The Brown and White spoke with international athletes Michael Tahiru, ‘22, Adrei Arion, ‘23, and Kaja Skerlj, ‘21, to discuss their transition to athletic and academic life at Lehigh.
Q: What are some of the things that motivated you to continue both your academic and athletic careers at Lehigh?
Michael Tahiru (men’s soccer forward/midfielder): Before I decided to come here, I toured and met the coaches, and after we spoke, I felt like there was a good connection. They had a plan for the program, and I knew the program was moving in the right direction. I liked the environment as well — the campus looked good to me. All these things contributed to my decision.
Andrei Arion (men’s basketball guard): I would say that Lehigh is renowned for its engineering program, and I was looking for a place where I could balance my academics with basketball. That was one of my main motivations for coming to Lehigh.
Kaja Skerlj (women’s track and field hurdler/sprinter): I come from Slovenia, and we have a system where you have to choose between sports or anything extracurricular and academics. I could run, but just on the side, and I couldn’t train every day. Academically, I came to Lehigh in the College of Business and Economics, (and) with the United States being one of the biggest forces in business and marketing — basically what I wanted to study — it seemed like an obvious choice to go somewhere bigger to get a better education. I came to my official visit and met the team, (and) I just felt at home. The whole environment was very similar to how I was used to living.
Q: What are some of the differences between competing in your home country and competing here at Lehigh?
MT: For me, playing in Ghana, you play all year long in warmer weather. That’s quite a big difference compared to playing here. It starts getting colder late in the fall, and you have to adjust to that. Internationally, most of the time you play on grass, so playing on turf is also a big adjustment. Also, there are different playing styles that I’ve had to adjust to.
AA: The speed of the game here is a lot faster. In Europe, the game is slowed down — it’s more about pace. Here, it’s more high speed, more emphasis on transition and a lot more one-on-one.
KS: The conditions are much better here. Most of our workouts in Slovenia were outside, and since the environment is the same as it is here with cold temperatures during the winter, we didn’t have the best conditions to get 100 percent out of our workouts. The whole campus offers so much, including athletic facilities and even just paths on campus that we can run on.
Q: Have there been any tough adjustments while acclimating to life in college, whether it relates to academics, the sport you play or anything else? How well prepared did you feel coming into school?
MT: I think going to prep school prepared me pretty well for college, but in college, the volume of everything increases. The balance between academics and soccer is harder to manage. It’s been pretty smooth so far, but I’ve had to work harder to keep that balance than I did in high school.
AA: The International Baccalaureate program, which I took in high school, prepared me for a college level workload. I would say there’s also similar content in the curriculum. The difficulty is pretty high, and the rigor of the workload definitely prepares you for college.
KS: I took (a) biology class in my freshman year, (and) I knew all the concepts, but I had to start from the beginning with all of the biological terms because none of them are the same in Slovenia. After lectures, I would go to the library and would be there for three to four hours re-watching the lectures, and then looking up every term and watching an explanation behind it. It didn’t seem like a big burden at the time. I just did it because I wanted to understand it. But, now that I look back, I know that I could spare so much time. That’s one thing where I look back and can see that I spent lots of time adjusting and learning new vocabulary.