K-State Track and Field Celebrates International Week

The Kansas State track and field team has been very successful in recruiting international student-athletes over the years. The 2015-16 team is no different as it has 17 international student-athletes from nine different countries: Barbados, El Salvador, Italy, Jamaica, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Serbia, South Africa and Turks & Caicos. 

“So many different people, languages, cultures, religions, music and food, often is feeling like being in America but experiencing the whole world right in front of you,” NCAA Champion Akela Jones said. “The best thing about our team is that even though we are so individualistic and from different countries, we all come together and work together in unity. Another great thing is that now I have friends in every continent and I am excited to visit them in the future.”

National teams from all over the world are littered with Wildcats as most of K-State’s international student-athletes are members of their native country’s national squad. The NCAA Track and Field season starts in January and finishes in June, but after the NCAA season is over, international athletes continue competing during the summer for their national teams. While traveling around the world, international student-athletes represent K-State in a world-class manner.

“I like representing my country first and by representing my country, I get a lot of opportunities to represent my school at the same time,” said Jones, who competed last summer at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing, China. “Without my teammates, coaches and trainers that we have here at K-State, I would not be able to represent my national team with such pride and dignity. This is the best part, because representing my country I am wearing the Powercat in my heart and that’s where most of my heart goes.”

The Kansas State International Coordinating Council is hosting International Week April 3-6, where international students have an opportunity to share their culture with other students. In the spirit of International Week, the track and field team was able to celebrate their international athletes and how they share their culture with their teammates.

Which country is most represented on this year’s Wildcat team? That would be Jamaica with seven. Jamaica is best known for its food, and K-State student-athletes often prepare the local fare while hosting other teammates for special celebrations.

“Cooking has always been a traditional part of what we do when we gather or have celebrations,” said Kimberly Williamson, and All-American and Jamaican National Champion in the high jump. ”We usually like to come together, cook, have feasts, laugh and share a part of our culture with our teammates. We grew up with others so it is normal for us to do things together. In Jamaica, we are very family orientated and sociable. Because of that we like to share our traditional food as well our music, which is Reggae and Dancehall, with our K-State family.

An important thing to remember during International Week is that international athletes are coming from all around the world and for some of them, English is not their first language. Going through college, they face different challenges. But at the same time, they improve their language skills. For instance, Italian native Simone Fassina, who shared that the process of adapting to the new culture was not easy, but competing internationally before coming to K-State helped him tremendously.

“I was not ready to come to a totally different society but I knew how it was going to be because I had an opportunity to see how the college life looked in 2014 when I competed at the World Junior Championship in Eugene, Oregon” said Fassina, a decathlete who is a five-time Italian national champion. “I was not good in English before coming here, but I had to study hard to be admitted to school. In fact, when I competed for my national team in another country, it was mentally hard because I was not able to communicate well in English. Learning English made it so much easier to compete and it is very helpful and helps me perform well.”

Most of the international athletes speak multiple languages, but some of them are trilingual like Rhizlane Siba, who hails from Morocco and speaks English, Arabic and French. 
“The adaptation was a little hard, especially because my first and second language are not English,” said Siba, a Moroccan record holder and the best African high jumper. “K-State Athletics is helping us a lot with tutors and being able to have multiple tutoring sessions throughout the week and the semester in order to help us be the best in every class we take.”

At K-State we are all family, no matter where we call home.

“Having international teammates means you have friends and family around the globe,” added Siba. “It is great to know that in every country you have a friend and even when college ends, you are still a family. That is what I like the most about having a diverse team at K-State. When it’s all over, you will still have brothers and sisters all around the world.”

The Wildcats return to action next week as they travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana to compete in the LSU Battle on the Bayou.

For the latest on K-State track and field, follow @kstatesports and @KStateTFXC on Twitter using the hashtag #KStateTF or on the team’s Facebook page.