2004 International Student-Athletes Bring Diversity to TAMIU

International Student-Athletes Bring Diversity to TAMIU

Thousands of miles away from home, international student-athletes at Texas A&M International University must learn to adjust in order to succeed.

Since launching athletics in 2002, TAMIU has grown to sponsor nine athletic teams. Sponsored sports for the 2004-05 academic year are men's and women's soccer, men's and women's cross country, volleyball, men's and women's basketball and men's and women's golf.

For its 2004-2005 athletic season, TAMIU has signed international athletes from countries including England, Ireland and Kenya. (photos)

Philip Liversedge, men's soccer defensive midfield and a native of Darlington, England, arrived at TAMIU through a scholarship agency. Adapting to Laredo's heat has been his greatest challenge but his experience has been a solid one.

"TAMIU's Office of Admissions, my coaches and team members have been really good to me. I'd like for there to be a bit more international students. Although it is sometimes good being in the minority," said Liversedge.

Graham Lee, men's soccer goalkeeper and Sligo, Ireland native, heard about TAMIU and the soccer program by contacting coach Arias via e-mail. His first impression of Laredo was a friendly one.

"When I arrived to Laredo, one of the guys from the team collected me from the airport and helped me move in. I've eaten Mexican food before, but nothing like what I've eaten here," said Lee, "I'd like to see a bit more international students to feel a bit more at home but aside from that, the athletic program is excellent."

Lee mentioned the University's International Student Services orientation also contributed to his positive experience.

Claudio Arias, men's soccer coach, said it is important to have international student-athletes because they represent the principles for which the University stands.

"I think there's always something beautiful in diversity, and in sports it brings a different point of view of the game and also an academic different point of view in learning. It brings out ideas a little different than the ones we are accustomed to. There is richness in diversity and an opportunity to understand a little bit of the world and different cultures," said Arias.

Currently 6 percent of 131 student-athletes are international at TAMIU. Arias said he is working with the athletic program to help improve this proportion in order to better represent the university and its international nature.

"I would like to see more diversity by bringing more students from Mexico, South America, and Europe, but at the same time not lose that Laredo flavor of students that develops here," added Arias.

Arias also mentioned he would like to see the program help enhance TAMIU's reputation of bringing and challenging students from all over the world academically.

Most international athletes have not had much contact with the American way of living, so once they make the big move they have a lot to get used to, said Arias, but the majority of international students like the academic and cultural experience they have received at TAMIU and Laredo.

Kyle Edwards, men's basketball center and Grand Freeport, Bahamas native, transferred from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He said it has been somewhat challenging to get used to the culture.

"Just not being from Laredo or belonging to a particular race is a bit difficult at times, but I have run into some nice people," said Edwards.

Dan Lathey, associate director of athletics, said as international students deal with change the University is bettered by their presence.

He noted that as it is not possible for coaches to travel overseas to recruit players, the Internet and word of mouth have proven to be most beneficial for TAMIU's athletic programs.

"It's not easy to get international students to come to Laredo. The bottom line is to get players that want to come down here and contribute to the team," said Lathey.

He said these players not only bring disciplined skills, but add diversity and personality to TAMIU. Both American and international student-athletes learn about teamwork, respect and understanding other cultures.

"Having international athletes gives us a greater view of the world. Sports give students an idea that the world goes beyond the court or the field," said Lathey.

For more information about TAMIU athletics, please contact Lathey at 326.2892, e-mail dlathey@tamiu.edu or visit the Kinesiology-Convocation Building, room 107.

University hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu