International students make up 2.69 percent of Temple’s undergraduate student body.
That’s 687 students once you do the math, and five of them play on the men’s soccer team.
Those five, who make up just about one-fifth of the 26-man team, come from Germany, France, Senegal, Nigeria and the Bahamas.
And one thing is for certain: they take their soccer – and education – seriously.
“I definitely think that the international guys take soccer more seriously than guys in America do,” said senior defender Mackenson Altidor, a native of the Bahamas. “While I want to continue playing soccer after I graduate, if it doesn’t work out, I’ll still get a degree, so it’s a win-win situation.”
Sophomore midfielder and forward Kenechukwu Nwanah, who hails from Nigeria, echoed those thoughts.
“I would love to play soccer here [after graduation],” he said. “It’s a dream I want to do, but just in case it doesn’t work out, that’s why I’m in school as an accounting major. It’s something I would actually like to take back to my home country. Before I came to Temple, I’d never even played organized soccer like this.”
That’s just one of the many differences Altidor, Nwanah and cousins Augustin Coly and Francois Sagna have adjusted to since they arrived in the United States.
“For me, it’s not that the U.S. has been different, because I’ve been in Oklahoma and Miami,” Altidor said. “It’s just been harder adjusting to the lifestyle in Philadelphia. It’s been crazy. It’s kind of a culture shock.”
“The hardest part for me was learning the language because English is not my first language,” said Sagna, a junior midfielder and France native. “Soccer is different in France than in America. Here it is about winning, but there it’s just about having fun.”
Junior forward Coly, who calls the country of Senegal his home, differs with his cousin on adapting to American culture.
“I’ve been missing my family, but I’ve enjoyed my time here,” Coly said. “I’ve learned the language way quicker and I’ve had a lot of opportunities come my way. It’s all been a lot of fun.”
Having fun is one thing all of the international soccer players interviewed wanted to get across – that, yes, they’ve had fun, but part of that enjoyment stems from feeling so comfortable on Temple’s campus, one that’s ranked No. 5 in diversity by the Princeton Review.
“First of all, I came to Temple because I came here with Augustin,” Sagna said. “But I also came because Temple is a good school for international students because of the diversity. You see all of these people from different countries on campus and you make a lot of friends.”
“I’m still missing the Bahamas, especially my parents and friends,” Altidor said. “And, of course, I miss going out on the beach every day in the nice weather. Here it’s not cold, it’s freezing.”
Yet, it seems that a little slice of home has managed to find its way to North Broad Street.
“Temple has a lot of variety,” Altidor said. “You’re surrounded by so many internationals, so many diverse people. It gives you a homey feeling.”
Jennifer Reardon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.