By Leroy Triggs
Many international students come to Nicholls State University representing various parts of the world including Australia, England, Brazil and other countries.
Nicholls is the collegiate home of international students from over 30 different countries. Most international students come to play for the athletics programs which also grants them scholarships.
Senior soccer player Kristy Helmers says she has come to appreciate the region.
“I love everything here,” Helmers says. “The people, soccer, and food are the things I love the most.”
Helmers is from Canberra, Australia and came to Nicholls in 2015 to play soccer while studying dietetics. During recruitment, Helmers says she created an instant bond with some of her teammates that she didn’t find while visiting other schools. After four years in the Thibodaux community, Helmers says the local people bring everyone in and make them feel comfortable.
“Down south the people are so friendly. It’s like a family, anyone would have a genuine conversation with you. The Nicholls international community also helps you fit in by letting you see that there are other students that go through the same thing you’re going through.”
Helmers says the way Americans play soccer involves more aggressiveness on the field.
“It wasn’t a massive culture shock, just the food like jambalaya and gumbo, but I love those foods now. The soccer is more physical in the states.”
In some cases, international students came into the U.S. before college, as the case is for Brazilian-American Esther Leal.
Leal is a sophomore psychology major from Porto Alergre, Brazil. Leal moved to the United States when she was 17 years old, and graduated high school at St. Charles Catholic in Laplace. When it came time for college, Leal says it was another new experience to learn for herself.
“After 16 years of one school I had to adjust to a new high school. Two years later, adjusting to college was difficult because after high school I was just getting used to the language. From a living standpoint I had to get adjusted to living with my aunt then living on campus, which isn’t possible in Brazil.”
Leal chose to go to Nicholls to keep her family connection strong in the states. In Louisiana, Leal says she has a three-hour time zone difference from her family back in Brazil.
“I choose to come to Nicholls because it feels like home. It’s the closest to my aunt even though I miss my grandma’s cooking, I use to eat healthier there. I also miss my little sister who’s three. I feel like I miss out on some events with her. I also miss my friends from there,” Leal says.
Leal does not let the distance keep her away from all Brazilian cuisine, even though it is not easy to find.
“Coxinha is a great Brazilian food that I can make here. It’s a dough with chicken inside it. It’s difficult to make because the dough has to be made with the chicken broth.”
One holiday Brazil and Louisiana share together is Carnival, commonly referred to as Mardi Gras in the Bayou region.
“I believe it’s bigger in Brazil because the entire country celebrates it. Even my small city has huge celebrations for the holiday.”
Piyush Salekar is a sophomore tennis player from Maharashtra, India. Piyush was a transfer from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
“I didn’t like the environment at Mercer. The tennis program, coaches, and even professors care about students as individuals,” said Salekar about Nicholls.
Salekar’s family is involved in the business world of India, and he grew up with an interest in business. The way the education system operates is also a huge change for Salekar. In India, he says they have one cumulative test at the end of the year.
“I was never used to studying every day. I feel like it’s better the way they do it here because it gives you structure and you have to manage your schedule.”
The Indian native also found it hard to find food from home country in America, but his favorite is buttered chicken.
“The chicken is marinated, smoked with charcoal, and a different type of gravy and ate with bread.”
Salekar’s communication with his parents in home country is difficult because India is 11 and a half hours ahead of U.S. Central time zone, which limits his communication with family to twice a day.
“It’s tough to communicate with everyone back home, but I make sure I communicate with my parents and close friends.”
Even with spending the past year and a half away from his parents, Salekar is no stranger to being away from his parents. In India he played on the international circuit in Asia and Europe for nine months. In that time span he climbed over 1,500 spots and entered the top 350 even though he was suffering a wrist injury while playing.
“I’m used to being away from my parents for at most two months at a time, so being away from my family isn’t anything new but knowing I won’t be with them until May is kind of tough.”
Salekar says he manages to keep a reminder of home — a small monument of Brahman, the Hindu religion god.
“A God is God regardless of region.”
An International Student Experience
with Kristy Helmers
senior dietetics major from Canberra, Australia
International Service Coordinator Marilyn Gonzalez maintains a collection of trinkets from the international students she works with. Each trinket was mailed to her from a student after graduating from Nicholls State University.