Drake’s mission statement hopes all students will become global citizens, but the athletic department is already a step ahead by having many international student-athletes on various teams.
Of the 373 student-athletes at Drake, 19 are international students, a ratio that has remained consistent the last three years.
Drake athletic director Sandy Hatfield Clubb emphasizes the importance of having a diverse athletic community.
“I think it’s critical to provide international diversity among our students, on campus and within the athletic department,” Hatfield Clubb said. “It brings a richness of culture that we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s wonderful to have a diverse set of cultures and backgrounds involved in our program.”
The men’s and women’s tennis programs at Drake account for 13 of the 19 international student-athletes. More than half of the tennis team members are from outside the United States.
“My understanding is that the sport is not as diversely played in the United States as it is in other countries,” Hatfield Clubb said. “And so the children, as they are growing up, become better tennis players, if you will, in many countries.”
Helping students adjust to the culture and life in the United States is a burden that mostly falls on the International Center at Drake.
“I’m in correspondence with students before they arrive,” said Carlyn Marron, assistant director of international programs and services. “We arrange to pick them up from the airport and help them get settled in.”
The International Center is crucial in helping international students with housing options, getting a Social Security number and even paying taxes.
This is also the first year in which the International Center has started a formal mentoring program. Experienced international students take new students under their wing and help them get adjusted.
“They take them to the bank, help them get a cell phone and go shopping with them,” Marron said.
The transition has not been too difficult for Luxembourg native and basketball player Frank Wiseler, who has been in Des Moines for three years. The junior loves traveling and experiencing new cultures, and he has learned to notice the subtleties from both his home country and the United States.
“It’s the same Western culture, but there are small differences like the food or how people act,” Wiseler said. “But I love traveling and going around meeting new people.”