Freshman Patrick Schott received his student visa just one week before leaving his childhood home in Stuttgart, Germany, for his academic home of Belmont University.
A student-athlete, he has been at Belmont for four months as a goalkeeper for men’s soccer and picked up the task of learning English through YouTube videos, American video games and teammates.
“At the beginning, I didn’t really know the words but I just, like, tried to listen to all my other teammates,” Schott said.
Schott isn’t the only foreign player on the team, though, as four other international students have found community and comradery through their team.
Assistant director for student-athlete success Colette Keyser meets individually with the soccer players every week to check on their progress.
“I would say with regard to men’s soccer, our coaches do a tremendous job of creating a welcoming environment and a family tight, close-knit environment for them,” Keyser said.
Australian forward Ayden von Essen also had to adjust to the Belmont team culture, even as a native English speaker.
“As soon as I got here, the lads that were on campus were very helpful. They all reached out to me, and that was really cool,” von Essen said.
Keyser’s assistant director position allows her to see this firsthand.
“I have been incredibly impressed by how well our international students adjust,” Keyser said. “It's a lot because if they come in August, they're immediately competing, traveling and missing class and that's quite a bit to manage.”
But juggling classes and practice are not the only obstacles international students face.
“The majority of our international student athletes do not have transportation and for a sport like men's soccer that practices and competes off campus, they are very reliant on their teammates to help them. Even getting to the store, a teammate will always take them,” Keyser said.
The lack of transportation may present challenges for many international students, but the team has learned how to come together through it.
“In my daily life, I'm pretty much always around them. I'm always driving with them.” Schott said.
Food is another way that the team bonds.
Von Essen makes every team member who enters his apartment try a bite of Vegemite, a potent Australian spread made of yeast extract.
“I have never found it here,” von Essen jokes. “If anyone finds where I can buy Vegemite, I’ll appreciate it.”
Schott, too, misses a favorite food, but it is not something that can be found in a store.
“I don't have a certain food I miss,” he said. “I miss the food of my mom the most.”
This article was written by Gracie Anderson