Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


International student athletes come from all over the world to play for FAU

When the FAU women’s soccer team took the field against Mercer University on October 10, the game took on a special meaning for midfielder Rhonda Jones. It was the first time in her four-year career at FAU that her parents, who live in North Lanarkshire, Scotland, were able to see her play.

The weekend was also the first time Jones, a senior, had seen her parents in nine months. “I’m so glad they’re here,” Jones said. “I just want to show them everything. I’m so excited.”

For most of the international student athletes at FAU, not seeing their families for extended periods of time is just part of the game. Many visit their homelands only during winter and summer breaks.

International athletes make up 16 percent of the total student athletes at FAU. That number could be much higher, but the football, baseball, and softball teams don’t have any international players. The men’s and women’s basketball teams have only one foreign player each, so that also skews the number a little bit.

Without these aforementioned teams’ players being counted, the number of international athletes rises to over a quarter of the total number of athletes on FAU’s campuses. But how did they get here?

For starters, FAU coaches do not make a habit of traveling overseas to recruit their athletes. Only former tennis coach Caroline Hora is credited with recruiting for her homeland of Czech Republic. This makes it difficult for players to be seen and receive scholarships. So the athletes must come up with creative ways to let coaches know they want to come to school and play for FAU.

FAU volleyball player Krista Klawitter, a sophomore from Ontario, Canada, and tennis player Krystel Borg, a junior from Paris, France, actually hired someone to send tapes of them playing their sports to colleges in the States.

In Klawitter’s case, FAU got lucky. One of FAU’s opposing coaches received Klawitter’s tape and knew that FAU volleyball coach Jody Brown was looking for a setter and forwarded the tape to FAU.

Other international athletes already knew players or students that went to FAU and decided to come here because of them.

“My sister used to play here,” junior Maria Gutierrez, an FAU golf player from Guatemala, said, “so that is how I knew the coach and how I came here.”

Some players just came to the States and toured universities looking for a place to go. Once they met the FAU coaches, they decided that this is where they wanted to stay. A big factor for these athletes was the location of FAU; being close to the beach and experiencing the warm South Florida weather helped the players make their choice.

“I wouldn’t come over if it was up north, like a cold place,” men’s soccer leading scorer Kristoffer Aarskog, a junior from Norway, said. “So I guess the weather was a factor.”

After deciding to come to FAU, making the transition from their home countries made it tough for these athletes.

“Living by myself and cooking by myself,” were a couple of the hardships junior tennis player Alena Dvorakova, of the Czech Republic, went through in her freshman season.

One of the biggest adjustments players must go through is playing their sport in a different country.

The women’s soccer players found the style of play less physical in America as compared to Europe, while most men’s players find it more physical here.

“The players from Europe have bad behavior,” men’s and woman’s tennis coach Alex Alcantara said. “They curse on the court, they scream, throw rackets. When they come we have to work on that part, but everyone works the same.”

Along with attitudes and playing style, players must learn how to interact with each other. Sixteen of the men’s soccer team’s 26 players are from foreign countries.

“It would be easy for groups to stay together that speak the same language,” Brazilian FAU soccer player Gustavo Alencar, a junior, said. “But Coach [Koz Donev] makes us only speak English.”

Soccer head coach Donev added, “It helps them be stronger together. They actually are teaching each other their home languages.”

Being that FAU is one of the most diverse universities in the country, players do not have a tough time fitting in on campus. Everywhere they turn, there is a student that speaks a different language and, more important, someone that speaks their language.

“I feel right at home with all the Jamaicans on campus,” senior soccer player Lisanne Peart, said.

Actually, most of the athletes the UP spoke with, expressed how FAU as a community embraces the different cultures and makes every one of them feel comfortable, like they’re part of a family.

A lot of the foreign athletes came to America because it was the only way to get an education and continue playing the sports that they love so much. With schooling in their foreign countries being so difficult, players would have had no time to play sports as well as study for classes. Also, most schools in foreign countries do not have sports teams. Players have to play for club teams and do a lot of traveling that would conflict with their schoolwork.

In the United States, collegiate athletics is so intertwined with learning that it made it very easy for these students to continue to play.

At FAU, athletes have a study facility at the Oxley Center and have tutors on hand to help them maintain the 2.0 grade point average needed to play for their teams.

Most professors also make exceptions for athletes because of their travel schedules. Many set different times for them to take exams that may be missed due to games in other cities.

Foreign athletes find it nice to come to America and receive an education for free, as most of the athletes receive scholarships, a perk that would never be given in their home countries. Getting the chance to learn for free was an opportunity that senior tennis player Tania Rivera, who comes from Puerto Rico, could not pass up.

“I chose FAU because it was the only school that gave complete scholarships so I could go to school,” Rivera explained.

As good as all this sounds, these athletes all expressed that if it were not for their sports, they would have never come to the States or FAU. The option of playing a sport has opened up a lifetime of opportunities for these athletes. Getting a chance to come to America is something a lot of foreigners dream about but can never achieve, while these students get to live their dreams.

There is one thing that almost all the student athletes wished was different at FAU, though: student participation. These athletes want to be supported, and that is something that does not happen enough at FAU, they say.

Now that you’ve met some of our international players, go to the games and support these athletes who have traveled so far to play for your school.

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