By Ivan Cazares
Success both on and off the field is essential to three international student athletes. Sambo Dama, Andres Martinez, Manuel Avendano and Agustin Barros will represent East Los Angeles College on the soccer field this season.
Martinez, Avendano and Barror are from Chile. Dama comes to us from Benin.
“The priority is that they are students first and athletes second. Their parents’ primary concern isn’t them playing soccer. They want to go to the next level. They want to transfer out,” soccer Head Coach Eddie Flores said.
Martinez is a Kinesiology major and said his greatest ambition is to play professionally, but will remain focused on his career. Soccer has been a passion of his since he was a young child. He said he would eventually like to work as coach or assistant for a soccer program.
Avendano said his goal is to transfer, earn a degree in business administration and return home to Chile.
Barros also plans to major in business administration. He said that living with people who are going through a similar experience has helped him adjust. The three live together with a couple other international students. They said that even though they are required to know some English, the language barrier between them and native English speakers isn’t easy to overcome.
“Now we have the ESL lab which is a great resource (To help them improve their English. Another challenge (that international students face) is that they might not know anyone here. We try to make sure they get involved on campus,” International Student Counselor Michelle Hernandez-Payan said.
Avendano said it was a difficult decision (traveling to the U.S.) to make. However, Martinez encouraged him after making the decision himself.
All three Chileans participated in One Sports, a soccer academy in Chile, while in their hometown Santiago. The three met while in the program and have supported each other ever since.
The academy helps students in Chile with athletic scholarships and making connections with schools in the United States.
Dama is able to pay for tuition with the help of his parents.
“A lot of people have been supporting me. It’s a blessing,” Dama said.
He’s working on an associate’s degree in criminal justice from ELAC. However, he eventually plans on studying law.
“The cons are that California doesn’t offer scholarships or financial aid to out of state students at a community college,” Dama said.
He said he is looking for part-time employment, however he is limited on time and has to commute from Pasadena to ELAC.
Dama’s brother Muusa Dama had plans of playing basketball for ELAC. Muusa ended up attending Eastern Illinois University on a full scholarship. However, he helped his brother get in contact with soccer head coach Eddie Flores.
“I’ll always thank coach Flores for doing that (contacting his parents). He made me feel like I would be welcomed,” Dama said.
Payan explained that international students need to apply like any other student. Once they are accepted they must apply for their student visa.
They do not have priority application and their student visa only allows them to be in the U.S. one month before school starts. They must be able to prove that they can afford to study in the U.S.
They must also be full-time students and maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA once at ELAC.