You’re from where?!

By on December 5, 2007

A Danish beauty with a strong passion for politics, a hockey player from the Czech Republic and a young man who helped the Quinnipiac soccer team finish its season 9-3-5 all have a common bond. They are three international students, and each bring something extraordinary to Quinnipiac.

Anne Poulsen, pronounced “Anna,” not “Ann,” speaks with a soft-spoken Danish accent, acquired from living in Aarhus, Denmark.

“It is popular to travel outside the country, but not for college. That is kind of unique,” she said.

There is plenty unique about Poulsen. She is a 19-year-old freshman at Quinnipiac who is not only majoring in political science, but is passionate about it. The tall thin blonde with a style that is exceptionally European, has fervor for American and World politics; so much so that excitement shines through her big blue eyes as she talks about it.

“This is what I’m concentrating on here. Observing how our [Denmark’s] system is very socialist; everyone pays between 50-60 percent taxes, you get a lot of free stuff. But you don’t get to choose what you spend your money on,” Poulsen said.

“But here [in America] it is about individualism. You don’t want to pay a lot of taxes because you own your own money and you don’t want to give it to the poor man on the street. That is so different,” she said.

Robin Klasek’s journey to the United States began with ice hockey. While attending high school in his hometown of Ostrava, Czech Republic, a private high school in Maine became interested in him. North Yarmouth Academy invited him to transfer to play ice hockey.

Klasek ended up going to high school for five years without receiving a diploma. He is now a 20-year-old freshman majoring in biology and didn’t speak English until two years ago.

The third international student is 6’1″, 180 pounds, and plays defense on the Quinnipiac men’s soccer team. Tolle Staffanson came to America from Goteborg, Sweden, and has the traditional blonde hair, blue eyed appearance of a Swede.

Staffanson, a 21-year-old freshman with an undeclared liberal arts major, came to Quinnipiac for soccer, or as it is called in Sweden, football.

Klasek, Poulsen and Staffanson all came to America alone, so they share a sense of independence.

“I love Quinnipiac,” Klasek said. “Finally I feel like I am kind of independent. Even before living with host families. they care about you and make sure everything is fine. But right now everything you do is you and only you. which is nice after so long.”

Poulsen has found living away from her family and friends back in Denmark to be relatively easy because Quinnipiac has become new home for her.

“I haven’t really discovered the homesick part a lot. I actually expected that but I haven’t. no crying or anything,” Poulsen said.

Klasek shares the same sentiments.

“I’m over that stage I guess,” he said. “Right now I am really positive. I’m never sad that I’m here. And I know that being here has given me a lot of opportunities. It sounds cliché maybe to you, but not too many people get the chance.”

Poulsen graduated high school in 2006 but took a year off to work as a waitress/bartender at a café, which is common among students in Denmark.

“It’s really good to experience the work part because after work I couldn’t wait to get back to school,” Poulsen said.

Staffanson has been playing soccer since the age of two. He first began playing with his father and has played for various teams in Sweden. After graduating high school in 2005, he played for a professional team before looking to play in the U.S.

“I know the guy who works with soccer players that want to go to America, so he contacted Quinnipiac. I never heard of Quinnipiac at that point. He has connections with coaches in America,” Staffanson said.

Quinnipiac gave him the best offer.

He only decided that he was coming here this past summer. Once he arrived in August, which was his first time in America, he lived with other members of the soccer team before moving onto campus.

Originally Quinnipiac wasn’t even in Klasek’s top five college choices, but once he visited he knew.

“I visited Quinnipiac last, and I said ‘Oh damn, I’m coming here.’ I didn’t need to know anything about it. I saw the school and the people and I said this is where I’m going to stay for four years,” Klasek said.

Poulsen expressed how different Denmark is from America.

“Denmark is very small,” Poulsen said. “And people are more open over here. They are like ‘Hey, how are you doing’ even though you don’t know the person. I really like that.”

Even though in Czech Republic students begin studying English at an early age, Klasek still had difficulties with the language.

“I took an ibuprofen after every class because my head would explode,” Klasek said. “The books I was reading I would have to transfer every word for word.”

Staffanson feels the most at home with his teammates.

“We have funny guys on the team, we joke a lot. Even after practices, we have a good time. It’s been a good season. We’re disappointed right now, but we have erased every record at the school. All in all it’s been a great season,” Staffanson said.

Klasek spends a great deal of time working because he is going to have to support himself living here alone.

“I work in the book store, I work for admissions with tours and I work at hockey games and basketball games,” Klasek said.

At first Poulsen’s parents were skeptical about her coming to the U.S. But after months of her coaxing them, they realized it would be the best thing for her; and it has been. Poulsen said that Quinnipiac feels so natural to her. Interestingly enough, Poulsen’s boyfriend from Denmark is also a student at QU, but she made it clear that he is not the reason she came.

“I really feel comfortable here. I could never do it with another country though. It has to be a country where you really feel home,” she said.

Aside from soccer, Staffanson has been trying to adjust to the lifestyle here.

“Here we’re like prisoners in school. Like 95% of the time I hang out on the campus. we don’t have campuses in Sweden, so it’s different. I think I like it. But I don’t like the dorms, living with four boys, when you’re used to living by yourself,” he said.

Staffanson was majoring in international business but switched to undeclared liberal arts. He wants to enjoy his time here and become comfortable before he declares a major.

Even though Klasek has had the opportunity to live in Maine as well as Connecticut, he would like to travel.

“I feel like I really don’t know the U.S. so much yet. New England is still different from say, Detroit. So I haven’t experienced some things still,” Klasek said.

When all is said in done, Klasek said the most important thing to learn about is the people here. He has a sincere interest in people.

“After I’m done with all of my work, which is so loaded, thank you professors, I like to hang out with people. No matter who or where, I am interested in people. It really doesn’t matter what we do,” Klasek said.


About Melissa Moller