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Sam Hinkie and a Semester Abroad: the Untold Story of his Time in Europe

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Sam’s semester overseas had quite the impact on his life.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The following passages are excerpts from Sam Hinkie's personal journal leading up to and during his semester abroad in Europe while he was a junior in college.

April 6, 1998

The doldrums of my quaint life in Norman have gotten to me. I've spent the majority of my life as a Sooner, both growing up in my father's hometown of Marlow, as well as a student at the fine University of Oklahoma. This all feels a bit too rudimentary at this point though. I've always been one to zig while others zagged, to go down the less beaten pathway, to find the next question while others are still answering the first.

With that in mind, I've decided to spend my fall semester abroad in Europe. It's with my deepest heartache that I'll have to leave behind my dear Allison for a few months, but I've known she was the one for me since I first laid eyes on her outside of Owen Field my freshman year. If anything, our time apart should only make our love grow stronger. It's a difficult move, but a principle I've always adhered to is one part courage, two parts patience.

June 25, 1998

I've finalized my agenda for my semester abroad. I will study in France at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, while making stops throughout the continent, casting a large quiver over all of Europe. Growing up in a dust bowl, however, truly makes me want to spend some time by water. I hope to visit some areas around the Mediterranean and take a dip in the ocean, which I haven't done since my time as a toddler in South Carolina. Oh, and snowboard. For sure, snowboard.

The NBA Draft was last night. Perhaps being born in the Netherlands has left me a bit biased, but I can't help but think that NBA front offices are overlooking the current crop of European talent. I feel as if we'll be seeing a boom in Europeans coming stateside with how much the sport has grow since the Barcelona games in 1992.

One team that really perplexed me was the 76ers. Instead of opting for upside with the seven-foot German product Dirk Nowitzki, who has excelled against Charles Barkley and other Americans in international competition, or taking the consensus All-American Paul Pierce, they selected Larry Hughes. Despite the talent of Allen Iverson, that organization just strikes me as dysfunctional.

My excitement for my time in Paris is palpable.

September 14, 1998

There's a perfect cafe right below the loft I'm living in called Le Processus. The owner is a beautiful, young local named Camille Cabarrot. I find the setting quite tranquil as I gloss over the notes for my European Political Economy class and enjoy a freshly made croissant. Camille's son frequents the cafe. Lanky and tall already at just three years old, he's already a bundle of energy, jumping around the shop and kicking a soccer ball against the wall, much to Camille's chagrin. Hearing her yell at her son Timothe every once in a while makes for a much needed respite from studying.

I've never been a big coffee drinker, having it leave me jittery and unseemly just isn't appealing. Camille convinced me otherwise today, claiming hers is the best in all of Paris. How could I argue with such a beautiful woman? (I hope you're not reading this, Allison). After continuously denying her attempts to get me to try a cup, she said, "Faire confiance au processus." I drank the coffee and, pardon my French, but, my Lord! It was terrific, as was her little slogan. "Trust the process." I like that. Pretty good advice for the business world, no?

October 11, 1998

Disaster briefly struck me.

I boarded a flight to Athens yesterday morning. The draw of visiting the birthplace of democracy, where Plato and Socrates crafted some of the planet's foremost philosophical dogma was too much to pass up, as well as the draw of taking a dip in the Mediterranean and seeing some beautiful Greek women by the sea (sorry again, Allison).

My plane had to make an emergency landing in the former Yugoslavia on the way to Athens. The swift descent left the tail end of the plane in wreckage, as I now have just my passport and my dearest journal to my name here. My paperback of The Republic? Gone. My snorkel? Gone.

I thought my odds of making it back to Paris were slim until I came to the city of Zagreb in what is now Croatia. I wandered the streets hopelessly. I eventually fell upon the Drazen Petrovic Basketball Hall. I remember him from his days with the Blazers and Nets before his untimely death a few years back. This is where his former Croatian club team plays.

I bumped into a man as I was leaving the arena grounds. He seemed friendly and could tell that I wasn't from around here. I certainly looked disoriented. He introduced himself. He spoke a little French and a little English. His name was Predrag Saric. His name was difficult for me to say, but he assured me that most of the names here are hard for Americans to pronounce and that Petrovic used to be too.

He invited me to his home. We broke bread over dinner. His wife seemed sweet. The two had a young, goofy looking child. He couldn't have been older than four or five years old, but he was already quite tall, like his father. I can't praise the generosity of this family enough. Predrag even arranged, through his connections in the Croatian basketball circuit, to get me a flight back to Paris free of charge.

If there's anything I can ever do to repay Predrag or his family one day, I certainly will do so.

November 27, 1998

I had to cancel my trip to the Serre Chevalier ski resort in the Alps due to a conflicting date with an exam for my History of the Ottoman Empire from the 14th Century to Present course.

I really wanted to snowboard. One day perhaps.

December 19, 1998

I've returned to Norman. I'll cherish my time abroad greatly.

I hope I never have to wait for the love of my life to come over from Europe as long as Allison has. Could you imagine if I spent a year or two over there instead of a few mere months?