Impact's Shamit Shome completes his engineering degree at Concordia

There were numerous challenges along the way for 22-year-old midfielder as he combined his university studies with a pro soccer career.

Impact midfielder Shamit Shome (No. 28) goes through drill during practice at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on Feb. 1, 2018. Dave Sidaway / Montreal Gazette

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Completing a degree in electrical engineering at Concordia — while playing professional soccer for the Impact — took enormous time management and discipline for Shamit Shome.

But now that it’s done, the 22-year-old midfielder has some bittersweet emotions, knowing the convocation ceremony will be held online next month due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel like there’s a little void in my life,” Shome said Monday during a phone interview. “It was a difficult five years … having to balance school and soccer at the same time, managing my time so I could complete my assignments, write my exams, while making sure I was performing well at practice and in games. It was a bit of a juggling act.

“At the end of the day, I’m thankful I was able to manage it and it all worked out pretty well.”

Now in his fourth season with the Major League Soccer club, Shome completed the four-year university program over five years. A native of Edmonton, Shome began his studies at the University of Alberta, then enrolled at Concordia after being selected by the Impact in the second round (41st overall) of the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. The transfer delay forced his additional time in the classroom.

With his degree within reach, Shome ensured he had a lighter workload his final semester and took only two courses. But that also meant having to write two exams.

There were numerous challenges along the way, including two extended training-camp sessions in Florida last winter as the Impact prepared for its season. While the team practises in the morning, not all of Shome’s classes or labs were exclusively in the afternoon. There were school sessions missed and he was forced to play catch-up, not always being able to rely on the notes taken by classmates. Shome admitted he fell behind.

“You have to really want to do a degree while playing a pro sport,” he said. “You really have to be committed to it and it has to be something you actually enjoy doing. That’s what made it easier when I had to force myself to work.”

While it helped that Shome’s father — a civil engineer who came to Edmonton from Bangladesh in the 1980s with a scholarship offer on a student visa — preached the importance of education, the budding pro athlete had numerous hurdles along the way. One time, Shome remembered getting off a plane following a road game and going directly to school to write an exam.

“There were so many situations I was put in where I had to find a way to make it work,” he said. “Just finding the time. Both are very demanding. After practice you’re tired. Then you have to take the métro to Concordia and go straight into a classroom for three or four hours, listening to different lectures. Then you have homework or labs. Repeat that on a daily basis. It’s exhausting.”

The Impact had played two MLS games and was in the second round of Champions League tournament matches when pro sports went on hiatus in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many ways, having to self-isolate in his Montreal apartment proved to be a blessing in disguise for Shome, allowing him more time to concentrate on his studies.

“Everybody’s stuck at home,” he said. “The pro athlete, when you’re playing, what do you do all day? It was nice to have something else to do for the time to pass. It kept me busy.

“It’s not just me in this situation. It’s everyone around the world going through this same thing. I’m sure there are people who have it rougher than I do.”

As of Monday, Impact players had access to Centre Nutrilait for individual training after receiving clearance over the weekend from Quebec’s public health department. The training is strictly voluntary and players — including Shome on opening day — trained in a secure, sanitary and controlled environment in a clearly defined quadrant.

Upon arriving alone at a designated time, Shome’s temperature was taken and his hands sanitized. He walked directly to his cordoned-off area and had specific drills to work on that were received, complete with Youtube instructions, the night before. About 45 minutes later, Shome left, putting on a facemask and going directly to his car.

The sessions were supervised by the team’s fitness coach. The coaching staff’s allowed access as well, but must come alone and arrive at designated intervals.

“It’s definitely different,” Shome said. “We have to make sure we’re following the protocols. It’s definitely exciting to be back on the field. It’s better than nothing.”

Moving forward, Shome said everything remains vague as far as what happens next in MLS. But this is the first phase of what he hopes will be an eventual return to action.