Faizal Luttamaguzi ’08 (on right) at Commencement.
This year alone, 53 undergraduate, 13 graduate, and four exchange students from all over the globe have made Plymouth their home away from home. International students have been making the trek abroad for as long as anyone on campus can remember, and the tradition of welcoming them into our small-town community goes back even further.
While there are many reasons why international students choose to spend undergraduate years in the United States, there is agreement on the main aspects that set PSU apart from other institutions, overseas and in the United States.
The surrounding picturesque peaks, snowcapped in the winter and bustling with hikers in the summer and fall, are a sight to behold and a major selling point for prospective students around the world. Joni Hongisto ’20 is from Kaarina, Finland, and says he enjoys the scenery especially because it’s so unlike the exceptionally flat landscape in his home country.
The warm and welcoming nature of the Plymouth community, while perhaps not as monumental as the nature that encapsulates campus, is another facet that elevates PSU on the global stage. Dan Shaw ’19 is from Winchester, England, and co-captain of the men’s soccer team with Hongisto. Shaw muses, “It’s completely different than England where everything is rushed; life in Plymouth is relaxed and happy.”
Hongisto sees immense value in the opportunities, and ultimately the degree, from PSU. The ability to focus on a sport and pursue a degree simultaneously is quite unique to the American higher education system. Other countries incorporate athletics into their university structure, but the caliber and dedication are not comparable to that of the United States. Some international athletes discover PSU on their own, and others are recruited by the University or alumni to play for a specific team.
Competitive sports not only bring international students to PSU, they bring international students together. Rob Wright, Plymouth State men’s soccer coach, relocated to New Hampshire from the UK. “The team is well known for its international reputation,” he says.
The men’s soccer team has long been a hot spot for international students, along with the hockey and ski teams. Men’s soccer has welcomed over 100 student athletes from Japan, Sweden, and beyond. The program never fails to attract a diverse group, and a little more than a decade ago Faizal (or Jamal, as he was called during his time at PSU) Luttamaguzi ’08 immersed himself in everything that Plymouth State had to offer academically and athletically.
Born in Uganda and raised in Stockholm, Sweden, Luttamaguzi knew that PSU would transform his life in an incredibly positive way based on his first encounter with an influential figure who would eventually inspire him to pursue his passions. Recently retired Professor Warren Mason of the College of Business Administration was a driving force in Luttamaguzi’s transformation in the way of personal realization. Even today, a conversation about Plymouth State is incomplete without mention of his humble mentor, who had kind words to share about the former international student.
“I remember Faizal well. After 35 years of working with students, some you remember better than others. He was always open to learning American business practices, and with his winning smile and cheerful manner, he was easy to work with. Even at that young age, you sensed his determination and entrepreneurial spirit. That he’s gone on to be so successful, I am not at all surprised!”
Empowered by discussion about the nature of “globalization” and what it means to be “the international kid,” Luttamaguzi made a name for himself after graduating by combining his two areas of expertise and passion: the global experience and marketing. After five years of excelling in the realm of international marketing, he returned to Stockholm to pursue a life of entrepreneurship.
The weaving of international students into the fabric of our tight-knit community is truly multifold. Students are willing and able to be immersed in a unique university setting that provides great opportunities for academic, athletic, and personal growth, and the University is inspired by and proud of the positive contributions that they make both during their time in Plymouth and afterward.
■ Shannon Griffiths ’17
Faizal Luttamaguzi ’08, Dan Shaw ’19 (on left, with Nate Roberts ’19), and Joni Hongisto ’20.