Michael Carlson (IAFS ’00) discovered his passion for international affairs in his IAFS classes at CU. However, he had another interest that had been with him for many years. As a teenager, Carlson’s family hosted a German exchange student, José Neumann, who shared his love of soccer. After Neumann returned to Germany, Carlson visited him and the two attended a professional German club soccer match, cheering for the home team Borussia Dortmund. “The energy of the crowd and surrounding the game was incredible, and my passion for playing soccer skyrocketed,” explains Carlson. From that point on, he focused his efforts around a future in playing soccer professionally.
During his time at CU Boulder, Carlson joined the Freiburger FC team while taking a full semester of courses in Freiburg, Germany. He was impressed by the players’ high level of skill and diversity, and the close bond among his teammates. He played with the team during the spring of 1999 during the Kosovo conflict. “My team had players from many countries such as Serbia, Bosnia, and Albania,” shares Carlson. “Even with international conflicts happening on the grander scale, the soccer field was a place for us to come together and be united.”
Carlson had an opportunity to play soccer again in Germany after studying abroad. However, he decided to decline the offer and to return to Boulder to finish his IAFS degree. It was a hard decision because it made his dream of becoming a professional soccer player even farther from his reach. A few years later, Carlson collaborated with Neumann, the German exchange student from years earlier, to form the International Futbol X-Change (IFX) Program, a project close to both of their hearts. IFX is a premier international soccer organization providing total immersion programs to soccer players from around the world. They arrange for hundreds of players to join soccer clubs, complete academics, and experience different cultures.
For years, Carlson only wanted a career as a soccer player. However, his education, experiences abroad, and the development of IFX have shown him that life has a way of creating new, unexpected opportunities. “Today I tell my players this: I didn’t think there was anything else I wanted to do other than be a soccer player, but experiences along the way showed me otherwise,” he says. “Pursue your dreams and never limit yourself from new things that may come to surface.”