Zach Papenberg

Global influence

Men's Basketball Profile Sports Women's Basketball
Zach Papenberg
Mili Koyamainavure

Moving to a different country, a different environment, leaving your family and playing a sport that you love are all a part of many international student-athletes’ life.

Coaches recruit all over the world to find the best talent. A lot of international students at Missouri Western can relate to the challenges that come with moving to a different country.

Miliakere Koyamainavure, who goes by “Mili”, is a member of the Missouri Western women’s basketball team and is from Suva, Fiji. Three years ago, she made the decision to move to the United States to play basketball.

She started her basketball career at a community college in Iowa at Iowa Central.

Koyamainavure says that it was hard adjusting to the United States when she first came here.

“It was hard at first, considering the time difference. It took me over three weeks to adjust to the time difference,” Koyamainavure said. “People moved fast, think fast and worked fast. The pace was fast and I had to try and keep up with it.”

When asked what was her favorite part about living in the United States, she said the environment.

“I really like the environment. Now that I’m here, I love it more than I thought I would,” Koyamainavure said. “The people are nice, the environment is different with the seasons, which I really enjoy because we don’t have that in Fiji. Lastly, basketball, I enjoy being around my teammates and playing competitive basketball.”

Another member of the Griffon women’s basketball team, Julia Torres-Alves, is from Sao Paulo, Brazil. She first came to the United States to play basketball at Highland Community College.

Torres-Alves says that she didn’t know what to expect when she first came to the United States.

“When I first came to the United States, I was very afraid,” Torres-Alves said. “But, I knew it was for a good cause.”

When asked about some challenges she faced while adjusting to the United States, she said communication was a big one.

“My biggest challenge was the fact that I couldn’t communicate and expressed myself like I was able to when I was home,” Torres-Alves said. “New culture, new people, new language, everything was pretty new for me.”

Going to a different country and trying to figure out a language that you have never spoken can also be challenging. This was another task that Torres-Alves faced.

“I didn’t know any English when I first got here, so I was very confused.” Torres-Alves said. “I’m still learning English today, every day I learn something new.”

Some may ask, how do these international student athletes get to the United States? How does the recruiting process work? Assistant basketball coach for Missouri Western Aaron Coombs can help answer these questions.

Coombs is familiar with the recruiting process and moving into a different country. He played professional basketball in France and Romania.

When asked how he got some of his players that were from a different country throughout his coaching career, he said technology played a big role.

“I basically get all international information from referrals,” Coombs said. “We get 10-15 emails a day about different international kids. All of them have links to film and player information.”

Not only has technology played a role, but Coombs says that social media is big in getting these international athletes.

“Over the years, Facebook and Twitter have been huge in the ability to keep in contact with international scouts and international kids.”

After playing professional basketball in another country himself, Coombs can also relate to the athletes and adjusting to another culture.

“Adjusting to another culture was difficult. I had to get used to two-hour lunch breaks during the day, where every store except restaurants closed at 7 pm,” Coombs said. “Learning how to grocery shop for myself was interesting also, I didn’t know where anything was.”

Moving to a different country comes with a lot of challenges. These international student athletes leave their family and move to a different country without knowing the languages, culture and other difficult tasks.