International Student-Athletes

Emilio Alcaraz, Sports Writer

At California State University, Bakersfield many of the student-athletes are international students and are coming from different parts of the United States and many other countri

For the former, despite coming from different countries, culture, and speaking English as a second language they manage to successfully excel both athletically and academically.

For example, Mikayla Popham is a sophomore swimmer from Sunshine Coast, Australia. Her major is kinesiology with a concentration in Allied Health. Popham has a 3.79 GPA and attributes this to time management, study habits, and doing the assignments ahead of time; indeed, she prefers not to cram all the information the day before.

Popham believes that the high amount of training has taught her how to manage her time effectively. Popham claims that the lack of interpersonal communication and classes being predominantly online due to COVID has definitely presented her with struggles.

“For me personally, I am a very visual learner and having in-person classes really helps me to earn and absorb more information.” Popham said “Having the in- person interaction with the professors and other students in our class is something that I miss”.

After graduating she hopes to pursue a career in sport psychology because of the realization that the mental aspect plays a crucial role in any sport.

“I would like to work with athletes personally and help them be the best that they can be” Popham said.

Hana Makoňová is an engineering major with an overall GPA of 3.94. Makoňová is a redshirt sophomore middle blocker from the Czech Republic.

“My major requires me to understand and apply principles more than memorizing materials, so I try to solve as many problems as possible for each topic and class.” Makoňová said “I like to watch videos on Khan academy or read books, if I do not understand, and then return to the problems.”

Makoňová considers herself to be a perfectionist, very competitive, and attributes her physical training to be at the same level as her mental prowess. That was showcased when she returned home in March due to COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is nine hours’ time difference between California and the Czech Republic, so I had to wake up at 2 or 3am to attend classes.” Makoňová said. “I had not missed one class and it was all due to the discipline and resilience gained on the court”.

Makoňová describes that COVID limitations have not affected her academics because she just had to adjust to the experience.

“I prefer face-to -face classes because it is easier for me to focus and, in case of labs, gain the full experience.” Makoňová said “However, my current professors are doing a really good job trying to keep the classes’ setups as close as possible to face-to-face set up”.

Makoňová describes that the most challenging aspect of learning English was to start speaking

the language.

“As a good student I learned English home very well but coming to the USA was a whole new level.” Makoňová said “In the beginning, I tried so hard to say everything properly that it would usually end up with me being quiet. I started talking and even though I still make some mistakes, I do not care anymore. My teammates have helped me a lot in this aspect and poured a lot of confidence in me.”

Katie Jackson plays second base and outfield for the softball team. The Madera Ranchos native believes that her academic success and athletic success will greatly aid her in becoming a teacher. Jackson will help her students athletically by educating them on being safe and preventing injury. Academically, Jackson can help her elementary students learn the basics of math, reading, writing, good study habits, and science.

“COVID has greatly affected not only my athletics but the whole country’s athletics. There are so many limitations that are making it difficult to do what us athletes love to do. Myself and my team are doing everything we can to get back on campus and be together. We want to play and we want to win. We are trying our best not to let COVID affect our workout routines, we are staying in shape and will be ready to play when the time comes. We want to be together” Jackson said.

Thus, Jackson has many inspirations that help her traverse the obstacles of limitations, injuries, and anything else that would keep her from achieving her goals.

“My inspiration is my Grandma Letha. She is a tough lady and that’s who I got my mindset from. She was born in Weedpatch, Ca at a farm labor camp. She worked in the fields picking cotton. She was a track star at her high school and she has the letterman jacket to prove it” Jackson said, “She had my dad at 16 and eventually she went back to high school and finished in order to get her diploma. She always gives me the best advice and is the sweetest grandma ever. I see myself as a role model, I follow the rules as best as I can and just try to be a good person in general. I want to be a good influence to the younger generation and also to my younger brother”.