International Student-athletes Thriving
With the second-largest enrollment of any university in the United States, UCF is becoming well-known in the U.S. and beyond. That representation can be seen on the playing field, as 40 international student-athletes from 22 different countries compete for the Knights. That’s nearly 10 percent of all Knight student-athletes.
All of these student-athletes have experienced success both on and off the field, all while making the transition to a new country and culture.
Of those 40 student-athletes, tennis player and Alicante, Spain native Jorge Blasco is the only one in graduate school. He is currently working on his degree in civil engineering and arrived on campus back in the fall of 2011. Blasco admits he was nervous to go to school in another country, but says the staff in the UCF athletic department helped him make a smooth transition.
“It was tough for me because I didn’t know anyone, but in the first two or three weeks I met a lot of people,” Blasco said.
While Blasco was adjusting to life in the U.S., many of his teammates had either already made the transition or were going through that transition at the same time.
“That helped a lot,” Blasco said. “The tennis team has about 80 percent international students. They’re all either from Europe or South America, so we all had the same difficulties. But we all helped each other.”
Senior and Berlin, Germany native Bianca Joswiak has spent the past four years as a member of the women’s soccer team. This year, she will graduate with a degree in Sports Management. The past fall, she helped guide the Knights to their first Conference USA Tournament Championship.
When Joswiak was in her home country, she spent several years taking English classes to prepare her for an opportunity here.
“For me, it’s a great experience to live in another country for a couple years,” Joswiak said. “You have to do things on your own and figure stuff out on your own without your parents and close friends from home. The academic advisors here help you make sure you do your work on time and help you adjust to the full schedule with all of the practices and you still find room for your homework and other assignments.”
UCF staff members are always prepared to help the students with their transition to another country. The school makes sure all of the incoming student-athletes are prepared and stays in touch with them as much as possible before they move to the United States.
“Our contact with the international students starts way before they even arrive in the U.S.,” Rocky Blesso from the UCF International Services Center said. “We have an admissions team dedicated to international admissions and these individuals reach out anywhere from six to 10 months in advance. We try to give them a better feel of what to expect at UCF before they arrive and also some of the requirements we have at UCF.”
All of the international student-athletes are flourishing at UCF. The 40 students have combined for a 3.29 GPA, on top of setting aside time for their sports and giving back to the community.
“I’m always extremely impressed and in awe of how focused our international student-athletes are upon their arrival,” Associate Athletic Director for Academic Services Kimya Massey said. “They truly know what they want regarding their academics and always find a way to get it done at a high level. They continually find a way to be successful with their incredible work ethic and ability to adapt in everything they do. They are great role models for all students and we are much more diverse and grateful for their presence here with us.”