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Teen football star from Rainham living the American dream

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 December 2015

Ashleigh runs with the ball during her trial in Dallas, Texas. Picture: Carol Carter

Ashleigh runs with the ball during her trial in Dallas, Texas. Picture: Carol Carter

Archant

A teen football star is living the American dream after making a last-ditch trip to Texas to rescue her career.

Ashleigh with a team mateAshleigh with a team mate

Ashleigh Lewis-Shodeinde, 18, was on the verge of giving up her sporting ambitions after being rejected by a host of clubs including Arsenal and West Ham.

But in March the Rainham teenager’s coach arranged for her school team, Barking Abbey, to go to Dallas and compete in a tournament watched by scouts from colleges across the USA.

They didn’t perform well in the competition – but the former Frances Bardsley School for Girls pupil received offers from seven universities and community colleges.

After months of negotiations, she proudly chose to join the University of Southern Mississippi on a 100 per cent scholarship, and moved there in August.

Speaking to the Recorder from her campus, she said she had found the move a big culture shock.

“I came alone and it was overwhelming,” she said. “I was one of the first people in my school and community to make it to America playing at Division 1 at a university.

“I have had to learn a new culture and fit into a place of such difference. I have had many battles, such as the competition to play – as there are people better than me and older.

“The education system is completely different so I have had to manage with that too, as well as the processed food!”

To help inspire others like her who may become disillusioned with their efforts to make the grade, Ashleigh has created a blog, Born Brit in Southern Miss, to document her experience.

She said: “I want to share my story with all the other aspiring students in Britain, especially London, because I want them to have someone who can guide them, tell them what to expect and never feel like I did.

“This has been the hardest transition in my life and I want everyone to know about it.”

Visit Ashleigh’s blog at ashleighlewisshode.wix.com/bbism.

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