Story by Lindsay Hillstrom, News Editor
Photos courtesy of Aquinas College, Joshua Kiruku, and Riki Yokoyama.
They come from Japan and Argentina, Kenya and Kyrgyzstan, England and New Zealand, and according to Nisha Van Laar, the director of International Programs, Aquinas College typically gains about 10 of these international students each year.
“At the moment we have about 70,” Van Laar said. “The majority of these students are athletes.”
Riki Yokoyama, who grew up in Japan, is a pitcher on the Aquinas baseball team.
“It was so hard at first because everything was in English, and I never lived in an English speaking place,” Yokoyama said. “I think I’m getting used to everything, culture-wise and of course my English as well.”
Yokoyama credits the opportunity to play on the baseball team as one of the reasons he chose to come to Aquinas.
“As an athlete, it’s nice to experience playing baseball in the United States. I learned sports is a universal way to communicate with anyone, even though we speak different languages.”
Julian Armendano, a transfer student who is originally from Argentina, plays on the Aquinas men’s volleyball team.
“The best thing about AQ is the people here,” Armendano said. “In just one year, I made friendships that will last me forever, not only students, but I have met professors that I will never forget and I know I can count on whenever I need to.”
He also acknowledged the support that he has received from the student body at athletic events.
“The passion and support that students have for any sports on campus is unbelievable and I will be forever thankful for them showing up and cheering for our team,” Armendano said. “It’s a whole different feeling to play with this crowd.”
Joshua Kiruku, a senior majoring in business administration and sports management, is from Nairobi, Kenya. He is also a member of the men’s soccer team.
“I have loved my collegiate experience,” Kiruku said. “Aquinas has an intensive sports management program which goes above and beyond. In terms of sports, I walked on to the men’s soccer team during my sophomore year. Soccer has been a great escape for me. I’ve met some lifelong friends, it’s helped build my leadership, teamwork, and communication skills, and ultimately, it’s been a great stress-reliever for me.”
So what has been the strangest part of the international experience for these Aquinas students? For Yokoyama, just living in a dorm was unusual, since most students don’t do that in Japan. He was also surprised by how casually American students dress and by the fact that we’re allowed to eat snacks in class. And Kiruku doesn’t like the weather, which is much colder than Kenya.
“I believe I heavily underestimated the Michigan climate,” Kiruku said.
Aquinas’s 70 international students bring unique perspectives that make the college experience richer for the American students as well.