Seattle University continues to grow as a diverse campus with the addition of several international student athletes.
Seattle U’s academics already attract students from all over the world, but now it appears that our athletics appeal to many young athletes as well.
This year Seattle U welcomes three Croatian women’s volleyball playersfreshmen Iris Ivanis and Malea Mamic, and sophomore Martina Samadan. The team’s assistant coach Nick Petrovic also hails from Serbia. Several other international athletes, like sophomore Jack Crook and freshman Theo Turner from Britain, have joined Seattle U’s ranks in recent years as well.
Coach Petrovic explained that there are vast differences between coaching volleyball in the U.S. and coaching back home. In Eastern Europe, there are no middle school, high school or college volleyball teams, only a professional league. In the states, college volleyball has two times the amount of practice and games than the professional leagues of Eastern Europe. Although he likes how organized college volleyball is, he wishes that there was more one-on-one time with the players in order to help them improve.
Petrovic said he came to Seattle because he felt the professional leagues were unprofessional and the talent of his fellow coaches was lacking.
“When I started university, I liked coaching but I didn’t like my coaches, I made the point that I could coach better than my own coaches,” said Petrovic.
Both Samadan and Ivanis said it was a dream come true to have the opportunity to play volleyball at a U.S. college. The two girls have played volleyball for the past seven years and are looking forward to playing at the collegiate level for the remainder of their time at Seattle U. Samadan had always planned to play college volleyball instead of in a professional league because her education is important to her. Ivanis, on the other hand, did not plan to go to the states for college, but still wished that it might happen.
“Going to college in the states was not the plan, but a dream or perfect idea, which eventually became a reality,” said Ivanis.
Both women are overjoyed that they are able to grow in their education while playing Division I volleyball. However, the athletes admit that their cultural transition and adjusting to college life has been a little difficult. Balancing schoolwork and volleyball can be challenging at times, especially when free time is so scarce and sleep is so tempting. Additionally with regards to food, nothing compares to back home–the girls miss their country’s cuisine. In order to meet new people, Ivanis mentioned that pre-season provided a chance to bond with her teammates and make friends with other student athletes.
Ivanis was recently awarded the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) volleyball player of the week, which she says was a very big award for her. She was surprised and happy to receive the award, but also sees it as a motivation to continue to work hard.
Similar to the volleyball women, Crook said he had no idea that college basketball was in the cards for him until around age 17. He has been playing basketball for the past four years, but just for fun, and he committed to Seattle U because of its high caliber coaching staff. He explained that in the U.S. the game is played at a faster pace and all the players are bigger, stronger and faster. Collegiate basketball practices and coaching techniques in the United States are also more organized. Overall his transition into U.S. culture was not very difficult as Seattle and Manchester are quite similar, so he did not experience culture shock.
International student athletes experience both ups and downs during the cultural transition process. Moving thousands of miles away from home to a different country to be a collegiate athlete requires a lot of hard work and motivation. Through recruiting such athletes, Seattle U is potentially building a community that is both culturally aware and accepting of cultures outside the U.S.