Go West this summer and get ahead.

International students enjoy their time at Georgia State

International women’s tennis athletes Daniela Ramirez at practice on Jan. 30. Photo by Julian Pineda | The Signal

In life, there will always be times where you have to change and adapt to new things. Some changes will be easier than others. Some of them will be a part of the hardest times in your life. For some at Georgia State University, students have had to pack up from their home countries and move to America for college. Included in that group of students are athletes who decided to come to Georgia State to pursue their athletic and academic dreams.

In America, the most popular sports are basketball, football and baseball, which is why you see the best athletes gravitate towards those sports. However, other sports are starting to pick up steam here in America.

“I think a lot more kids are choosing golf over those four main sports nowadays than ever before. It’s an individual game, and you don’t have to rely on teammates to have success,” men’s golf coach Chad Wilson said. “With concussions being a big part of the talk in sports right now, I think parents are guiding their kids to golf, and we are getting some great athletes because of that.”

When you take a look at the rosters for several teams at Georgia State, they have a lot of international athletes. The women’s tennis and golf teams. These teams have a total of 18 athletes between the two of them and of that, 14 athletes are foreigners. This illustrates the potential they have to be able to play at a Division 1 school, but it also shows how quickly things are changing.

For these athletes, the toughest part may be leaving everything that they know behind, packing up their lives to move somewhere foreign to their love of the game. In most cases, they don’t know anyone, except the coach (s) who recruit them and the friends they develop bonds with.

Broken Promise

For senior tennis star Kristin Rehse, that’s exactly what happened to her. Rehse is from Hofheim, Germany where she spent all of her life before moving here. She was all set and committed to Georgia State when the coach who recruited her left the school two weeks prior to her arrival.

“It was very hard and I actually never thought of coming here,” Rehse said. “When someone asked me ‘Okay what are you going to do after high school,’ I thought it would be something close to my family, but I was the one ending up going somewhere completely different. So at first, it was really hard and I got really homesick.”

She considered going to a different school, but decided against it because it felt too late; it was already almost time to move.

“At first I was very down, and thinking what am I going to do?” Rehse said. “But there was no way for me to transfer or go to another school, because there was a lot of stuff like paperwork and everything, so I just thought okay I’d come here and just see how it goes.”

Rehse stuck it out and made the best of her situation. So far, it looks like deciding to stick with the move worked for the best.

“I’m the most proud that we won the conference in my second year, that was pretty awesome,” Rehse said.

Biggest adjustments

Aside from leaving their homes, student-athletes often struggle with language barriers when they first move here. A lot of students do learn English before the move, but there is a still a learning curve when they arrive. Most people say the best way to learn a language is to surround yourself with native speakers, and that is probably why the students adjust so well, and so fast.

“It’s by far the language barrier, and it’s probably the fact that when you come to college, not just for our students but for any students it’s about time management,” women’s tennis head coach Jason Marshall said. “I think the first semester is always the hardest because they are homesick. They miss their friends, they miss their parents and everything is new to them. So to ask someone to leave for four months and come back home it’s tough.”

Wilson said that time management is the number one thing that he helps his players with when they come over.

“College golf is new and exciting for freshmen, and we do our best to help them manage their time,” Wilson said. “Making sure they are not just focusing their energy on golf; they have school work, too!”

The language barrier was something that Rehse had to overcome herself.

“Well, at first it was a little hard because I just had English in school, so it was kind of hard to understand at times, but you adjust pretty quickly and it’s going well now,” Rehse said.

Bonding Together

Another thing that helps the student-athletes bond is having a team full of students just like them. The similarities help make their adjustments a lot easier.

“We’re from different cultures. Sometimes it’s a little difficult because our expressions. So we can say something that might offend another person, but you get used to it, and you actually learn a lot about other countries, like food-wise and religion-wise,” junior tennis player Daniela Ramirez said. “I think that actually helps a lot because we understand each other and that we’re in a different country and that we have to get used to another culture.”

Georgia State is one of the most diverse schools in the state of Georgia, and the athletics department reflects that.

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