International Student-Athletes at Gettysburg
By Jack Herr // Sports Editor
Located in rural south-central Pennsylvania, it can be difficult to find evidence of international influence in Gettysburg. However, two of Gettysburg College’s varsity teams (men’s basketball and men’s soccer) feature a handful of student-athletes from around the world.
Maro Ramadan ’24, a defenseman on the men’s soccer team, is from Oxford, United Kingdom, but went to high school at South Kent School in Connecticut. Ramadan reflected on the differences in mentality between international student-athletes like himself and student-athletes from the United States.
“My mindset is different to national students to an extent,” said Ramadan. “I see this opportunity of being able to attend college as a blessing and therefore all I need to do is do well academically to make my family proud and enjoy my athletic experience.”
Family is important to Ramadan, who said that “the biggest and most obvious challenge” of attending university in the U.S. is his distance from home.
“It would be much easier to cope with disappointments in soccer,” Ramadan said, “had I been able to share it with my family face-to-face.”
However, Ramadan has goals of returning to Europe after graduating from Gettysburg, a degree which he said is very valuable overseas.
Even with these challenges, Ramadan emphasized that his experiences at Gettysburg have made him a more optimistic person than before and “helped with the transition to adulthood.” Ramadan started in 10 games for the Bullets this past season as a defensive back, part of a unit that held opponents to only 1.29 goals per game.
Teammate Aidan Muller ’25, from Cape Town, South Africa, had a similarly positive outlook on his experience as an international student-athlete at Gettysburg. Like Ramadan, Muller attended high school in the U.S., having left South Africa at 16 and enrolled in the Putnam Science Academy in Connecticut.
“Gettysburg offered me a good scholarship which was important to me,” said Muller. Head coach Mark Mettrick’s “values as a person, coaching values and experience” also made an impression on him.
Perhaps most importantly, Muller had a companion by his side through the entire recruitment process.
“One of my childhood friends received the same offer,” said Muller, “so going on the new journey together helped influence my decision.”
That friend, and now teammate, is Nur Adhikarie ’25, who has helped Muller stay in touch with his home and childhood while abroad.
Even so, Muller struggles with not being able to spend time with family and friends from home. Watching teammates and friends go home over the weekends or for the holidays inspires understandable feelings of “jealousy” in him.
Even as a first-year, however, Muller has already formed a new family and support structure within the men’s soccer team, composed of fellow student-athletes and coaches who he can rely on.
“Being an international student at Gettysburg has been good,” said Muller. “The school is very welcoming and supportive to international students, which has been really nice and made things a lot easier.”
Muller also expressed his sincere gratitude for the opportunities offered by attending Gettysburg, experiences which have given him a “different perspective” on where he is in his life and which continue to fuel his future. Muller is also succeeding on the field: in 18 starts as a midfielder this season, he netted four goals and recorded four assists.
Akim Joseph ’25, a guard for the men’s basketball team, shares many of Muller and Ramadan’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. Hailing from Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, Joseph moved to Wichita, Kansas when he was in eighth grade and later went to Notre Dame Fairfield high school in Connecticut, where he now lives. In his senior year of high school, head coach B.J. Dunne reached out to him, and it only took a few days of discussion for Joseph to accept the offer and become a Gettysburg College Bullet. He feels “very lucky” to have received a commendable education alongside playing his favorite sport.
“I moved to the U.S. for a better life, education and a better experience in basketball and to make my mother and father proud,” said Joseph. “I decided to come here to Gettysburg College because it is such a great community.”
Despite common belief, Joseph insisted that there is plenty to do in the Gettysburg area, pointing out its proximity to the many major cities on the East Coast. When it comes to academics, Joseph is a dedicated student, employing four strategies to help him balance his two lives: keeping an updated calendar, making the most of his travel time (such as doing work on bus rides to away games), getting ahead on the weekends and enjoying his time playing basketball.
Overall, Joseph is grateful for his chance to learn and compete at Gettysburg, and he offered advice to fellow international and domestic student-athletes.
“Athletics has taught me to persevere when times get tough, and that success does not build character; failure builds character,” said Joseph.
Joseph made an immediate impact on the court in his first season, appearing in 24 games and scoring a total of 107 points.
Samuel Bisinella-Thompson ’25, a guard from Melbourne, Australia, has had a different experience studying in the U.S. He did not attend secondary school in the U.S.; instead, he was recruited directly from his home country. The organization that promoted him to American colleges typically brings players to the U.S. to showcase their skills in tournaments, but the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible. Instead, he sent a highlight tape to several target schools. Of the colleges that accepted him, Gettysburg stood out to Bisinella-Thompson.
“I wanted to be able to play at the highest level I possibly could,” said Bisinella-Thompson, “and I felt Gettysburg gave me the best opportunity to do that being in one of the best Division III conferences in the nation.”
Unfortunately, Bisinella-Thompson has not appeared on the court yet due to a knee dislocation and ACL tear suffered prior to the season. Not having his family around to help him through the surgery and recovery process has been challenging.
“Being far from home and spending such a long time away from your family can be very difficult at times,” said Bisinella-Thompson, “and I think that homesickness is definitely something that every international student has felt.”
Despite these setbacks, Bisinella-Thompson reflected positively on his place at Gettysburg.
“I would say my experience as an international student athlete has impacted me a significant amount as I have matured a lot since I first got here in August,” said Bisinella-Thompson. “I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many new people and experience so many new things which has been amazing.”
For coaches Mark Mettrick and B.J. Dunne, international student-athletes diversify Gettysburg College’s campus, bringing their unique experiences and perspectives and “coming together to be something bigger,” as Coach Dunne said.
Coach Mettrick, head coach of the men’s soccer team, has an international background himself. He grew up in Manchester, U.K. and, like some of his players, traveled to the U.S. to compete in collegiate athletics.
Coach Mettrick commented on the recruitment process that Gettysburg and other Division III schools often employ to find international student-athletes, explaining that drawing from primarily U.S. high schools means the transition for these players to college life is “not as drastic.”
Even though these players are well adapted to American life when coming to Gettysburg, they still bring their unique experiences to the team, something that Coach Mettrick said “broadens the horizons” of everyone involved.
“[International student-athletes are] humble, respectful and appreciative of the community Gettysburg gives them,” said Mettrick.
Coach B.J. Dunne, in his fourth season as head coach of the men’s basketball team, echoed Mettrick. For Dunne, hearing their individual stories, seeing their incredible appreciation for their education and observing their unparalleled determination and focus on both athletics and academics makes his job “rewarding.”
Coach Dunne highlighted the College’s “intentional” efforts to diversify the student body, which he said “makes us so great.” He feels that his team’s culture, both on and off the court, is greatly strengthened by the addition of players with international backgrounds. In return, he and his coaching staff are always there for support, understanding that these players’ distance from home and family can be a significant struggle.
International student-athletes do not represent a huge portion of Gettysburg’s student-athlete population, but their impact is felt across campus. The presence of different cultures, religions, upbringings and experiences broadens the horizons of everyone they interact with.
This article originally appeared on pages 17–19 of the April 25, 2022 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.