Building Connections Through Sports

Authored by:
Ruth Asante

Ruth Asante

Being in a space different from what you know and are familiar with often brings with it some challenges. One of the biggest stresses that International students often face is fitting in. It is no surprise that one of the most frequently asked questions is

"How do I fit into my new environment?"

For our Spring 2019 Participant, Kai Smith (Davidson College), Ghana offered him a better opportunity to learn about the world than the traditional study abroad sites.

"I was considering the typical sites like the U.K, New Zealand, but I thought I would learn more about the World through a different culture than the U.S by coming to Ghana", he said.

One of the best ways, he found to adjust in his new environment, was connecting with locals in the most unlikely of sports in Ghana, Baseball.

Here is how Kai described his experience in stepping out of his comfort zone.

"Naturally coming to a place like Ghana on a study abroad program, there is the tendency to spend time with another study abroad students, particularly with the people on your program.
 I went to an event at the Oval and I walked by some people. I was surprised to see they were playing baseball. I didn't really think that people play baseball in Ghana. I saw them playing catch so I walked up to one of them, who happened to be the captain, and had a conversation with him. I found out through my talk with him that they practice every Wednesday and Fridays so the next Friday I went and I have just been going ever since.
 I participated in the Inter-Hall competitions for Commonwealth Hall. I didn't know about the rivalries between Commonwealth Hall and Sarbah Hall but I got wrapped up in it and it was great. Some of the competitions were heated but it was competitive and so much fun.
One thing I have really appreciated is that in the U.S. everyone who plays baseball has been playing for a long time, so it's very serious and only little kids would try out for baseball for the first time. You can't really try it once you are at a certain age. But here, it's nice to see people who are older who are trying baseball for the first time. So it seems they are playing it more for fun and so I really like the spirit of the game. I really appreciate the sportsmanship. Everyone is really supportive.
In my senior year of High School, I got a concussion so I couldn't play my last season of baseball which made me really sad. I knew I was not going to play baseball in college. I really didn't think I was going to play baseball again, maybe recreationally when I was older but never in college. So I really appreciated the opportunity.
Winning the Inter-Hall competition felt great. Not only did I not expect to play baseball in Ghana but I didn't expect to go home with a gold medal. It's pretty amazing!
It is really nice to be a part of a group where you are the only International student. I have been able to do things with my teammates on campus and outside building connections and learning more about the people and culture. Just being considered a part of Commonwealth Hall fraternity is great.
My advice for future students in terms of connecting to your new environment is to look for familiarity and not just the differences. Think about what you do in the U.S. or wherever you are from, your passions and hobbies and try to find those here. Most of you are interested in, someone is doing it here and is passionate about it. It will bring you new perspectives and experiences through your interactions."
 

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