GW men’s soccer player Luke Wildy’s first visit to the United States coincided with a few other firsts: his first class at GW, his first team practice and his first Atlantic 10 award.
The British player is one of many foreign students who have been recruited to play for GW. Athletes representing the Colonials come from all over the world – England, Nigeria, Canada, Germany, Colombia, Egypt, Bermuda, Turkey and Australia, to name a few.
But prior to being recruited by soccer head coach George Lidster, Wildy had never even heard of The George Washington University.
“To be honest, I hadn’t heard much about American colleges. When I came over here, it might sound funny, but I didn’t know a freshman from a sophomore from a junior,” Wildy said.
What Wildy did know was soccer. He garnered D.C. College Cup All-Tournament honors and was named an Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week – in his first and only game of the 2006-07 season against Georgetown. A torn ACL on his second goal against the Hoyas kept him out for the season.
“Funnily enough, D.C. is quite similar to London,” Wildy said. “It took some adjusting, obviously, being in a new country apart from friends and family. But on the whole, the whole contrast hasn’t been to great, to be honest.”
Due to repeated injury to his right knee, Wildy has endured two surgeries and countless hours of rehabilitation. Despite the awards he’s received in his two years wearing the number 19 jersey, he has only played in seven games and hopes this will be a breakout year.
In the meantime, he’s adjusted well.
“We call it football at home, but I’m even calling it soccer now,” Wildy said.
For freshman golfer Javier Ballesteros, hopping the pond has been a tougher experience.
“It’s a big change. I find it quite hard,” Ballesteros said. “But it’s been nice. I’ve met nice people, and I can say that everything’s going quite well.”
Ballesteros comes from golfing royalty – his father is Seve Ballesteros, a former world No. 1 player. When former head golf coach Scott Allen, now the head coach at the University of Pennsylvania, recruited Ballesteros, the 18-year old took the opportunity.
He’s played two tournaments for GW and shot in the 70s twice, but the move from Spain to the District was more of a challenge.
“The food is different; I don’t really like the food here. Studying is different. I’ve always studied in Spanish and I’m studying in English now,” Ballesteros said. “I find it a bit hard, but it’s fine.”
One positive part of his experience has been his team. Everyone he’s encountered has been friendly, he said. Wildy had similar recollections of his arrival in D.C.
“My experience has been really good. From the second I got here, I was a 20-year-old Englishman turning up with one suitcase, and I can’t believe how welcoming everyone was,” Wildy said. “Coming over, I lost my luggage, but the boys were great, showed me around, helped me out with getting used to a new country, finding my bearings.”