Senior center Jessie Edwards has been a regular in the post for Minnesota the past three years and is one of the Gophers’ top-10 shot blockers in program history. She traveled the farthest of anyone on the team to be part of Minnesota’s program.
Most acquaintances with strangers on airplanes end as soon as the passengers get out at the gate. But for Jessie Edwards, a chance encounter led to a lasting friendship.
A few years ago, the girlfriend of Edwards’ father was traveling and chatted with a woman on the plane. The woman mentioned that she was from Minnesota, and that started them talking about Edwards’ impending move from Australia to Minneapolis for college. The woman on the plane extended an invitation for Edwards to stay with her family when she got to the U.S.
Edwards accepted Kate and Steve Peer’s invitation. When she got to campus, the new apartment building where the team was going to live was not quite finished, so she stayed with the Peers. Steve and Kate, who had previous experience hosting international students and sending kids to college, showed Edwards around the Twin Cities after her arrival and gave her tips for the move to her apartment.
Edwards now calls the Peers “my Minnesota family.” They attend Gopher games when they can. They held a birthday party for Edwards, and they invited her over to celebrate the holidays.
“They treat me like I’m their daughter,” Edwards said. “I’m really grateful for them to take me into their family like that. …It’s really nice to have a second family here.”
In her third year at the U of M, Edwards has had time to feel comfortable here and appreciate details of the place she has called home during college. She picks up more on regional accents than when she first arrived, and enjoys seeing the way a lot of Minnesotans study and celebrate their Scandinavian heritage. Most of all, Edwards likes the welcome she has received.
“I really like how generous and open and warm the people are,” she said. “I know people here have the reputation for ‘Minnesota nice,’ but people have been really genuinely good to me since I’ve been here.”
There are still things Edwards misses about home. While the 10,000-plus lakes provide shoreline in Minnesota, she looks forward to seeing the ocean beach and ocean animals when she goes back to the Southern Hemisphere. Edwards misses certain foods from home, like sausages that aren’t hot dogs or bratwursts, and the meat pie, which she calls an “Australian icon.”
It can be hard being separated from family, but Edwards’ father has made a trip to the States each of the past two years to spend time with his daughter. This season Edwards looks forward to having her dad, sister, sister’s boyfriend and a friend from home attend the Gophers’ senior night game in February.
Following senior day and graduation, Edwards is not yet sure what she will do in the immediate aftermath. The psychology major is currently taking a career planning class. She interviewed a U of M sports psychologist for an assignment, and said she would like to get her master’s degree and potentially a doctorate and pursue that specialty within her chosen field.
Edwards might continue her basketball career and travel the world first. She has spoken with friends and former teammates who have played overseas in places like England, France and Germany. Germany’s strong league appeals to Edwards, but she also has family from her mother’s side in England, so she’s taking that into consideration as well. As part of her traveling, she hasn’t ruled out where she lives now.
“I do really like it here in Minneapolis as well,” Edwards said. “If I get the opportunity to come back, I will come back.”
And you can bet that if she does, her “Minnesota family” will be ready to welcome her just like the first time she arrived.
Story by assistant director of athletic communications Justine Buerkle
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