My Experience as an International Student Athlete

If you go to the U.S. to get a degree, then this might not be for you.
But if you go to the U.S. with an open mind, the attitude to experience something different, and not being afraid of taking a leap of faith, then you just might get a degree along the way.

When I first moved to the U.S. I was 19 years old and had lived comfortably with my parents my whole life. When I left the U.S. I was 25 years old, in the U.S. for five years, in two different states, in three cities with 18 (!) other people from 7 different countries. Too much has happened in those five years, but let me explain how it all started.

I decided to try my luck at Long Island University Post because I got offered a generous athletic scholarship, and the school offered a degree that I thought sounded interesting. It was in the proximity of New York City. I had been promised a room available in one of the so-called “soccer-houses” outside of campus, located within walking distance from the University. Imagine my surprise when land in N.Y. for the first, take the train to campus (because the guy who was supposed to pick me up decided not to show up), meet my future teammates, and start laughing when I asked them which room was mine. It turns out that they all fell for the same “sales pitch,” and we were now six recruits that had two weeks to find a house while we lived on campus during the preseason. We were six international students looking for a place in cities that we never heard of before, in a country we had not been to before. Still, we managed to find a house in a town called Hicksville.

How would I describe Hicksville? It’s a very average city (to be gentle), in the ugly part of Long Island, where the main attraction and gathering point is the mall. It had this colossal cinema with massive inclinable chairs, too many fast food places, and the same stores.

If someone had told me before leaving Sweden that I would live in Hicksville, also known as “Little India,” for three years, I would have slapped that person in the face and ripped my ticket in half. Anyhow, these three years turned out to be the most formative years of my life. It allowed me to mold from scratch and add elements to my persona that I never thought I wanted or needed. It was scary and amazing and everything in between, but you never know what it will lead to if you never take a leap of faith.

I have since been lucky enough to get a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Long Island University Post, received a Master’s degree at Seton Hall University, lived on Manhattan, had a long-distance relationship, was elected All American, and celebrated New Years in New York City. I have attended multiple official meetings at the U.N. Headquarters, had my heart broken, and made friends worldwide. I have had 18 stitches in the face, played soccer throughout the country, named scholar-athlete of the year at Seton Hall University, and tried out for New York Red Bulls. I celebrated the 4th of July in the U.S., got asked if there are polar bears on the streets of Sweden multiple times, and watched Super Bowl with excessive amounts of beer and food. And much, much more.

That’s just the life of a college student in the U.S., some good memories and some bad memories. But memories that will last you a lifetime, nevertheless.

by David Gutierrez Arvidsson

Hard Work Pays Off

Growing up in Australia the only connection I ever had to the U.S college life was through movies and stories of people who were fortunate to travel there and get a great education. I never in a million years thought as an 18-year old I would be fortunate enough to live my dream and move to America so that I could pursue my education and live out what I considered my “American Dream.”

I had been fortunate enough to receive an opportunity to go to Cypress College in Orange County and pursue my education at the local community college level, and without any hesitation, I took that opportunity and left for the states. I was 19 years old and had no friends in Orange County but I believed that if I worked hard I would get into my dream school. After two years of studying and working hard at the community college level, I applied for UCLA, Berkeley, UCSB, and many other top universities. To my surprise I got into every university I applied to, my hard work paid off and this motivated me more than anything. 

I decided to attend UCLA as I wanted to enter the entertainment industry. Within my first year, I was accepted into the UCLA Law Fellows program where I was taught by the best law professors in the country. Shortly after Law Fellows, I did the UCLA Bruin Development Academy for Media and Entertainment where I was mentored by the entertainment industry’s most respected individuals. Throughout my time at UCLA I was able to build a network of friends who would help me adjust to the American way of life. I know that I worked hard to get into community college and even harder to get into UCLA but it all paid-off at the end and now I am ready to graduate in December 2020 with a double bachelor’s degree in Sociology and African American Studies and minor in Music Industry. 

As an international student I could have never imagined the life I live now but with hard work and determination, I was able to put myself in a position to receive the best opportunities that this country has to offer. Now my sister attends The University of Berkeley California and I am helping my friends in Australia apply to some of the top universities in the states. This is the land of opportunity and although I had to work hard, I was rewarded for the commitment.      

By Hawe Yonas

Hawe Yonas, UCLA