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Volleyball players find new 'home' in U.S.
Yuting “Zoey” Qi, left, and Lana DaSilva

Volleyball players find new 'home' in U.S.

Two international students have found a home, both on the PSU volleyball team and on a campus and in a community that has welcomed them with open arms.

If not for YouTube, Lana DaSilva may never have made it to the United States.

DaSilva, a senior exercise science major from Sao Vicente, Brazil, always dreamed of leaving her home country to explore the world, but she never really planned to attend college in the U.S.

“One day, a friend of mine in Brazil posted a video of her playing volleyball on YouTube,” DaSilva said. “A college here saw it and wanted her to come play. They asked her if she had a friend who could come with her. I sent a video of myself, and we both ended up playing at Cowley County Community College.

“This wasn’t in the plans, necessarily,” she said. “But the opportunity came, and I embraced it.”

After two years at Cowley, including an NJCAA national championship her freshman year, DaSilva transferred to Pittsburg State.

“When I was at Cowley, we scrimmaged here at Pitt State,” she said. “I remember really loving it here, loving the campus, loving the community. After two years at community college, I really felt like PSU would be a great fit. Pitt offered me a good scholarship, and it all worked out well. I love it here.”

DaSilva, a senior, is one of two international students on this year’s volleyball team. The other is junior Yuting “Zoey” Qi, a native of Shenyang, China. Qi came to Pitt State after two years at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling, Colo.

“I played high-level volleyball in China,” said Qi, a sports management major, “but at a certain level, that’s all you do. You don’t study. You just play. I wanted to come to America so I could study and play volleyball at the same time.”

It wasn’t always easy, Qi said, as she didn’t speak any English when she arrived in the U.S.

“When I was at school in Colorado, I was the only Chinese person there,” she said. “I couldn’t really talk to anyone. But after two years of being around only English speakers, you start to pick up on it.”

Now at Pitt State, Qi said she feels the most comfortable she ever has since being in the U.S.

“Pitt State really takes care of its international students,” Qi said. “They are very, very helpful, and there are many international students here. You don’t feel alone or that no one understands you. It’s really a great place to be.”

DaSilva said the support students receive doesn’t stop at the campus boundaries.

“The entire community has our backs,” DaSilva said. “There is so much support for us throughout the entire town, and that really helps you feel like you’re at home even when you’re not.”

Pitt State Volleyball Coach Jen Gomez said having DaSilva and Qi on the team has been a valuable learning experience for everyone.

“I think it’s wonderful to see the acceptance and interaction amongst the players,” Gomez said. “The American players helped Lana when she was new here, and you can see Lana helping Zoey in that same way. We truly are a family, and we all are working together for one purpose … which is to make Pittsburg State volleyball great.”

Gomez said she appreciates the level of support the international players receive from the entire campus.

“This is the most international-friendly school I’ve ever been a part of,” she said. “Pitt State does a fantastic job of supporting international students, regardless of whether or not they are student-athletes. I’m very proud to be a part of this university, as are all of our players.”

The Pittsburg State volleyball team begins the 2016 season at the Washburn Invitational on Sept. 2.

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