Archive for the ‘ Professional Profile ’ Category

Students Travel Overseas to Attend Marist and Play Tennis

From left to right: Nicolas Pisecky, Coach Tim Smith, and Joris van Eck

Published in the Diversity Works Newsletter of Marist College in Spring semester 2010.

Marist College has served students well in the academic field in many ways.  It is a excellent school for business, communication and the college provides many clubs to help get students more involved with college life and to help them meet people from around the world—As far around the world as say Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Junior Nicolas Pisecky and freshman Joris van Eck have traveled half way around the world to come to Marist College to exceed both in their academic life as well as to play the sport of their passion: Tennis.

Pisecky has traveled from Lausanne, Switzerland coming to Marist to major in international business with a minor in global studies.  He speaks multiple languages including French (his first language), Swiss German, German, and English.  His friend from home, Loic Sessagesimi, a senior, has recommended Pisecky to the head coach of tennis, Tim Smith, to consider a college career here at Marist in both academics and sports.

“I was pretty excited,” said Pisecky.  “I was kind of lost at first since I didn’t speak English and Loic was my only connection.”

In Europe, the colleges do not have programs where they allow students to play a sport and go to school simultaneously which made Marist more of a reason for Pisecky to come to the U.S.

“I had a good scholarship here and I liked the place, so I didn’t even try to look for any other schools,” said Pisecky.

Upon entering Marist, Pisecky was given a tennis scholarship. Since beginning his tennis career at Marist, he has won awards such as “Player of the Week” and the tennis team has won the MAAC Championship in 2008 and 2009.

“I knew his ranking and it was similar to Loic’s,” said Coach Smith.  “And Loic has been a tremendous addition to our team.  So I knew Nic would fit right in academically and to the tennis team.”

Not only does Marist have a couple talented tennis players from Switzerland, but has just recruited an individual from the Netherlands.

Joris van Eck from Maastricht, Netherlands transferred to Marist in spring 2010 majoring in international business.  He speaks multiple languages, just as Pisecky, including Dutch, Spanish, German, French and English.

“New York is totally not what I expected,” said van Eck.  “They [the tennis staff] help you more here, they really care about you.  In the Netherlands, it’s more about being independent.”

Eck heard about Marist while playing in a tennis tournament in Belgium, Spain from one of his competitors Dennis Mertens who happened to work for a company named Overborder.com, sports and studies in the USA, which specializes in students studying abroad.

“The location [of Marist] is good and I want a job in business,” said van Eck.  “And after a few days I felt comfortable, it was not hard for me to adapt.”

The tennis team has been a great resource for both Pisecky and Eck to meet people.

“It was nice to have international teammates,” said Pisecky.  “Even though they’re not from the same country, they’re more similar than American people.  It’s nice to have both European and American friends.”

This year, the tennis team has international players from Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, and Australia.  In the past they have had athletes from Paraguay, Mexico, Norway and Austria.  From the U.S., they have had players from New York to California with Iowa, Missouri, Texas and Arizona.

“When I think of diversity, I think geographic as well as cultural,” said Coach Smith.  “In the past 11 years at Marist, I had players from 20 states and 17 countries.  Now that’s diversity.”

Coach Smith grew up in a middle sized town outside of Buffalo, NY.

“Having the good fortune of my dad being an athletic director and my mom special ed., we had kids on our teams from numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds tossed in with the special needs children my mom taught,” said Coach Smith.

He has also spent part of his life in the Navy.  Coach Smith’s ship was stationed in Japan for a world’s fair and while in Japan, he visited the Hiroshima Museum.

“It was in the navy that I was exposed to many cultures and had my first hand experience with feeling like a minority,” said Coach Smith.  “There was probably 75 to 100 people in the museum when I first went in and I was the only Caucasian.  No one spoke English and everything was in Japanese; I felt very alone.”

But this experience, he said, has made him more aware of diversity.

“I think that this has made me more aware to ensure that in my coaching, I utilize the opportunity to bring students from different racial, cultural and ethnic backgrounds,” said Coach Smith.

One of Coach Smith’s favorite tennis players and a person he has had a chance to do workshops with was Arthur Ashe, a professional African American tennis player.

“What a role model for the importance of having encouragement and putting diversity into your own life, your family and people you teach or coach,” said Coach Smith.

But coming from Europe to America, most people would agree, is not an easy thing to do.

“I think it’s easier if you play a sport and you play on a team than coming here not knowing anyone,” said Pisecky.

Eck also felt that the tennis team played a great role in finding friends as well.

“They were my first friends,” said van Eck.  “I really enjoy spending time with them, on court and off court.  They all came here for the first time [the international players] and they know how exactly to deal with it and it made me feel comfortable.”

When coming to a new country, all international students must learn to adapt to the new environment and accept the cultural differences.

“People in American don’t know the difference between Sweden and Switzerland,” said Pisecky.  “So they always think I speak Swedish.  People are curious—they want to know how it is back home and what language I speak, I get that a lot.”

The language barrier was also a concern for Coach Smith in determining the proficiency of English of the students.

“I guess if a student can speak three languages, they can navigate through Marist academic courses,” said Coach Smith.  “My international students collectively have an average over a 3.5 GPA and all have graduated.  That’s no brag, just fact.”

When asking both athletes, if given the opportunity to do it all over, if they would choose Marist again, they both said yes.

“Definitely,” said Pisecky.  “I like it here.”

Coach Smith has also played an important role in these students life and has made a bond with them through the sport of tennis.

“I’ll tell you when I’ve formed a good bond with my players,” said Coach Smith.  “When they invite me to their wedding.”

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