Opinion: What It’s Like to be an International Student-Athlete

Malena Malka Goldman '26, Guest Writer

“By being student-athletes, you are part of one of the biggest student groups on campus.” Those are the words of Director of Athletics Joel Quattrone when he addressed all of us on the last day of preseason this year. I’ve constantly thought about these words over the past few months, as I met more students and struggled to balance class and sports. Similarly, I am also part of one of the largest student identifiers inside the Dickinson community, being an international student. So, I find myself being part of this small community that consists of the intersection of both these huge groups on campus, and I never thought I would be discriminated against because of it.

 Last Wednesday, the Dickinson Field Hockey Team, which I am a part of, had a game at Gettysburg College. Coming off a win from our previous match, we were all expecting to come back to Carlisle with a dub. Fortunately, the game ended in our favor with a 5-2 win over the Bullets. Along the way, I collected an awful number of comments from Gettysburg fans on my nationality. Luckily, they did not refer to me by my first name, but the remarks were directed at me, as I heard them refer to me by my number. For the first half of the game, the fans were annoying, but not disrespectful. They cheered for their team and boo-ed the refs when calls were made against the Bullets. But, when we switched sides at halftime at a tied score, things escalated quickly. Given that I play left forward, for the remainder of the game I was playing on the side that was closer to the benches and the stands where the Gettysburg fans were. I could perfectly hear what was being said about me. 

Yes, I am not registered to vote in this country. Yes, I am an international student. And I guess both those facts would make me an immigrant. But so what? That does not make me deserving of those comments or their lack of respect. Just because I am not from the same place as you doesn’t mean you have the right to yell horrible things at me from the anonymity of being in a group.

 As the game continued, the comments persisted. However, because the team was connecting, I decided not to stop the game to address what was going on. Despite still hearing what was being said about me from the stands, I continued to push and kept playing, using those comments to fire me up and play better. Yet, when I think back, I regret not stopping the game. I should have spoken up and let my coaches and the referees know at that moment what was going on. 

 Every time we play at home and the starting lineup is announced, I feel pride when they mention that I am from Argentina. I picked number #10 because of the importance it has for my culture and country. Considering how hard I worked to have the opportunity to study at a place like Dickinson and the amount of extra work I continue to put into both studying and playing in a language that is not my own, I am proud of how far I’ve come. 

 So, next time somebody attacks me in that way, I will not pretend it didn’t happen. I won’t be scared, and I won’t apologize for reacting and standing up for myself or others. I am privileged to be a part of the athletics program at Dickinson, and I am happy to be an international student on this campus. None of those are reasons for people to discriminate against me.