March 2, 2018

NAC Spotlight: Kesuma Laizer, UMaine-Farmington

For University of Maine at Farmington freshman men's soccer student-athlete, Kesuma Laizer, relocating to the state of Maine was a big transition from his remote community in Tanzania.

His Background: He attended public school that was a 20-minute walk from his home in Arusha. At school, he never had an option of learning more than the basics of how to read and write. A lack of resources for sports and activities brought a sense of closeness to him and his classmates at the school. During the evening they would play soccer using materials they would find to make a ball, even a simple water bottle could provide hours of entertainment.

He then attended Orkeeswa Secondary School where he was able to play on the soccer team, while being provided adequate gear. Throughout his last two years of high school, he had the opportunity to coach middle school children in the local community.

He was challenged by a lack of resources and as a young coach, while learning to plan and run practices for his team. He grew significantly from this experience and knew that he wanted to do more with his time to provide support to other young athletes.

How did he end up in Maine: When he graduated from high school, he decided to take a post graduate class and ended up at Kents Hill School, a co-educational independent college-preparatory school in Maine. This was one of the biggest transitions for him and soccer played a large role in helping him make the move.

Learn more about Kesuma and his journey:

What are you currently majoring in?
"I am majoring in Biology."

How old were you when you moved to the United States?
"I was 20 years old."

How was the transition from Tanzania to Maine?
"It was a tough transition culturally and academically. It was very tough adapting to the learning environment especially in my third language. Thanks to soccer which helped me through the transition process. Being on a soccer team helped me a lot to adapt to the school environment."

What was most difficult for you to adjust to once moving to the US?
"It was difficult for me to adapt to the social life, especially attending a boarding school. It was challenging for me to get involved in a social life because of the language barrier and being able to understand the discussions friends were having. It was tough living far from family members. I had ideas of what to expect from when I was an exchange student, but it was a lot tougher than what I thought it would be living so far from my family and the college application process was very difficult for me."

What do you like most about Maine?
"The hospitality of people in Maine. When I moved to school some faculty offered to help make my transition smoother. Some of the other student’s parents even offered to help me adjust as quickly as possible."

What has been the highlight of your first year at UMF?
"I have enjoyed getting involved in a couple of the extra-curricular activities and clubs. I currently serve as a Vice President of the Multicultural Club. I collaborate with club members to bring all students from all different cultures together to embrace our differences both on and off of campus. I love that this is a small college in a small town making its hospitality exceptionally high. The size of the school also gives students more experience through the outdoor activities."

What would you want to share about Tanzania that most people would not know?
"There are over 120 ethnicities, each with own language but the national language is Swahili."

What do you aspire to do for a career once you graduate?
"Coming from a local community in Northern Tanzania, I feel very fortunate and thus it is my hope to go back to the community and help those who are not as lucky as me. I want to go back and be part of the transformation."

What is your favorite season in Maine?
"My favorite season in Maine is fall because I get to play soccer. Playing soccer with athletes from all different backgrounds has given me a lot of room to grow not only as a player, but as a person."

--Spotlight series courtesy of NAC intern Kelsey Bragdon