International Student: Athletes on Campus

By Justina Kilumelume and Olivia Nalugya


Christopher Francis’ 17 playing for the Kalamazoo College soccer team.

On top of the regular academic stress and the struggle of adapting to a new environment, the decision to play a team sport can be difficult for an international student.

“Those students who pursue involvement in sports are simply those who have the greater desire to do so,” said Christopher Francis ’17 from Jamaica, who plays on the soccer team.

There are currently 132 international students on campus, but according to the Athletic Department, only five international students are part of a varsity team.

“Getting used to the training, running 15 miles every week can be challenging,” said Paul Tshele ’14 from Zimbabwe, who runs cross country. “You need to be dedicated and once you get used to it, it gets easier and enjoyable.”

Some find it challenging to find balance between academics and extracurricular activities.

“Managing academics and athletics just comes with adjusting to the lifestyle of the school,” Francis said. “So, basically, proper time-management, keeping up with classes, visiting office hours, and traditional reading keeps me on track.”

According to Kristen Smith, the Director of Athletics, Kalamazoo College does not recruit many international students, because their main focus is on the Midwest.

“We would love to recruit more international students,” Smith said. “We wish we had the resources for it.”

She added that international students are introduced to the Athletics Department by the admissions office only when they express the interest to participate in a certain sport.

Tshele was not able to join the soccer team because he arrived late to campus and couldn’t try out for the team.

“The team had already started practice, and had developed relationships and coordination skills with each other, so I ended up joining the cross country team, where you don’t necessarily need to practice with your teammates,” Tshele said.

Francis advises other international students to make an effort and get involved.

“People are generally afraid to fail so they do not even try to get engaged in an activity. If they never try then they will never know if or how well they can manage,” Francis said.

Both Tshele and Francis say they’ve benefited from their experiences as student athletes. Not only does it contribute to their physical wellness, it ‘s also a way to release stress, build good relationships, and learn about new cultures.

“I get to meet new people from different places at the cross country meets,” Tshele said. “It’s also a great opportunity to represent your college and be recognized by school authorities.”

Coach Smith asserts that having more international student participation in K varsity sports could potentially enhance the Athletics Program. She suggested that if international students have a sporting activity that is not necessarily ‘American,’ she would be happy to organize for it to be incorporated into the academic year.