Dec. 19, 2016
Going away to college can be a tough adjustment for a young person. Coming from a Third World country to study and play intercollegiate sports is even tougher. South Carolina freshman golfer Anita Uwadia is motivated to succeed and has discovered a home away from her native home of Nigeria.
“I do miss home,” Uwadia said. “I miss my family. I miss the food. I chose South Carolina because I loved the way I interacted with (Head Coach) Kalen (Anderson) and (Associate Head Coach) Puggy (Blackmon). Puggy showed me around the facilities and the school, and he told me they work a lot of short game. That’s something I really wanted to work on at that point. Puggy was like a father-figure to me. So my coaches and teammates have been great.”
As she adjusts to life on and off the golf course at South Carolina, Uwadia is appreciative of the opportunities in front of her.
“Life is free here,” Uwadia said. “You’re free to do whatever you want. Coming to America, I do believe you can do whatever you want here if you set your mind to it. You go to school and you learn about different classes. I tell people now to live their life and be happy. Coming here has definitely changed my views on some things. I see life in a different perspective than how I grew up. It’s made me less uptight.”
Uwadia started playing golf when she was nine years old, but it’s not a sport that is common in Nigeria.
“The main sport is soccer,” Uwadia said. “There aren’t many golf courses in Nigeria. I pretty much play one golf course when I am home. Golf is getting bigger though. My dad is a big golfer. He wanted my brother to play, and I started joining him when he played. I used his clubs, but then my dad saw how much I loved it, and he got me my own clubs.”
Uwadia moved to Hilton Head, S.C., to go to boarding school and attend a golf academy when she was in the eighth grade, while her family remained in Nigeria.
“It was hard at first,” Uwadia said. “To be honest, the first two months, I cried every day in my room. Then I got used to it, and there were other kids there my age who were missing their families, too. I love golf, so that helped.”
She earned numerous accolades along the way as her talents as a young golfer saw her compete in the British Girls’ Open in 2012 and 2014, and she tallied the lowest African score in 2014. She also won gold at the African Youth Games in Botswana while representing Nigeria.
In Nigeria, we have nothing like college sports. Sports are not put on a high pedestal like they are in America.Anita Uwadia
While she has continued to improve her game, Uwadia has also learned to adapt with her academic work as well as her every day social life.
“It’s a lot more conservative in Nigeria,” Uwadia said. “With my teammates, we have different views because of where I am from, but we try to make it work. We just try to understand each other. The trips when we go on tournaments have been great. Just the time we have in the van, and the jokes with coach, and being together at dinner, it’s a lot of fun. When we found out we had won our last tournament, we were all really close. I really enjoyed that.”
Looking back at her home life, Uwadia noted that life in Nigeria can be chaotic at times, but it’s still home.
“There’s a lot traffic, but it’s a fun life there,” Uwadia said. “It’s a Third World country, so it can be a hard life for some. You see poor people out in the street selling goods. They’ll be hocking their goods while they’re walking around cars at traffic lights. Not all the roads are paved, and they’re not always so wide. So with all the dirt, it doesn’t look as clean as America. There are a lot of people. It’s a lot more populated where I am from than it is in Columbia and Hilton Head.”
While she only gets to see her family for a few weeks in the summer, Uwadia was thrilled to have her mom help her move into campus during the summer.
“Coming to South Carolina, I didn’t expect so much,” Uwadia said. “We get so much here. My mom was happy because she didn’t have to buy so much stuff. She was so surprised at how serious they take college athletics in America. In Nigeria, we have nothing like college sports. Sports are not put on a high pedestal like they are in America. She was really surprised when she saw the Dodie (Academic Enrichment Center), the athletic training area, our facility, and all that we get here. It’s incredible.”
Now that she has spent significant time in the U.S., Uwadia is also learning to enjoy different kinds of American food, but she hasn’t forgotten her roots.
“I love chicken pot pie,” Uwadia beamed. “I love it! One thing I would like to share with friends here is the way we eat back home. In Nigeria, we eat with our hands a lot. People here might think it’s gross, but that’s just the way we eat. You have to wash your hands, of course! My favorite meal of all time is corn pudding. My mom makes it once per year because we don’t have it available all the time. When I go home for the summer, my mom makes corn pudding. You hand-wrap the corn in leaves and cook it. You unwrap it and eat it with your hands. It’s better that way.”
While it’s not easy to be so far away from family, Uwadia is exploring new things and finding her niche in all phases of her life.
“My choice of music now is old rock,” Uwadia laughed. “I love 80s rock. It’s the best! I never listened to it when I was in Nigeria. I don’t enjoy things like rap, but I enjoy 80s music a lot. And the food is great here. There is a lot of eating. Life is good.”