For a lot of college students, the stress of moving possibly hundreds of miles away from family is a scary thought. The rigors of leaving home for months on end can be a tough adjustment.
Frederick Aasaaren, Anders Smedsrud and Maximillian Fenner have travelled over 3,500 miles to study at Columbia as well as row for the Lions’ Lightweight rowing team. Not only have these student-athletes had to balance schoolwork and athletics, but have also had to overcome unique cultural barriers most students are never faced with.
One of the most challenging aspects of being an international student is adjusting to the language, according to Aasaaren.
“Not being a native speaker alters you a little, makes you more reserved,” Aasaaren said. “It takes you a little longer to process information and the everyday conversations don’t run as smoothly as they did back home.”
After being born in New York, Fenner has moved back and forth in his life between the Big Apple and Berlin, and through these moves had felt like an outsider until attending college at Columbia.
“I had always felt like an American in Germany and here I’m a German in America. Now I’m in New York City and I am genuinely loving my time at Columbia,” Fenner said.
What has helped with the adjustment for these international students is a sense of camaraderie that has come with being a member of the Lightweight Rowing team.
“I have made a ton of friends and have had most of my best experiences at Columbia with my teammates, “Aasaaren said. “My experience at Columbia would not have been the same had I not been on the rowing team.”
The biggest difference, from an athletic standpoint, has been the size of the roster. Fenner and Aasaaren both expressed their satisfaction over the 35-player team, which can help in a variety of ways.
“35 guys is a lot. That’s very different to back home because such a big team makes the experience so much better,” Fenner said. “Training styles, attitudes and techniques do differ quite a bit from back home but after last year the team has something great going for it and I am honored to be able to contribute to the Lion’s success.”
“It makes it way more fun to go to practice when there are so many guys there with you. Back in Norway we were usually between three to five guys at practice,” Aasaaren said.
The Lions will face their biggest challenge of the year so far this weekend with the annual Head of the Charles Regatta in Massachusetts. As the largest two-day regatta in the world, the Lions will look for a strong showing to solidify some modifications they have made to this year’s team.
“We are still working on implementing some technical changes to our stroke and we are giving a bunch of the new guys a chance so it will be interesting to see how well the boat moves on race day,” Aasaaren said.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work over the past weeks to get guys back in shape and develop a strong overall team power,” Fenner said. “We are not just working on strength but also technique and finesse. We have a lot of potential and we all have to work together to make ends meet, work hard and row fast to get those medals.”
As important as these athletic accomplishments are, what these international students will gain outside of the water and in the classroom is just as valuable.