Foreign Born Athletes at UNC

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Track and Field Athletes Julienne Strydom (right) and Wendira Moss (left).

The University of Northern Colorado is a special place. Nestled in the heart of Greeley, it boasts a student population of around 10,000. Among these students, are the student athletes of the 15 different athletic teams.

In recent years, the impact of these Bears has risen. From hometown heroes, like Andrew Alirez, to foreign born stars, like Jerome Campbell, UNC athletics are on the way up.

The Division I era at UNC started in 2006. Since then, the Bears have made moves within the Big Sky Conference and in others.

Coach Wayne Angel has set the model for recruiting across the globe. Perhaps, it’s because his sport, track and field, is more global. Angel has done an excellent job at finding talent overseas and getting them to compete in the blue and gold.

Track is not the only sport with foreign-born athletes. Swimming, men’s basketball, men’s and women’s golf and football all have athletes from outside the United States. However, the track and field team contains the most athletes.

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Sophomore and triple jumper, Julienne Strydom, is from Meyerton, South Africa. She moved to the U.S. in early January of 2023, just as the spring semester was beginning at UNC.

Strydom spoke about load-shedding at home because since everyone shares electricity, there can be sudden blackouts where the power is randomly turned off for hours at a time. She said the fact this does not occur in the U.S. is one of her favorite aspects of life here.

Two years prior, Wendira Moss moved to Greeley from the Bahamas, where she experienced culture shock.

“The culture in Colorado is very contrasting to where I am from,” Moss said. “The people here are friendly and always smiling.”

She spoke about the way people express themselves and the lack of judgment from others in comparison to her home. Her manners, especially what she described as respectful greetings, have remained a part of her daily life, even if in the U.S. it’s not exactly viewed as normal. 

Both student athletes acknowledged the big differences in culture. They ultimately chose UNC and Greeley for track and field, but have grown to enjoy it for more than just their sport.

Strydom’s full scholarship, along with the “opportunity” to study in the US, is what brought her here. She says she loves the scenic overview of the university, especially the mountains.

Moss loved the size of the team during her recruitment, knowing she would receive individual coaching. Now that she’s been here for a while, she loves meeting new people, traveling and training with her team.

Strydom says she’s still adjusting though.

“The fact that you drive on the wrong side of the road and the steering wheel is on the other side was weird,” she said.

She added that self-checkout at stores was new and surprising. She also said that hearing English all the time, though she expected it, still took quite some time to get adjusted to.

“They used different terms in English that I couldn’t understand and a lot of English slang that I had to learn,” she said.

The world is different anywhere you go and for those like these two women, who are brave enough to move somewhere new, change can be both exciting and scary. The coaches at UNC continue to recruit from around the world and soon their impact will be on full display.

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