Hillsdale is not known for attracting large numbers of international students, but two Hillsdale golfers, sophomore George Roberts and junior Liam Purslowe, have crossed hemispheres to attend Hillsdale.
Coach Nathan Gilchrist said the golf team looks for qualified athletes around the world.
“We have recruited students from all over the globe,” Gilchrist said. “Every year we are looking for students willing and able to be student-athletes at Hillsdale College. Thankfully, the school attracts only those who are serious about the education.”
Gilchrist noticed that both Roberts and Purslowe had the academic talents and athletic abilities to fit in well at Hillsdale.
Roberts is from Portsmouth, England and grew up playing golf and soccer. For many years, Roberts dedicated his time to soccer, but then in high school he began to focus on golf.
“I used to play futbol, or soccer, back in England and that was my sport, and then I had a change of heart, really. I was pretty good at soccer, I don’t want to brag,” Roberts said.
He appreciated that golf was an individual sport.
“I wanted to move the pressure from external to just me,” Roberts said.
After concentrating on golf for years, Roberts looked for schools where he could continue playing. That’s when he found Hillsdale.
“It was for golf,” Roberts said. “I looked for the highest academic and Division II golf and Hillsdale came up, so I applied and the coaches had great interest…so it all fell into place really.”
Moving to a new continent all the way from Portsmouth, England, Roberts admitted that he missed home when he first came.
“I did get pretty homesick, but I soon found my good circle of friends, and yeah, I’m still here,” Roberts said.
He said he found the golf team to be a good fit and loved the team’s dynamics.
“It’s like our own little brotherhood inside the overall family of the campus,” Roberts said. “It’s our own tight circle where we really trust each other…that’s what mainly kept me here when I was homesick the first semester.”
Roberts said that acclimating to the unique Hillsdale atmosphere was the biggest cultural change for him when he came to the States.
“Hillsdale is a slightly different place than any other place…but honestly, I love it here. It’s just such a nice place to get away and study,” Roberts said.
Roberts loves golfing, and though he doesn’t see himself doing anything serious with it after graduation, he enjoys the opportunity to compete now.
“For me, it’s just an enjoyable thing,” he said. “Takes me out of studying. Takes me away from all the stress of school.”
Even though they are all the way “across the pond,” Roberts said his parents have been very supportive, and his Mum texts him very regularly. But it’s not always easy for him to be so far from his family and friends.
“There’s no real lifestyle changes at all,” Roberts said. “Obviously I am more than 3,000 miles from home and it’s a different country, a slightly different language…but honestly it’s just being away from people you can speak to and truly trust…Other than that it’s pretty good.”
Like Roberts, one of the other members of Hillsdale’s golf team grew up playing golf and came all the way to Hillsdale to keep playing. Liam Purslowe is a junior from Perth, Australia, and since the university at home didn’t have the same athletic opportunities, he came to Hillsdale.
Purslowe also likes the culture of Hillsdale — and even likes being far away from home.
“Golf is what attracted me over here…[and] being so far away from home,” Purslowe said. “Hillsdale is a small school. I like the idea of being a name rather than a number, so that was probably the main defining factor in deciding to come here.”
While missing home, Purslowe said he never got desperately homesick.
“I was far enough away from home that it was like, at the same time you realize you are homesick, but you know that you can’t go back, so it actually sort of helps in a way,” Purslowe said. “It’s not like you can jump on a flight or drive there, or something like that. I knew I was going to be a long way away, and that was the decision I made, so I sort of had to get over it pretty quick. You can’t really sit there and dwell on it.”
Back home, he attended the local university for several months, and so entering the small Hillsdale community was quite a change.
“I had seven to eight months to do something, so I went to university at home, to a 60,000 person university,” Purslowe said. “So then coming to Hillsdale it was like I actually saw the same person twice in a week.”
Along with a much smaller community, Purslowe had to make other small adjustments to American life: driving on the wrong side of the road and to the cold Michigan weather.
“Being on the wrong side of the road also doesn’t help…the weather. That was a bit of a different one. I mean it’s a good 100-degree difference at times,” Purslowe said. “Where I’m from it’s probably similar to southern California,” Purslowe said, “So middle of summer it’s 110 – 115 and then you come here and in the winter it’s like 10 [degrees].”
But Purslowe actually liked adjusting to some of the extreme differences between Michigan and Australia.
“If I’m going to come and do the experience four years away from home I may as well make it the complete opposite, in terms of weather at least,” Purslowe said.
And overall Purslowe loves the feel of Hillsdale and community here.
“I just like the main concept of being a small school and you know people’s names and things like that, and it’s just nice,” he said. “To be honest it’s a homely feel. That’s one of the best things about it, I think.”