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International Flair

NDC Academics & Athletics Have Become a Magnet for Students from Around the World

By Skip Snow

Academics and athletics at Notre Dame College have come a long way over the last decade: NDC began accepting men in 2001; the College added undergraduate and graduate programs that now total over 30 disciplines; the athletic department increased the number of teams to 22; and Falcon athletes have won multiple national championships and scholar-athlete awards.

Notre Dame’s student-athletes are excelling on the playing field and in the classroom. And many of those students have come a long way also – literally. In the classrooms and throughout the landscape of NDC’s men’s and women’s sports, major contributions are being made by a growing number of international students.

Travis BondyStudents have come to Notre Dame to don the blue, white and gold from places like Australia, Turkey, Tunisia and Canada. Students from a dozen foreign countries currently call College Road their educational home. What attracts them is the chance to play sports on a high level while pursuing a quality education. 

Programs like men’s soccer, women’s lacrosse, men’s water polo and baseball have their rosters dotted with international influences. And those influences – on the field and in the campus community – make Notre Dame College a bigger place than the one defined by property lines and square feet. The international flair taken on by Falcon Athletics helps the College fulfill its mission to educate a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility.

“Notre Dame is a place where international students can succeed and grow personally and professionally,” says Associate Head Men’s Soccer Coach Carl Nolan, who doubles as NDC’s international student advisor. “It’s a place where they can continue their athletic careers and do so in a competitive environment.”

That environment drew the attention of Jarlys Mejia, a baseball player from Santiago in the Dominican Republic. Mejia came to the United States to parlay his skills as a middle infielder into an education. He transferred from North Iowa Area Community College this year because he sees Falcon Baseball as a place to compete and as a door to something bigger.

“I want to play at this level. I came here because of baseball, but I want to stay until I finish my degree,” he says.

Kerr Newbigging & Chris Fairley, ScotlandHis coach Nick Weisheipl says Meija brings energy and enthusiasm to the team. “Jarlys has a magnetic personality that makes his teammates root for him. He brings different life experiences to our team; we have a lot of that on the baseball squad.”

On that squad, Mejia plays alongside Travis Bondy, who came to Notre Dame from Windsor, Ontario. Bondy, a right-handed pitcher heading into his junior season, was one of five players from Canada on last year’s baseball team.

“Notre Dame made the choice to cross the border an easy one with its great international-student track record,” Bondy says. “Carl Nolan and the folks in Student Services are great to work with. As an international student-athlete, I hope to bring a different perspective to the field in order to create a better-rounded team.”

A better-rounded team is what all of NDC’s athletic programs have become. It’s what the experience of competing in college athletics wearing Falcon colors has become. And that richer experience comes courtesy of influences from around the globe.

“Notre Dame College offers a great environment for international student athletes to thrive in,” says Nolan, who himself hails from Chorley, England. “The quality of the coaching staff here at the College places the international student-athletes in a great position to be successful with their academics and their collegiate athletic careers.”

The chance to be successful in both academics and athletics is what brought men’s soccer player Kerr Newbigging to the United States.

Stefan Bogdanovic & Nikola Nikolic, Serbia“I decided to study abroad because back in Scotland it wasn't possible for me to play soccer at a high level and gain an education alongside it,” the freshman forward says.

Kerr says he chose Notre Dame because it offers a well-rounded student-athlete experience.

“I knew after speaking with the coaches, viewing the educational setup and looking at the facilities that Notre Dame College was the place I wanted to be,” he says. “The coaches and teachers here will push you to the point that you will become a harder-working student and athlete than you have ever been.”

For fellow Scotsman and teammate Chris Fairley, NDC had a similar appeal. “I chose Notre Dame because of its fantastic soccer reputation from going to the NAIA final last year,” he says. “But I also chose Notre Dame because of the small classes.”

The freshman defender says the small college in suburban South Euclid, Ohio, is a great place for international students because they fit in right away. “It is easy to settle in where people have a fascination about you and your background.”

Freshman midfielder Stefan Bogdanovic, who hails from Cacak, Serbia, says he came to the United States not only to play soccer but for a chance to receive a better education. The transition wasn’t easy, he says, but the College helped him adjust. “The healthy environment and the support of the whole team, the professors and all the other employees at NDC helped me fit in.”

Laura Heaton, Northern IrelandBut not only athletes come to Notre Dame College from abroad. Some international students attend NDC simply for the educational experience. Laura Heaton is one of those students. The Belfast, Northern Ireland, native is pursuing a degree in criminology at Queen’s University Belfast. She came to Notre Dame College this summer to study business for a year.

The difference between the college in Cleveland and the university in Belfast is striking, Heaton says. “At home I am used to classes of 100 to 200 people with one assignment a term: a 3,000-word paper. So attending Notre Dame for a year is a massive adjustment.”

Heaton says students in Northern Ireland face the same challenges as their counterparts in the U.S. They are worried about finding a job and paying for their education. The one difference, she says, is that college athletics in America provide financial support and sometimes open up career paths. “In Northern Ireland, we don’t get these opportunities,” she says.

Having come a long way over the past decade, Notre Dame College is proud to be able to offer such opportunities to domestic students as well as those who have come a long way themselves – literally.

Skip Snow is the director of sports information at Notre Dame College.