By Martin Lidholm
Bangor, Maine – Saker and Rod Ghanayem have grown up in Boston, Florida, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Now, they are attending Husson University to study, play soccer and live through new experiences.
One of the major reasons why both of the brothers are at the University is to once again live in the U.S. “For me, the United States is like a second home,” Saker said. “I wanted to come back here to get an education.” For Rod, the reason was similar. “When we moved abroad, I always had the feeling that I would come back to America one day. I liked it here when I was a kid and I like it here now,” Rod said.
For Saker, the older brother with the age of 19, the process of finding the option to study at Husson was pretty easy. “I found Husson online. I was searching for some schools and it just popped up right there. It was one of the first searches,” Saker said. “Then I read about Husson. For example some reviews. Later, me and my parents went through the application process and filled it out. Then I got to visit the school about a year before I actually started here.”
When Saker visited Husson, it was love at first sight. “The tour guide was very nice. Everyone at Husson treated me well. Also, they showed me everything I needed to see. It was just a great experience,” Saker said. However, when he actually went to attend the school in the fall of 2014, he felt very nervous. “I am not from Maine, and I had never been here before. It was definitely tough,” Saker said.
For Rod, the transformation to life at Husson was a bit easier than for his brother. Being a year younger, he arrived to the University one year later than Saker. “With Saker already being here, it was a very easy transformation for me. He knew a lot of people on campus, so it was easy for me to get friends and create connections with other people,” Rod said. Saker thinks that it is great that Rod had an easier time adapting to Husson life. “He felt more comfortable coming here. It was helpful for him, and it helped him focus on soccer and school,” Saker said.
For both of the brothers, another major reason why they came to Husson is the soccer team. “I have played soccer for as long as I can remember. I really wanted to continue playing soccer when I went to college. Husson was the perfect choice, we have a great soccer program here,” Rod said. Saker agrees, and also points out that being in the soccer team creates friendships. “For me, playing soccer at Husson is great. Some of my best friends are on the team. Being a part of the soccer team, it was easier to make friends, being in practice together almost every day. Now, we spend a lot of time with each other,” Saker said.
When the brothers were brought into the team, they both felt very welcome. “On my first day, they were all very friendly with me. Eventually our bond grew and we got to know each other very well,” Saker said. Rod says that he had an easy transformation once again, since his brother was already on the team when he arrived. “When I came into the team, I felt like I was already a part of the family. Eventually, the soccer team has become the place where I have most of my friends.”
When the brothers walk around campus, Saker says they are often asked if they are twins. “One time, there was a person that walked by me and Rod when we were studying and asked if we were twins. This happens all the time. But maybe it is not that strange, there is less than a year between us,” Saker said. Rod also says that their similar appearance has led to awkward situations. “Sometimes, people are about to approach my brother thinking that it is me. Sometimes it is annoying, sometimes it is fun,” Rod said.
The two brothers are a part of the around 90-100 international students that attend the University. For both of them, it is easy to relate to the other foreigners on campus. “I usually talk with other international students about our home countries, our cultures, and our backgrounds,” Rod said. Saker agrees with his brother. “It is definitely good having other international students around here. It makes it easier during breaks, mostly it’s the internationals who stay on campus. Being far from our families, we try to create a family connection between the international students.”
If someone wants to study at Husson as an international student, Rod has some advice. “If you are going to come to Husson, do not just come with your values. You have to be aware that you are going to have to accept some other values and be able to adapt. You have to very open-minded about coming here. Do not be closed in your own culture.”
Looking into the future, the two brothers have some plans for what to do when life at Husson comes to an end. “Being born here, I have a U.S. passport. After I graduate, I want to get a job in physical therapy in whatever state where it is possible. From that on, we will see. Rod has pretty much the same plans,” Saker said.
Goalkeeper Andrew Wicklund is a teammate and friend of the Ghanayem brothers. Wicklund is a sophomore and arrived Husson during the same semester as Saker. One year later he got to know Rod. According to Wicklund, it is nice knowing both of the brothers. “I am glad that I have met Saker and Rod. They are very easy to get along with and often give you something to smile about,” Wicklund said. Overall, Wicklund knows about eight foreigners at the University. He believes that the opportunity to meet international students adds an extra dimension to the college life. “In my mind, it is positive to have international students at a University in general. It makes you meet people from different backgrounds and respect people from other cultures with different values. It definitely makes the college life more interesting,” Wicklund said.
Also, Wicklund thinks that it is important to have people from different countries on the soccer field. “Most international students who make the team come in with another dimension. They have grown up with different playing styles and view the game in other ways than we do. Overall, it just makes the team more flexible. Therefore, it helps the team to deal with different situations on the pitch more easily,” Wicklund said.
For the upcoming season, the goalkeeper believes that the two brothers will have a great impact on the team. “Rod did very well during his first year in the team. I think he will contribute a lot this fall,” Wicklund said. “Talking about Saker, I think he will also get a lot of playing time, since it will be his third year on the team. He is just a very skillful player.”
In the fall, we will see how well Saker and Rod do, as well as the soccer team in general. At that point, the two brothers will continue their journey at Husson University. To face new challenges and experience new things. Both on the soccer pitch and in the classroom.