Student travels from Ghana to BGSU to pursue dreams

Living more than 5,000 miles away from his family, senior mechatronics engineering technology major Amandy Ayima said his passion for soccer moved him from the small village of Sandema, Ghana, to Bowling Green. He said he faced many hardships during the transition but never gave up.

“I love playing soccer, however, moving here and playing was so different compared to being able to play soccer at home,” Amandy said.

His love for BGSU soccer is evident in the soccer shirt he is wearing. His short dark hair and dark complexion contrast with the huge smile he wears, while he talks passionately about the biggest change in his life.

While growing up in Ghana, he lived with his mom and three brothers. All his brothers loved soccer as well. When his older brother played, he followed suit.

According to tripsavvy.com, “Soccer, or ‘football’ as it’s usually known in Africa, is followed passionately throughout the continent from Morocco in the far north down to South Africa.”

Because of this, he grew up surrounded by the game of soccer. In Ghana, there are several different places for children to go to and play soccer.  Amandy played every day growing up.

As he got older and went into college, he played soccer for two years at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. During the time he was there, he was spotted by Salem University in Dayton. However, he turned them down. He was then recruited to BGSU with an offer he couldn’t refuse. With a full ride to college and a chance to play in America, he took the chance to move and pursue one of his dreams.

When it came time for the big move, he was nervous and scared, but also extremely happy to be fulfilling one of his greatest dreams.

“I was ecstatic coming. It is every young man’s dream in Ghana to come to America. However, I did not take the language barrier and climate change into consideration when coming here,” he said.

When moving to America, he knew the English language but still struggled at first. When his roommate, Vinny Worner, a junior accounting major, picked him up from the airport, he noticed this struggle from the start.

“The biggest struggle for him was communicating with other people. He would try very hard to get the person he was talking to to understand him, but sometimes they just couldn’t, and you could tell he would get very frustrated,” Worner said.

Amandy started learning English when he 12 years old, which helped him when he came to America. However, he had a very heavy accent that made it hard for other people to understand him. Homework was also difficult for him to manage.

“Sometimes he couldn’t understand what his homework was asking him to do, because it was all in English. He knew the words, but he did not know what they meant, so I had to help him a little bit with that as well,” Worner said.

To combat his heavy accent, he has developed a love of watching movies. He spends his spare time watching American movies and television shows. This is a way for him to learn to understand what people around him are saying.

“With time and much effort, I started sounding like and talking like everyone else. I still have my accent, but I can now understand people and they can understand me,” Amandy said.

He says none of these struggles affected his passion for soccer.  He noticed there was a big difference in playing soccer back home compared to America. It was challenging to switch from the “raw soccer” or pure, talent-based soccer of Ghana, to the very structured, tactical and physical style in America.

He knows that playing on a team differs depending on location and coaching style. He knew the first season would be the most difficult as he acclimated to the differences in style.

“It doesn’t always work out for everyone, but I think I’m pretty much used to how the BGSU style of play is now, some time it is tough, but as a whole it was good,” Amandy said.

One of the biggest shocks for him was the climate difference. He grew up in a place that was hot and humid all year round to America. In Ohio, there are four seasons with varied weather that came as a shock to him.

“When I first got here it was amazing, the weather was something I have never seen before. The first winter was crazy, at first it was cold and I couldn’t practice. I had to sit down, because it was so hard on me and I had a headache. When it started snowing, it was like little particles falling from the sky. It was fun to play in the snow, but it was really cold,” Amandy said.

The soccer coach helped him out by giving him school-issued coats and winter gear to keep him warm. Throughout the winter, he found himself bundling up and missing the warm weather back home.

Missing the warm weather makes him miss his family as well.  After being in America for almost two years, he was finally able to travel home in December 2018 for the first time.

“When I got there, it was too hot for me and I wanted to leave, I got out of the plane and it was a very dry heat again,” Amandy said.

He described the heat he grew up in as “as hot as a furnace” and found it very difficult to tolerate the heat again. He was ecstatic to see family he left a year and a half ago.

“There was a bit of difference in his personality when he came, which we expected. Amandy was outspoken and straight forward. And he felt the need to help anytime you asked him for help. He also asked questions about the family he didn’t have answers to and was accommodating as well,” said Amandy’s older brother, Isaac Ayima.

Both Amandy and his family back home saw differences in each other.

“I remember when I saw my mum, she had tears in her eyes.  We were overjoyous to see each other. There was a little problem though, they kind of didn’t know how to relate with me because they didn’t know if I have changed from the culture shock,” Isaac said.

Coming to BGSU the second time, he didn’t experience the same shock. He felt like was coming home to what he was used to. He knew he was coming back here to play soccer, continue schooling and hang-out with friends.

His friends say they look to him as an inspiration and are so proud of the person he has become.

“It is honestly an inspiration to see his attitude toward everything and how he handles himself. He gets along with everyone he meets and makes the most of everything. He is one of the most caring people I’ve ever met and is a great friend,” Worner said.