International Athletes Join the Spartan Army

Joshua Jenkins
Staff Writer

As a human race we love being comfortable. Our comfort zone, by definition, is a place we can go, mentally or physically, where we feel safe and at ease without a hint of stress. Why would we want to leave such a warm place of refuge when upon leaving we are immediately vulnerable and susceptible to a number of heinous things in this world? The catch about our comfort zones, though, is that the magic and wonder of life is taking place outside of it.

There is a diverse group of students at Upstate who have set out to pursue that magic, and they are our coalition of foreign athletes. Of the 221 student athletes at USC Upstate, 27 of them are internationals or a little over 12 percent. 27 shattered comfort zones. Not only do these individuals have to come in and adjust to new cultures, they must balance their sport and school on top of all that. When asked what it was like moving to a new country, Malika Allie, an Upstate sophomore golfer and student from Cape Town, South Africa, says, “It was very different in the beginning. Being away from home was very tough, especially when I grew up having my parents and family around me and doing things for me all the time. I had to do things I usually wouldn’t do like sort out my finances and sort out things I would usually take for granted.”

Allie’s transition was softened by the fact that English was her first language. However, this isn’t always the case.  Ramon Simonetti, an Upstate sophomore tennis player and student from Passo Fundo, Brazil, said “[The transition] wasn’t easy, making new friends and getting in touch with professors was hard when my English was not good at the start. It was hard as well to do a lot of stuff like rent my apartment, get all the paperwork needed, and create a bank account; all of the things I had back home.”

Once in our comfort zone we rarely entertain the thought of ever venturing outside of it. Remaining enveloped in our comfort zone is good because we’re safe, but terrible because we never get to experience any of life’s magic, any of its charm. We can all learn from these 27 shattered zones of comfort and do something out of the ordinary every once in a while. Break the mold.