Athletes Without Borders


Kosuke Fukuda, Staff

What is it like to be an athlete in an entirely new country? 

International student Sota Usui from Tokyo, Japan, entered BVU in the fall semester of 2021, and he is currently a sophomore majoring in computer science. He is also a member of the BVU men’s soccer team. 

Usui has played soccer in Japan from elementary school through high school and has brought those years of experience to his new team at BVU. 

He joined the team in the middle of the season in his first year and scored one goal, and this season he contributed to the team with two goals as a starting member. 

When Usui first enrolled at BVU, he was not sure if he wanted to play on the soccer team. 

“I did not think I would be able to play college sports in the U.S. because of my small size. But finally, I decided to join the team because I hoped to make new friends through playing soccer,” Usui said. 

Usui overcame his physical disadvantage in the game with his high skills and tough mentality. 

“I cannot compete on physical strength, but I am confident that I can beat anyone on dribbling and techniques,” Usui added emphatically. 

According to Usui, he fits in nicely with his teammates and has succeeded in making friends, which was his original goal. Usui and his teammates have a good relationship off the court as well. As an international student, Usui does not have a car, so when he wants to go shopping, he asks his teammates to drive him to Walmart. Usui also asks his teammates for help when he is struggling academically due to language barriers. 

One of his teammates and best friends, Marcos Rosales, said, “We really respect that Sota has left his own family to study and play soccer as an international student. So, we want to be there for him when he needs help,” Rosales said. 

Usui originally came to the United States to study computer science, where AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology is more developed. However, his study abroad experience has been made more meaningful by being part of the soccer team. 

Takashi Usui, Sota’s father, and also his elementary school soccer coach, who brought Usui into the world of soccer, shared thoughts on how soccer has enriched Usui’s life as a student in the United States. 

“I am deeply emotional when I think about the soccer skills I taught him, and how they are helping him to live successfully on the other side of the world,” Takashi Usui said. 

Ultimately, Usui left his home country and experienced many things as an international student and an athlete in the small town of Storm Lake, Iowa. He has learned more about the culture by talking to new friends, visiting new places, and tackling new challenges in this country. 

BVU opened its international gates, which had been closed due to the pandemic, and is welcoming more international students this year.  

According to Usui, sports connect people overcoming national and racial borders. In addition, they bring cultural diversity to the BVU campus and to the community of Storm Lake.