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Destination: Detroit

Far from home, foreign student-athletes say they enjoy most of their college experience - except the weather

By Dwayne Rose
On February 23, 2022

Detroit, Mich., is not often on the top of lists of places world travelers want to visit.

Those born here will admit the area has its pros and cons, but if you are from an entirely different country, you have a completely different outlook.

The University of Detroit Mercy is full of a number of student athletes who chose to pursue an education in the United States and, specifically, Detroit. Most say their experience has been rewarding, even if the long stretches of gray skies and below-freezing temperatures during the winter make them question their decision.

Willy Isiani, a senior on the men’s basketball team, is from the country of Georgia. He was born and raised in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital with a population of over one million people, but came to America to play basketball for the Titans.

He described the experience of moving from Georgia to Detroit as “challenging” in an interview with The Varsity News.

“The hardest part of adjusting to life in the U.S. was not being familiar with the language here,” Isiani said.

Isiani said he chose Detroit Mercy because the athletic department offered him a full scholarship to come and play basketball.

“One of the main things I like the most about living in Detroit is being able to be on a full ride with a yearlong meal plan,” Isiani said.

What he doesn’t like, he said, is the weather.

Detroit is known for having extremely cold winters, although it is also possible to have warm weather in the spring and summer.

Sophie Torcello, a native of Australia who came to Detroit Mercy to play tennis before the team was eliminated, also had a tough time acclimating to the weather here.

“The weather was something that took me the longest to adjust to honestly,” she said. “Coming from Australia where the weather is pretty warm, it hit me by surprise.”

Torcello said a coach recruited her to Michigan, but a friend on the men’s tennis team also made the transition easier.

Torcello played tennis for the University of Detroit Mercy in the team’s final year in 2019.

After being recruited by the university, she said she really enjoyed the city life that Detroit had to offer. She said her friendly coaches and fellow student athletes made the transition easier.

“I originally was recruited by a coach at UDM that made me comfortable,” she said. “I also had a friend on the men’s tennis team so that made me even more comfortable.”

Willy Isiani. 

 

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