Now Serving: International Flair
by Denton Postlewait
Delta Digital News Service
JONESBORO — International student-athletes provide rich culture, diversity and fierce competition to all Arkansas State University athletic programs.
According to www.ncaa.org, over 20,000 international student-athletes compete at NCAA-compliant schools. A-State happens to be one of those schools; Amelia Guevremont is one of those student-athletes.
Guevremont, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, plays tennis for A-State. She grew up in Montreal, Canada and said her sister influenced her decision to come to America.
“I saw my sister grow up playing tennis and she wanted to go to the states,” she said. “I wanted to do the same thing as her.”
Canada’s different educational system meant Guevremont graduated from high school a year earlier than her American-born competition. She thought she wanted to go straight to the states after graduation but ended up staying in Canada another year. This decision costed her numerous offers from college coaches. Eventually, she decided to attend the University of Illinois at Chicago. After a year in the city, Guevremont decided she wanted to transfer and began emailing coaches. During this process, she received a full-ride scholarship to A-State and decided to move to Jonesboro and become a Red Wolf.
The process of transferring colleges can be difficult. Students must make sure their classes transfer and that they stay academically eligible to compete. Apart from the academic stress, students may not know any of their new teammates, let alone a new city. Thankfully, A-State employs academic coordinators to help with the social and academic transition.
“There is always a bit of a disconnect when they come in because it’s such a shock-and-awe,” said A-State academic coordinator Nate Carr. “Our position as an academic coordinator for athletics is to reduce that shock-and-awe.”
Carr, a former international student-athlete at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, understands the transition better than most. He said one of the biggest hurdles for international students can be the language barrier between them and the general population. Shannon O’Brien, a junior from Cleveland, also competes on the tennis team and said the language barrier can be tough to overcome.
“I’m pretty sarcastic,” she said. “Sometimes when I try to make a joke, they don’t always get it.”
Carr said being at the university makes most international student-athletes happy. They do not mind putting in extra studying or tutoring because it helps them succeed academically and socially. He said the best part of being an academic coordinator comes from seeing the personal growth the athletes show.
“You meet their parents on graduation day and they say, ‘They’re such a different person,'” he said. “I always say, ‘Your son or daughter disappeared for four or five years and now they have a degree and became a man or woman.'”
Carr said the uniqueness of international students makes his job great.
“A student may have trouble writing or speaking English, but then you find out it is their fifth language,” he said. “International students, like all students on campus, are a little bit unique.”
Guevremont said her coach does not really consider her international because of Canada’s proximity to the United States, but she still considers herself foreign.
“I’m not as foreign as them, English is something I might have learned at a younger age,” she said. “It is easier for me than them.”
Guevremont said the difficulty of her first semester stemmed from not being close with the team. Part of that disconnect came from her being new to the team and to the university. She said she became really close to the team this semester and that she trusts her teammates and can talk to them about anything. Guevremont said if she could, she would not change the path that led her to A-State.
“I believe everything happens for a reason,” she said. “There are ups and downs, but that’s part of life. I’m really happy to be here.”
For more information about A-State Tennis, go to www.astateredwolves.com, click on the Sports Tab and select “Tennis” under Women’s Sports.