High school sports present opportunity for exchange students

Jack Kotnik, Staff writer

This article was published in the 2010-11 fall Southerner newsmagazine

As the South sophomore football team’s huddle broke up, there were many shouts and cheers of teammates pumping each other up. One voice stands out, though. Not because it’s peculiarly loud, but because it has a German accent.

Selim Ayhan, a sophomore from Germany, is the distinct voice among the huddle of football players. Ayhan played football for the South sophomore team, and occasionally with the JV team as well. “It was a great experience,” said Ayhan. “[Everyone] was really friendly.”

South has many exchange students from all over the world, and quite a few of them play sports for South, like Ayhan. When he came to America, Ayhan didn’t know how to play football. His prior knowledge of the game consisted of only seeing it in movies when he was in Germany. “[I] would do it again,” said Ayhan, who is planning on joining a recreational football team once he returns to his home.

Gabriel Albuquerque, a senior from Brazil, is another exchange student who played sports for South. Albuquerque played with the soccer team for the last part of the season. He has played soccer for many years in Brazil and surfed there as well. Though the sport is nothing new for Albuquerque, the experience was. “There was good high school spirit,” said Albuquerque, who doesn’t have the opportunity to play sports for his school in Brazil.

Exchange students not only contribute to the diversity of South’s sports teams, but they often contribute to the success of the teams as well. One notable athlete is Shiu Kwan “Nickie” Ma, an exchange student from Hong Kong, China. Ma played on the women’s tennis team this year and made it to the state tournament with doubles partner Lacey Sprinkel, a sophomore. In her hometown, Ma was ranked 14th in tennis.

For Ma, joining the tennis team was a way to meet new people in America. Ma commented that she made a lot of friends on the team and that “[tennis] was the best part of school.”

In the cases of Ma and Albuquerque, the sports they participated in at South are also sports they take part in at home. Even so, there are some competitive sports not offered at South that are popular in other countries. “Sadly, there is no table tennis here,” said Ma, who added that she would play table tennis if South had a team. Instead, Ma plans on playing badminton in the spring.

Nevertheless, there are students, such as Ayhan, who come to America and experience new sports. Judging by the large number of exchange students playing high school sports, it seems to be a great opportunity for students from other countries.