Home is where the heart is for Samford athletes: International athletes find way to become apart of the Samford community

The transition from high school to college is a huge undertaking for any student but throw in leaving your home country to pursue sports and this conversion to campus life can be even more challenging. Three Samford students, one from Canada and two from England, shared their experiences of moving from one country to another, the process, hardships, along with the demands that come with balancing school and sports.

Josh Berze, a sophomore sports administration major from Alberta, Canada, is a player on the Samford golf team. He always knew he would end up going to school in the United States but never thought he would end up in Alabama.

Berze said, “I figured I would come to the U.S. for school, but if you asked me five years ago I wouldn’t be here because of golf.”

Berze heard about Samford through his recruitment process, got in contact with the Samford golf coach and upon his visit to Samford he was surprised that he really liked the school and area that surrounded it.

Berze said another plus to coming to the South was “…getting out of the minus forty winters of western Canada.”

What most people do not realize is the extent of the culture shock international students endure in coming to college in the States.

Berze said, “The transition wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Even after a year of being here I still feel like I stick out because of the way I talk, dress, or do things.”

Unfortunately, if these students get homesick they do not have the flexibility in their schedules to go home often and some do not have the finances to cover the travel costs.

Berze said, “I definitely miss my family and friends the most. I don’t get the chance to go home like most people do, I only get to go home for winter break and summer break, and I maybe see my parents once a semester and it would only be for a short period of time.”

Elsa Pool is a junior finance and management major from Kingscode, United Kingdom. She also shared her feelings of homesickness when she first came to Samford as part of the women’s tennis team.

Pool said, “I love home and family is a very important part of my life so it was difficult leaving them and everything that I was used to. I was quite overwhelmed by all the differences and it took me a while to get used to everything and being away from home.”

Pool noticed the cultural and social differences right away when she moved here.

She said, “I was shocked at how different particularly the South is culturally compared to England e.g. the way people interact, the norms of society, what is acceptable etc.”

Much like Berze, Pool came to know about Samford through her recruiting agency, but never thought tennis would provide her the opportunity to go to school in the United States on a full scholarship. She saw her sister’s experience in playing tennis in the U.S. and could not wait to follow her footsteps.

Another tennis player Holly Horsfall a junior, JMC major, from Holfirth England transferred to Samford her sophomore year. She disclosed that her time at MTSU was underwhelming and left her wanting more.

Horsfall said, “Have you ever heard the saying ‘an arrow can only be shot forward pulling it back? When life feels like it’s dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great.’ It’s so relevant for me coming from MTSU to here.”

All three students had nothing but positive feedback as to how their teams at Samford have shaped them into the student athletes they are today. Berze said he has learned some southern mannerisms by watching his teammates but what he appreciates most is their willingness to accept each other’s differences. In the same way, the tennis team has helped Pool by making her feel valued and lifting her confidence. Horsfall feels she has not only become a better person because of her teammates, but also because of her coaches. By having to clean the arena after games and take the trash out after practice she has learned the importance of taking care of the little things. Her coach also expects the team to have a GPA of at least 3.0, which keeps her focused on her studies.

Committing to a collegiate sport is a decision that shapes students’ lives forever. According to the NCAA, “International student-athletes face unique challenges once they land on campus, including additional travel, language barriers, difficulties in adjusting to a new sports culture, acclimatization issues and isolation. With such challenges, international student-athletes bring depth and cultural diversity that enhances the learning environment of every student-athlete, coach and administrator in the Association.” Samford international students exemplify these qualities if not more, and make us “Samford Strong.”


Quinn Pepper, Sports Writer

[photo courtesy of Creative Commons]