This article was written by John Frierson for Georgiadogs.com. To view the original article, click here.
As the Georgia women’s golf team lined up for a team photo on the practice putting green at the UGA Golf Course last week, there were laughs and smiles and lots of playful back and forth among the 10 Bulldogs, all matching in their white skirts and black tops.
English was the language that the Bulldogs were speaking, though it’s the first language for only half of head coach Josh Brewer‘s team. The Bulldogs are made up of four players from Georgia, one from California, and five from beyond the U.S. border: Canada, France, Italy, Austria and Taipei. Some speak English like that they were born just down the road, just with an accent. Others, meanwhile, have made tremendous improvement speaking the language since coming to Athens.
“Sometimes the language barrier can be tough, but I feel like having so many international players on the team helps because you’re not the only one with a weird accent,” said junior Caterina Don, from Pinerolo, Italy.
For senior Jo Hua Hung, from New Taipei City, Taipei, located within the country of Taiwan. her golf game isn’t the only thing that’s gotten much better during her Georgia career. Hung said she started learning English when she was young by watching episodes of “Friends.” She knew the language when she arrived but wasn’t confident speaking it.
“I remember the first year, when people talked to me I could only answer yes or no,” she said. “Right now, I can talk to people more and I notice that when my English is getting better I get more comfortable here. That also helps my golf game, too. Also, I’m making more friends so I’m having more fun here.”
The University of Georgia is celebrating International Education Month in December and the UGA Athletic Association is also celebrating everything the 39 international Bulldogs, spread over 12 sports, bring to Georgia Athletics, on and off the field.
“Our international student-athletes provide a rich diversity to our athletics department and our university,” said Josh Brooks, Georgia’s J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics. “Their diverse backgrounds make us better as an athletic department, university, and community. We are so fortunate to have our international student-athletes as part of Georgia Athletics.”
For women’s golf coach Josh Brewer, having a team with members from all over the world makes every day interesting, he said. All of the international players bring their own languages and cultures, which makes for a continuous exchange of ideas and experiences.
“It’s very interesting to learn and listen,” he said.
One thing the team is hoping to start doing next semester is cooking together. Nothing brings people together like food, after all.
“That’s the one thing they’ve always wanted to do, cook what they know,” Brewer said.
On the road, Don said, the team tries to eat at restaurants with food representative of at least one player’s home country.
“We all have different cultures so whenever we go on trips we try to go one night to Italian and one night we more like Thai food and another night we’ll go more like burgers,” she said.
Candice Mahé, a junior from Gourin, France, said living in an English-language world was just one of the challenges she faced when she first arrived at Georgia.
“First of all, the language, because we speak English all the time,” she said during an interview back in March. “My first semester (in 2019), when we had class in person, the campus was really huge for me. Taking the bus and stuff like that, that’s not something we do for class in Europe. And everybody knows each other (back home), so at the beginning (here) you’re going to see people and then you’re going to see them 6 months later, because we have so many people here.”
One teammate Mahé could comfortably speak French with right away was Céleste Dao, from the town of Notre-Dame-de-l’Île-Perrot, near Montreal, in Quebec, Canada. In Quebec, by law French is the predominant language. English is widely spoken, of course, but in that part of Canada, the official language is French.
“In school it was all in French, so (at Georgia) it was hard for me at first, in classes, to not understand, but I had to translate it all in my head,” Dao, a junior, said during an interview last year. “I was lucky because the two years I spent on the national team, all of my team was from English-speaking provinces. I also lived on the west coast during the winter, for the golf program, because there’s less snow, and all of that helped my English.”
Also on the team is sophomore Isabella Hopper, from Vienna, Austria, and Brewer’s assistant coach, Caroline Westrup, is from Sweden. The European players, Brewer said, knew each other before they became Bulldogs.
“A lot of them have been friends since they were 14 or 15, so they’re used to seeing each other quite a bit,” he said.
For all Georgia students and student-athletes, there is always way more to college than just books and sports. For Georgia’s women’s golf team, every day is a multi-national and multi-cultural learning experience that makes each player’s college years that much more special and unique.
“I think it’s really interesting,” Don said, “and it’s really nice to be able to have this experience.”