By Caitlin Graveson ’11
(left to right) Maija Lahde, Marah Calvo, Henrik Holm and Achim Christner.
Everyone seems to know about the five Australians on the Saint Mary’s men’s basketball team, but the College has 21 other international athletes divided among six other teams, including women’s basketball (3), men’s tennis (9), women’s tennis (4), men’s soccer (1), men’s golf (3) and women’s crew (1). The 2008-09 rosters included student-athletes from Germany, Egypt, France, Italy, Morocco, Amsterdam, Holland, Jamaica, Canada, Scotland and Finland.
Men’s tennis head coach Michael Wayman has had international students in his program since coming to the College 14 years ago. An international athlete himself, (he’s English and played college tennis at the University of Southern California before going on the professional tour), Wayman knows that foreign players bring a competitive dynamic to his team. “I am a great believer in having a balance. International students bring a different perspective, and I think it’s educational. I really do,” Wayman says.
Internationally, going to university means forgoing athletics. The only option abroad for serious athletes is going professional, which few players can do, so coming to America for college is a great opportunity. Wayman notes, “Over here you have the opportunity to do both sports and academics, which is the best of both worlds if you have the facility for it.”
Sophomore Henrik Holm of Norway is a golfer who transferred to Saint Mary’s from a junior college in Kansas. Like most international athletes, he didn’t know what to expect when he first headed to America.
“I had no idea about what I was getting into. I just booked the ticket and went.”
After a year, Holm needed a change, so he asked a Norwegian family in Moraga if they knew of any schools that had both a good golf program and academics. They recommended Saint Mary’s, and Holm e-mailed the coach and was offered a scholarship. He loves SMC because of its great climate, saying “you can play golf year round.”
Saint Mary’s has been praised for helping coaches recruit internationally, and helping players adjust once they’re here. Maureen Little has worked for the Center for International Programs for more than 30 years and helped many students with orientations, a retreat, immigration advising and other services.
“There has been an increase in international athletes; they now make up more than one-third of our international population,” she says. “It brings a global feel to the school by bringing different perspectives into the classrooms and dorms.”