International student-athletes come to Boise State for new experiences

Max Charles, men's golf senior, hitting a golf ball with a drive swing
Photo courtesy Craig Lawson

Moving to a different city or town can be a drastic change, let alone moving to an entirely different country. For a few Boise State student-athletes, playing in the United States is a unique transition. 

Ranging from basketball to tennis, student-athletes around the world travel to Boise State to compete as Broncos. However, during their move to Boise, lifestyle changes, language barriers and coaching styles are some differences these student-athletes have to adapt to.

Originally from San Pedro de Alcantara in southern Spain, women’s golf junior Elena Pany found people very welcoming and outgoing when she moved to Boise three years ago. She said the athletic department staff is extremely supportive and helpful as well. 

“I have always known that I wanted to go to the U.S. for my studies and for golf,” Pany said.  “However, what made me decide to come play for Boise State was the great program, amazing facilities, instant and good connection with my [former] coach Nicole Bird and a beautiful campus.”

As an international business major, Pany hopes to open up her own business. Whether she remains in the U.S. or travels back to Europe after graduation is something she will have to decide, but Pany hopes to continue playing golf in tournaments around the world. 

The Boise State Athletic Department gave international athletes the option to remain home instead of traveling back to Boise State due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pany is currently living in Spain until further notice. 

Along with being a cross country runner, junior Hannah O’Connor also competes in track and field. She is living at home in New Plymouth, New Zealand until she can begin running again in Boise. 

Max Charles, men's golf senior, hitting a golf ball with a drive swing
[Photo of Max Charles, men’s golf senior from Melbourne, Australia]
Photo courtesy Craig Lawson

O’Connor said she enjoys Boise because the foothills offer great running trails. Of the colleges she considered attending, Boise’s environment was closest to that of New Zealand’s, which she said was a significant factor in her decision to compete for Boise State. 

Being from a small city in New Zealand, O’Connor didn’t want to move to an overwhelming place. Boise was a smaller city where she felt connected to the people, coaches and teammates.

“My coaches where I’m from in New Zealand, they coach a lot of athletes, but it’s not really like a team atmosphere, so it’s very individual,” O’Connor said. “I’ve never really experienced the team side of that, so coming to Boise and being a part of a team the coaches are really focused on the team outcome. I like it a lot more, being a part of a team is amazing and you produce better performances.” 

Whether a sport is more individualized or team effort focused, every Bronco is competing for the same university. 

After coming to the United States in 2018 and playing at Midland Community College, men’s golf senior and business major Max Charles came to play as a Bronco in January 2021. 

During the 2021 season, Charles competed in six events, averaged 73.00 strokes per course and finished in the top 25 twice. At the University of California, Santa Barbara Collegiate, he fired a 5-under 67 to lead his team to victory as well as the first team title of the season. 

When it comes to coaching and the game of golf, Charles says the game itself is more emphasized in the United States, rather than the swing. 

“Back in Australia, the coaches are very mechanical,” Charles said. “Once I got to America my game improved drastically. The biggest change for me was definitely just getting out on the course more, not worrying about positionings on the putting range.”

After graduating from college, Charles plans to stay in the U.S. and try to go professional, depending on how golf goes. Otherwise, he will plan to move home and get into his dad’s family company. 

According to these student-athletes, choosing to stay in Boise after graduation, return home or settle somewhere new will be a decision for later, but their time competing as a Bronco will be something they always remember.

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