The Daily Update: Tuesday, May 3

May 3, 2011 by · Comments Off 

The Daily Update: Tuesday, May 3 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

The Dallas Love Field airport is getting a face lift. Education budget cuts may cause more students to apply for student loans, and The Daily Campus and The Daily Mustang are merging. Find out all this and more on your Daily Update.

Sports Blog: New Sports Virtual Guide

February 26, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Posted By Kristin Kimball

Cutting-edge technology is all around us. We can basically rule the world from the palm of our hand. Now, sports are joining the global takeover—at least SMU Athletics is.

The SMU Athletic Department launched a new virtual sports guide on Feb. 18. The virtual all-sports guide includes coaches interviews, facility tours, and a range of other videos.

“We always want to be on the media forefront,” said Assistant Athletic Director and Head of Athletic Public Relations, Brad Sutton.

With the momentum of the first winning football season in 25 years, SMU is on its way to bridge the gap between the school and athletics. Now everyone can learn more and feel a part of SMU athletics with the interactive multimedia guide.

“This virtual publication will allow our constituents to check out our great coaches and facilities in a cutting-edge way,” Sutton said.

International Athletes Face Tough Transitions

November 17, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Kimmy Ryan
kryan@smu.edu

A Bulgarian running superstar was recruited to run cross-country and track at SMU, which took her on a journey that was anything but easy.

Like many international athletes, Petya Kertikova’s times were listed online and SMU coaches contacted her. After an outstanding running career in Europe, Kertikova decided to take a leap of faith and become a U.S. collegiate athlete.

For as much work and pain as she put into her European track career, she says transferring to SMU in 2007 is one of the hardest things she has ever done.
The running star spoke zero English when she arrived and is one of only three Bulgarian natives at SMU.

“I came and it was so, so different than I imagined,” Kertikova said. “I could not talk to people and they could not understand me.”

Like many of the 53 international athletes at SMU, Kertikova was not familiar with the language and culture in the U.S. The athletic, academic, and cultural transitions can be very challenging and a shock to international students.

“What are Blackboard, Access, online lectures, and syllabi? We don’t have these things in Europe,” Kertikova, a junior journalism major, said.

At many schools in Europe, students are not required to consistently go to class, Kertikova said. It was especially hard for her to communicate with her professors due to the language barrier.

“It was a pain, but I am very proud of myself that I stayed here,” Kertikova said.

SMU helped Kertikova learn English. Besides taking classes at SMU to learn the language, she also went to the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center every day to receive assistance.

Diogo de Almeida, a pre-business major from Brazil and SMU’s second-leading soccer scorer last year, also found the academic transition to be one of the most difficult aspects of being an international athlete.

Most all the athletes at SMU find that missing school for athletics, especially as an international athlete, is very difficult. Yet, the teachers work to help the athletes.

“Your teachers want to help you stay on top of the work and they are flexible about rescheduling exams,” Almeida said.

While many of the international athletes find the academic transition to be difficult, they do not struggle in acedimica significantly more than other athletes or students, SMU’s cross country coach Cathryn Casey said.

“The international athletes on the women’s cross country team maintain a high level of academics and are good students,” Casey said. “The biggest change is the large volume of reading in a different language.”

Another challenging aspect for Almeida is the financial side of being an athlete. For the first time in his life, Almeida is in charge of his finances. He finds the process confusing and SMU’s help minimal.

“You have to figure out your taxes and file a bunch of forms,” Almeida said. “The international office at SMU lets you know what you need to do, but the school does not help you all the way.”

Although Almeida has had to adjust financially, the differences in the physical training prove
the most drastic for her.

Kertikova enjoyed the dynamic practices full of short segments of running in Bulgaria more than the longer, more routine workouts in the U.S., which include lifting weights, she said.

Almeida found Brazilian training to be less focused on athleticism and conditioning. Training revolved around skill, passing, and individual play, whereas at SMU, the focus is more physical with more running and weightlifting involved. Almeida has taken a liking to the overall athleticism that U.S. athletes strive for.

He has soccer practice in the morning with his team and returns to the gym in the afternoon to get his own workout in.

Although Casey trains all of her runners the same, she sees a difference in work ethic. Six of the 12 runners on Casey’s cross country team are from Norway and Sweden. She describes their work ethic as fueled with motivation.

“They came thousands of miles to go to school. They left their family and friends and gave up a lot. They are here for a reason, to be student-athletes,” Casey said.

Another shocking aspect for SMU international athletes is the cultural differences. Most SMU international athletes come knowing no one and not knowing what to expect.

“The people, the culture, the manners, and views on happiness and fun are totally different in Europe compared to the U.S.,” Kertikova said.

She described young people of Europe as fun-loving, open, and laid back. Strangers approach you and want to be your friend, she said, as opposed to clicky, standoffish SMU students.

While Europeans are “partying all the time,” Americans “don’t know what fun is. They are too focused on money. I don’t live for money… obviously, because I’m planning on going into journalism,” Kertikova joked.

Tim Raschle, a SMU long distance freestyle swimmer, described how huge the cultural differences are.

“The rules are not made as such a big deal,” Raschle, a native of Mexico with a Swedish mother and Swiss father, said about his home countries of Mexico and Ecuador. “At home, rules are made to be followed, but in America rules are there for people to break and be tempted by.”

Raschle used the examples of America’s drinking age and America’s driving restrictions. Kids are more tempted to drink underage, drink heavily, drive recklessly, and drive drunk because of the way the culture is set up, he said.

He also finds international individuals to be more relaxed and much more open to making new friends. Because of this reason and shared experiences, many SMU international athletes flock together.

The swim, cross-country, and soccer teams have high percentages of international athletes, many of which enjoy talking to their teammates in their native language. In a sea of changes and adjustments, finding a group of friends to speak to in one’s native tongue is comforting.

SMU helps along the way with athletic advisors, the international office, and thoughtful teachers and coaches, but much of the struggle is dependent on self-motivation.

Kertikova went through a whirlwind of life changes, but it was a leg injury and osteoporosis that ended her ability to do the thing she loves most—run. Her full-ride scholarship has become a medical scholarship, a recognition given to injured athletes.

Occasionally, when it is not too emotionally draining, Kertikova reminisces about her athletic career. She proved herself in the 2005 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Italy by being the only Bulgarian runner to qualify in track.

She dominated the competition; at only 16 years old, Kertikova finished fourth in the 3K out of 46 countries. She also raked in an 8th place finish in the 800 meters. Her 3K time is still a Bulgarian record.

Kertikova’s journey as an international athlete has been a difficult one, but she remains optimistic.

“The first year at SMU was the toughest,” Kertikova said. “I was all alone. I had no family or friends. But, SMU is getting better.”