Jo-Ezer is a avid Ultimate Frisbee player so when he arrived in Donegal from Malaysia to find the LYIT Ultimate club no longer in action, he jumped in head first! Read his story…

Ultimate Frisbee, or rather, Ultimate, is a team sport that I have played throughout my formative years as a teenager. It is currently played in over 80 countries and is already a part of the World Games and is looking good to be included in the Olympics soon!

Since 2010, for almost 8 years, I’ve chased plastic discs at a recreational and an elite level, within and out of Malaysia; captained teams at beginner hat tournaments; and for the most part, taught many peers of mine the sport and inspired others to discover it, from classmates back in Penang Chung Ling High School to my course-mates in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program at Fairview. Thanks to the amazing individuals on The Islanders and in the Malaysian Ultimate community as a whole – for year after year, patiently bearing with my temper, nurturing the athlete inside me, being a wholesome support system, watching me morph into maturity, and continuing to inspire me to this day – I grew to love the sport thoroughly, along the values and people that come with it.

This chapter of living my passion starts with a flashback to a somewhat lost lad walking up and down the main corridor looking for the Ultimate Club sign up desk at Clubs and Societies day back in September 2016, just two weeks after I’d arrived at Letterkenny IT, only to discover it was no longer active and would stay that way unless someone took up the responsibility of leading it. There I was, thinking, if this doesn’t define ‘opportunity’, I’m not sure what does. With nothing at all, and therefore nothing to lose, I leaped; and here are some takeaways from why you, as an international student, should leap too…

The opportunity to connect with amazing individuals

Since starting the Ultimate club, being in a leadership position has brought me to cross paths with people from the LYIT Student Union administration, the Sports Hall staff, the Sports Office, and even the President’s Office. Undeniably, for them, its intriguing to see an international student wade through unchartered waters, but more importantly, you’ll find that these people work hard behind the scenes, outside of any spotlight that shines on the club’s achievements.

Throughout the semesters, I’ve grown to appreciate to extra mile that these individuals to go to ensure the clubs success, from the little, seemingly monotonous things like clearing the hall for practices, putting schedules in place, making sure we have ample equipment and the lockers for them, to sorting out a significant part of logistics and paperwork, as well as providing the necessary financial support. Every time I step into the An Dánlann, it feels like a second home because of the warm, welcoming atmosphere and second-to-none support that the club thrives on.

At Letterkenny IT, there’s a sense of selflessness that emanates from the staff regardless of their position. Being able to connect with so many of them from different departments truly reminds me of what it’s like to build the right bridges and invest in friendships worth keeping. Perhaps as an international student, I hold these experiences and relationship more dearly than anything because they integrate me into the local, college, and Irish Ultimate community.

My teammates – they captain me as much as I captain them

Consistent with the narrative from my previous blogs, I’m always conscious of my motivations and how they contribute to my journey of self-discovery. As I reflect on how my teammates have inspired me, leading the Ultimate club has definitely shed light on my understanding my character, values and sense of reasoning. Beyond the classrooms and laboratories, I’ve found myself to be somewhat of an extroverted introvert – I have no problem at interacting with others, but if given a choice, I’d very much prefer alone time, perhaps a little too much in that way. Leading a club, especially one revolved around a team sport has helped me find moderation with that latent introverted personality, and in many ways, given me reason to find a socially healthy balance point, simply because it was something that I loved doing.

Being a self-refereed sport, full of craic, without exclusion of any gender, age, or social groups, LyIT Ultimate brings together a of talented bunch, some of whom also excel across other sports, like wall climbing, 5-a-side football, volleyball, even powerlifting and gymnastics – I kid you not, Gary did a standing backflip in the endzone when we scored on Trinity at Open Intervarsities. In the aspect of coaching, I often find myself modelling drills and running systems in a certain way that I learnt it, or in an order in which I’ve experienced. Yet, teaching this bunch from scratch has opened by eyes to each individual’s learning curve, realising that new players can be taught difficult techniques first with simple illustrations in the absence of what I thought to be simpler skills, breaking the convention of learning in one particular progression. Furthermore, these approaches vary slightly depending on what sport they already play because certain motor skills are more developed than others. Simply put, as much as I impart skills and knowledge of the game to them, I have taken away so much more from the perspective of coaching, giving my personality breathing space, and examining my motivations. Their presence reminds me to do what I love, for the community, from the community. I know Ultimate has made me a better person, and I want to reciprocate, to inspire others, to bring it along to whichever part of the world I find myself to be in, and in turn, be inspired by the people around me – in this case, a diverse range of teammates from different years and courses.

A process of constructing meaning and identity

I believe starting the Ultimate club and running it gives purpose and meaning to my time here. One of the many thought-provoking questions I’ve been asked, referring to why I’ve journeyed such a long way from home to study abroad, is: “Of all places, why Letterkenny?” Frankly, it’s a question which I still ask myself regularly. I have yet to find a definite answer, but I have come to terms with myself that while having a general prospective purpose mattered initially before arriving here, what is even more important, is that with each step I took and every decision I made, more light was shed on the matter, retrospectively. After all, there is only so much you can ever know about water before you dive in.

Provided there’s not a very significant population size of the people from your home country in the local community within and without the institute you’re studying at, with the likes of a relatively small institution like Letterkenny IT, the ethnic and cultural nuances can sometimes be a little overwhelming. Being social beings, at some point, you would have given some thought to how you can integrate yourself into part of the local community, find your very own essential support system with your peers, yet at the same time not overconforming, upholding your principles and preserving your identity. Personally, I’ve struggled with this, and found that starting the Ultimate club gave me the answers I needed to find closure on the matter. Within that circle of friends, I can be completely comfortable with who I am, break stereotypes, change perspectives of how international students are often perceived to think and act, but more importantly, experience and nurture a sense of camaraderie while doing something constructive. At the end of the day, you’re not just building a team for the tangible achievements, or a club to do your institute proud, you’re building up people and their character. By doing so, you build up your identity. To be able to listen to some of my teammates personal stories and relate to the paths they have trod, I feel less like a stranger and more like ohana. Once again, in search for a support system, I take away that starting a club lays the foundations for one.

So, if you’ve ever been in a position where you’re an international that really likes doing something but discovered that your institution doesn’t offer the platform to showcase your talent and inspire others, be that spark. It could be culinary, chess, the arts, mathematics, indigenous knowledge systems; sounds cliché enough, but the only limit is your passion, in other words, you. A friend of mine once said, much of the pathway is helping others shape theirs, and hopefully, this process sheds more light on your own. Go forth. Live your passion, start a club!