The Gopher women’s basketball roster includes names from as close as the team’s home state of Minnesota. It also includes two student-athletes who traveled thousands of miles to attend the University of Minnesota. Leeming, Australia’s Jessie Edwards and Pecs, Hungary’s Palma Kaposi bring an international flair to the team while taking advantage of a golden opportunity.
“Since I was little, I wanted to come to the U.S. and study here,” Kaposi said. “The University of Minnesota gives a very good degree. Basketball-wise being a college student-athlete means a lot. It prepares you for your future.”
The Hungarian forward recently completed her sophomore season, her first at Minnesota. She credits her teammates for easing her adjustment, especially her fellow international transfer who was eager to help. Edwards and Kaposi will have two additional teammates from abroad next year, as Spanish players Paloma Gonzalez and Irene Garrido signed with the Gophers last week.
“It was good to have someone else who was having the same experience as me, coming to a different country,” Edwards said. “Even though you think it might not be that different, it is a different culture than back home.”
Edwards, now a junior, said the U of M’s international student orientation and International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) were helpful during her journey to Minneapolis before her sophomore season. She and Kaposi both recently attended the inaugural meeting of Gopher International, a group for student-athletes from outside the U.S.
Edwards enjoys sharing Australian culture with friends she has met in Minnesota. Kaposi and Edwards fit in with their teammates, but also like standing out because of their different backgrounds.
“It’s always entertaining when everybody tries to speak in our accents,” Edwards said.
Increased language skills have been a benefit of Kaposi’s first year in the United States.
“I think I understood the vocabulary in basketball because my coaches were international,” Kaposi said. “They were speaking in English. School-wise, I always had to write a lot of papers and it helped me a lot. I think I am so much better at it than when I came here.”
The variety of U of M and professional sports teams in the Twin Cities impressed Edwards and Kaposi. Neither had attended a football game prior to their time in Minnesota, and Kaposi said the recent Gopher softball game the team attended was her first time as a spectator of that sport. Both noticed extensive media coverage, advertisements and well wishes for the Minnesota Lynx during last fall’s WNBA playoffs.
“It’s really overwhelming to see the support people here have for women’s basketball,” Edwards said.
Edwards has gotten used to Minnesota weather and said seeing her first snow was a highlight for her. Both she and Kaposi said the food in America has required an adjustment. Kaposi is often overwhelmed by the variety of choices, and misses the prevalence of carbonated water and lemonade. Edwards thinks chefs need to stop making marinara sauce so sweet. But missing the food from home is a minor inconvenience compared to the benefits of being a Gopher.
“I think this is really a priceless experience,” Edwards said. “A lot of people where I come from don’t get the opportunity to be able to live in another country like I do. They don’t get an opportunity to have the great coaching and amazing resources we have, trainers, all the technology that we have. And we are lucky enough to have our tuition paid. All of those together really add up.”
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