes, 1:30-3:30pm of Practice which can consist of anything like 2 hours of spare shooting, tracking our slides, Specto, physical game and so much more.   Then depending on the day I could have night classes. For example, last semester I had a psychology class from 6-8:50pm every Tuesday.

“This semester I have an English class from 4-5:50pm every Tuesday and Thursday. It also is dependant on if we are travelling on the weekend, which then we usually have to miss classes on Thursday and Friday to go to the tournament. Which then I will catch up on any work from them classes I have missed in the following week! 

[ RD ] “We have to do a minimum of 12 hours of academic work up to a maximum of 18 hours a week. This means I do an average of 3 hours of classes in the morning then I go to training with the team.  This leaves plenty of time either at night or weekends to complete assignments . 

“Training with the team has been great, its 2 hours a day 5 days a week.  The  whole team works on their physical game, which includes specific individual work, drills that we also use as a warm up everyday, and lots of spares work.  Shannon and Brian are really supportive of my style and they have been able to show me new ways  to controlled and  enhance my technique in such a small amount of time.  


[ SW ] What has been the toughest thing personally about being some 4,000 miles from home, but more importantly what have been the highlights?

[ IA ] “The toughest thing about being so far away from home is not being with my family every day.  The people that know me will know how close I am to my sister, and we are literally inseparable. So leaving her was really hard, as well as leaving my Mum and Dad.  But I know that they are so supportive of what I am doing and want the absolute best for me.

“The highlights have been the people I have met here and of course being so fortunate to train and compete with such an amazing team most weekends in the midst of such difficult times.

[ RD ] “Some of the toughest things about being 4000 miles away include the different food such as American bacon not being the same as actual bacon as we English  know it, there isn’t any steak pie which is difficult for me (!) people find it funny when I is say crips instead of chips and chips instead of fries, the weather, as I find that I am typically English and think the weather is too hot and that I miss all type of Cadbury chocolate, I can’t seem to get use to American chocolate

“The highlights have been teaching friends some true English words such as the bonnet of the car, fuel goes in a car and not gas (!), trying to explain how to play Cricket and that Football is not soccer..other highlights have been waiting for food parcels from home containing chocolate and baked beans!

My thanks to Issy and Rhian for giving up their time to complete this interview.

Stuart Watson
Head of Communications & PR
The British Tenpin Bowling Association