Junior international student-athlete Jenna Sluijmer’s Fall semester hasn’t gone as planned. In the midst of a global pandemic, the international marketing major was forced to abruptly return to her home country, the Netherlands, due to a family emergency. But even 3,000 miles away, she’s still very much a part of the Ship community.

“It hasn’t been easy. I try to FaceTime my teammates as much as possible so it kind of seems like I’m still there. [Ship] is truly my second home and I miss it every day,” said the member of the Women’s Field Hockey and Tennis Teams.

Sluijmer transitioned to remote coursework with Ship’s flexible academic instruction options through the COVID-19 pandemic. The support of faculty and the Raiders Academic Center for Student-Athletes helped her continue her Ship journey with virtual support. In addition, her coaches and teammates include Sluijmer in virtual workouts and team meetings to stay connected.

When making a college decision, Ship stood out to Sluijmer because she could focus on her education and continue to play the sports she loved. In the Netherlands her only option was to play for a club team, making it difficult to incorporate her love of sports with a quality education.

“I think my education is so important because I know that’s how I am going to make money after college, but I couldn’t see myself without my sports. America and Ship made [the decision] so easy for me” she explained

Sluijmer struggled at first adapting to a brand-new location, gaining new friends,  understanding the cultural differences, and managing the demanding academics. In fact, after the first semester, she didn’t think she was going to return.

“That winter break, I had many talks with my family, and they told me that they would support me with whatever decision I would make, whether that was staying home in the Netherlands or going back to the States” Sluijmer added.

Her mom, an important light in her life, swayed Jenna to live out her dream to study and play sports in America. So, she returned after her first winter break and began to find her community, sense of belonging, and life-long friends she now considers her second family.

“They make me feel like I belong. They know that my parents aren’t ‘around the corner’ so they always invite me to go home to them for Thanksgiving, Easter, or just for a random weekend. I am so extremely thankful for them,” Sluijmer continued.

Sluijmer is grateful her studies were not disrupted by this tumultuous semester, but she is ready to get back to Ship. She is already preparing for her return in the spring with the help of Ship’s International Programs Office and anxiously anticipates a reunion with her Ship family.

Follow along with Jenna for the day on her takeover of Ship’s Instagram on Wednesday, October 28, 2020 – @ShippensburgUniv

Learn more about international programs, people, and culture at Ship at International Education Week. Read more stories from the Class of 2022.