Cultural diversity is vital to any university campus. It helps college students gain greater global awareness, exposes students to different backgrounds and perspectives and bridges the gap between students and people across the globe.
Union’s student population represents 44 states and 33 countries. Approximately 60 international students call Union home, including Zac Fletcher, a senior sports management major from northern Ireland.
Fletcher says that Union’s assistant soccer coach, Scott Sinclair, saw him play at a tryout game in London, England, while Fletcher was looking for a school in the U.S. and Sinclair asked him to play at Union.
“I didn’t really choose Union,” Fletcher said. “Union chose me.”
He says that one of the major differences between the U.S. and Ireland is the weather.
“Obviously different parts of America are a lot different,” he said. “But Tennessee is a lot warmer than what we get, so I’ve really enjoyed the weather here, even though it changes a lot.”
Fletcher says that everything, such as the cars and roads, is bigger here than in Ireland and the food is a lot different. He also says that the laws and rules are stricter in America than in Ireland.
“I feel like the police aren’t people you’d mess with here, whereas our cops are pretty easygoing,” Fletcher said.
In addition to being on the soccer team, Fletcher works as a barista at Barefoots Joe and Modero. He hopes to be a coach in the future.
Nathan Maroney is a freshman and is undecided about his major, but is considering majoring in business, attending seminary after graduation and pursuing missions in the future. Maroney is a missionary kid from Croatia who, after being born in the United States, moved to the country at 9-months-old. He has been back in the U.S. for four months.
Croatia is located in Central and Southeast Europe and has a population of about 4.29 million people. The official language is Croatian, and the main religion is Roman Catholic.
Maroney says that he knew he wanted a Baptist school while searching for a college in the U.S.
“I just looked at the list, and after whittling it down, Union seemed like the best option,” he said.
Maroney also says that everything is bigger and more industrial here and that strangers are more open to talking to each other.
“You could be at the store and someone will just start a conversation with you,” he said.
He says that the transition has gone pretty smoothly. However, anyone who has moved to a different country or culture, recognizes that there are some challenges.
“Everything’s a little weird because I don’t completely fit in here 100 percent and I don’t really fit in there 100 percent,” he said. “So there’s always this like little bit of difference when interacting with people.”
Maroney enjoys hanging out with his fellow missionary kids and international students frequently.