BYU reports having a total of 1,226 international students on campus which accounts for 3.7% of the student body. Three of these international students are athletes on the BYU men’s volleyball team: Miki Jauhiainen from Finland, Felipe de Brito Ferreira from Brazil and Gabi Garcia Fernandez from Puerto Rico.
Fernandez was recently named the 2018 MPSF Freshman of the Year, along with a First Team All-MPSF selection. The opposite hitter had over 344 kills, 131 digs and 85 blocks in his first year alone.
Coming to the U.S to play volleyball was always a goal of his growing up.
“This has been my dream since I was little, to play the highest level of volleyball,” said Fernandez. “Thank God I made it. Chase your dreams and do the best you can.”
An analysis of student visa data suggests that in 2016 as many as 1,037,354 international
students came to the U.S. to study at American colleges and universities. Of these international students, the NCAA reports that 17,000 of them enrolled as student-athletes at NCAA schools.
BYU men’s volleyball coach Shawn Olmstead believes international players are a strong part of BYU’s tradition and history.
“I’m sure it dates back to players that I am probably not aware of,” Olmstead said. “It’s a good strong tradition we have of great players internationally.”
Coming to a new country and culture can be shocking and hard for students to adjust to. Middle blocker Jauhiainen loved having something that was familiar on the court.
“Volleyball is the same no matter where you are,” Jauhianien added. “So that really helped in adapting to life over here.”
He also noted that people are much friendlier here and “everyone says hi and smiles a lot.”
According to College Factual, “BYU is among the top schools for students from outside the
United States and are also ranked first out of 1,148 in the Overall Best Value U.S. Colleges and Universities for International Students.”
Ferreira, who is a native of Brazil, who was named an All-MPSF Honorable Mention this year, praised his BYU experience for all it has taught him.
“I have learned to be a better person and put my best foot forward, both academically and in volleyball,” Ferreira explained. “Being a student-athlete isn’t easy, but I have since learned how to manage my time.”
Full audio from Ferreira below:
Before coming to BYU, these international players competed around the globe. However,
Fernandez praises the competitive level he is pushed to at BYU.
“It’s different. The setting is way faster, it’s a fast game. The setters here are more consistent,” Fernandez said. “The difference here is everyone knows how to do everything, which helps you to be better.”
Fernandez said that his work ethic and dedication to constantly improve have helped him adapt to life in the U.S. and excel on the court as well.
“You are going to have your rough and bad days but you have to make it through those and live every day like it’s your last,” Fernandez concluded. “Work hard. Everything is about working hard.”
The men’s volleyball team heads to the NCAA tournament at UCLA this weekend, where they will compete as a No. 2 seed against either UCLA or Harvard Thursday, May 3 at 7:30 PDT.