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International Student-Athletes Finding a Home in PLNU

Kon’nichiwa, hallo, olá, cześć; those are just some of the languages you might overhear when walking around campus. This is because there are currently 21 international student-athletes that attend PLNU from countries such as Poland, Sweden, Germany, Brazil and Japan, to name a few.

The increase in PLNU’s international student-athlete population brings a vast amount of cultural diversity to campus and opens new doors academically, socially, and athletically for both the local and the international students.

Sam Kwapong, Director of Multicultural and International Student Services, says there are a number of positive outcomes of having international student athletes attend PLNU.

“Academically, I believe that having international student-athletes here have been tremendous. They add to the rich history of PLNU producing brilliant students. Socially, their addition makes this campus come more alive. There is always a fun conversation being had. Athletically, it brings the competition out of everybody else. Imagine playing football (soccer) with someone from Germany, a World Cup-winning country. Their participation will make anyone ‘up’ their game even more.”

Junior goalkeeper, Wiktor Lasota, says that coming to the United States for college is a big draw to many students from foreign countries because the U.S. allows students to focus both on athletics as well as academics.

“In Poland (and Europe in general) one either goes pro and forfeits his academic development, or chooses academics over athletics and forfeits his sports dreams. I have always been a good student and a very good player, therefore I wanted to combine both academics and athletics. Studying in the U.S. gives us international students a unique opportunity to receive great education and develop as a player at the same time.”

Not only does studying in the U.S. provide a unique opportunity for international students, but it also provides one for local students as well.

“I believe that having international students on campus is beneficial and we should jump at any opportunity to increase that population on campus. The harsh reality is that not everyone on our campus can and will go on a study abroad trip. So for some students their only encounter with international students in the classroom is by having international students here,” says Kwapong.

Although the increase in PLNU’s international student-athlete population seems to be positive all around, going to school oceans away from home, in an unfamiliar culture, can be a tough transition for international students.

“While going to college is hard, even for domestic students, imagine all the hardship of leaving home when your home is across the Pacific or the Atlantic. Outside of events on campus, my wife and I open our homes to all the international students, especially during holidays such as Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas etc.,” says Kwapong.

However, being part of a team has helped many of Point Loma’s international athletes feel as at home as possible. Senior, Brendon Millington of PLNU’s Men’s Tennis said, “Being a part of a sports team makes the transition way easier for an international student. Everyone on the team helped me to enjoy life even more at Point Loma.”

Lasota says, “The team is like my family. Since the beginning I was exposed to living, eating, and practicing together. What I love about PLNU is the fact that all of the soccer team arrived a week before starting the preseason this year. We had a week to have light practice together, but also to meet each other and hang out. After this week, I already felt like a part of the family, which made my first days at school really easy.”

The family-like setting is yet another reason why international students are more inclined to choose PLNU to excel academically and athletically.

The increase in international student-athletes, and international students in general, has provided the students of Point Loma a chance to experience a culture and viewpoint unlike their own. This experience is an education in itself that can’t be found in the classroom.

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Sophia Proctor

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