Saint Augustine’s University may not seem like a very diverse place, but the university actually has a small but growing international flavor. Currently, SAU has 38 international students registered to study at the university.
While that number is about the same as it has been in past years, the mix is growing to be more truly international, according to Kanton T. Reynolds, the university’s director of International programs.
“Previously, most of our students were primarily coming from the Caribbean,” Reynolds said. “Now we have students from Nigeria, Australia, two from Brazil and the Honduras, and from France. We had an exchange student from Colombia last fall.”
And international students are starting to make their presence felt on campus. SAU just started an International Student Organization led by Lashan Knowles, a sophomore biology major. Also, the university will hold a “Spring Open House and International Day” starting at 8:30 a.m. on April 8 in Emery Gymnasium. The event will allow students to experience the music and cuisine of the home countries of Saint Augustine’s international students.
The university has had similar events in the past, but this will be more prominent. “We have had International Education Week before but it is in November and usually falls close to homecoming so it’s hard to get some attention to the programming that occurs,” he explained. Posters have gone up around campus advertising International Day.
Many of the international students are recruited for sports and they make valuable contributions to those teams, including volleyball, basketball, baseball, football, bowling and track and field.
International athletes probably make their biggest contribution to track and field. Some of the international standouts this year on the team include Omar Johnson, a senior 400-meter runner from Jamaica; Tia-Adana Belle, a senior 400-meter hurdler from Barbados; and Jumonne Exeter, a junior triple jumper from St. Vincent. All three scored points in the CIAA Indoor Track and Field Championship, in which the men’s team won and the women came in third place.
Khari Herbert Jr., an international student from the British Virgin Islands who is a senior, attributed the track team’s strong international flavor to Head Coach George Williams.
“Coach Williams is smart – he recruits from all over the world,” Herbert said. “He knows talent and reaches out to the athletes via the internet and brings them on board. He also helps other sports to recruit as well, not only track and field.”
Duane Murray, a freshman track and field athlete who is from the Bahamas, said Coach Williams has the ability to relate to all athletes, no matter where they are from.
“Coach always gives good advice even when it is as simple as his famous line, ‘You’re either fast or dead in the water.’ Coach helps me to see clearly the blurred line between a winner and a wannabe champion.”
Magaly Tshipopo, who is from France, agreed that being around fellow athletes makes the transition easier. “Being a part of the track and field team, it has been easy for me to adjust to the school and conditions,” she said.
Alexis Garcia, a member of the baseball team from Spain, said he has had little problem adjusting to America.
“The food is not that good but, besides the language barrier, everyone has been nice so far and has been helping me feel like I am welcomed here,” Garcia said.
The university tries to ease the transition of international students, Reynolds said.
The Triangle Park Chapter of The Links, Inc. works with us on events to create a hospitable environment for international students,” he said. “Previously they have hosted female students over breaks and also they have provided a Thanksgiving dinner comprised of foods from as many countries of possible as represented by our student body.
“Next year we hope to host a session at orientation for international students to ease their transition and make them aware of their responsibilities as F-1 visa holders,” Reynolds added.
— Patrick Bodie
Patrick Bodie is a junior track and field athlete from the Bahamas. He is majoring in communications.