Intern Insights allows current departmental interns to share their perspective on topics relevant to their experience as an undergraduate student. Italicized terms will appear in glossary at the end of the post
Part 4 Andrea Foster
Born and raised in Guyana, South America, Andrew Foster is currently a member of our women’s track team. I met her my freshman year in the Nieri Student Athlete Enrichment Center and continued to cross paths with her there, around campus, or on the bus. Although brief interactions, something that struck me about her was her warmth. Despite her name, Frosty has the ability to connect with people like they’re old friends and make you feel seen. She became a friendly face when I was first settling in and finding my feet in Clemson.
When I reached out to her to be part of my International Spotlight series I wasn’t surprised by the story she shared with me. Frosty first landed in the US in the state of New Jersey where she attended and competed for Essex County College. She experienced culture shock, noting how customs from her home were met with perplexed stares from others. Frosty recalls making her way to class and saying “hello” to everyone she walked past because this is how she grew up. She explained to me how at home it is considered rude to not acknowledge and say good morning to everyone, including the security guard at the door and each of the sleepy students trudging across campus to their morning class. Later that day when she was on the phone to her Mum, she described how everyone had looked at her like she was a weirdo after she wished literally everyone good morning. Her Mum told her how this was not normal and would come off as a little bit weird to Americans up North, and so she began her adaptation to life in the United States.
Journey to Clemson
Frosty’s Mum was a track athlete too and she loved the sport! Naturally, you would think Frosty became a track star having followed in her mother’s footsteps. Her mother’s success as a track athlete, however, made Frosty want to find out what she was passionate about and blaze her own trail. Frosty shared, “I wanted to find my own thing and my own path.” When she was younger she was into dancing and modelling and really only got involved in track after her teacher more so told her than asked her to run for their school in a race. She didn’t want to let her school house down so she ran it to get them the points for the school competition. She ended up winning and made it to the next stage of the competition. She continued to win, without training, until she made it to her first national team at 13 years old. Frosty won a bronze medal at the Carifta Games while on the national team. Her Godfather took her under his wing to train her because of her natural talent and she hasn’t looked back since. Running track was never something she looked at like “I’m gonna do this” she said, it came about more organically as her passion for track grew.
Frosty told me that “[she] didn’t really know about universities and colleges outside of her home country.” It was only after the World Championships in Beijing in 2015 when she was 18 that she met Coach Graham in a random moment and was exposed to the potential opportunity of competing as a student athlete in the United States. After the championships she went home and started researching universities and reaching out to alumni. Marian Burnett, an Olympian also from Guyana and a Clemson alum served as an inspiration and mentor through this process.
When reflecting on her time at Junior Essex College where she studied and competed for 2 years running the 800m, Frosty expressed how hard this part of her journey was. She explained how this steppingstone to Clemson, which “[she] had made up [her] mind was her dream school,”helped prepare her to be more independent and resilient. Frosty is from one of the only countries in South America where English is the dominant language, however, she was still adjusting to the different sociocultural norms in the United States. Frosty was living away from home for the first time, managing her school, sport, and finances where she “really had to figure everything out for [herself].”
Forsty mainly chose to come to Clemson when she transferred from her juco because of her coach at Clemson, Coach Elliot. She knew he had experience coaching international student athletes and Olympians in her event so working under Elliot would help her continue to grow as a runner. Additionally, when she visited Clemson’s campus she recalls the feeling of knowing how much she wanted to be in Clemson “the first impression captures someone’s heart. I felt [that] way when I came to Clemson because of how they treat people”
Frosty’s very first year here at Clemson was “so fun and exciting, from [her] first footsteps on campus as a student athlete [she] felt really grateful.” Her experiences working to transition from a juco to a power 5 school gave her perspective on how different things were with respect to the opportunities she wouldn’t have otherwise had. “[She] struggled to get out [of her country] and to [reach] Clemson. So [she] appreciated things people otherwise might take for granted.” Frosty told me that at her old school she had a $10 a day meal plan that wouldn’t even cover her full breakfast or how she never had the services like tutoring and EEE that are available at Clemson. At her former institution it was “you, yourself and the book”. These struggles only motivated her to work harder to achieve her goals and was she “blown away” by how well looked after she felt at her dream school.
Frosty told me about how she doesn’t always have the luxury of going home every break and every year because of how expensive travel can be. Additionally, small hiccups on paperwork can also be an additional hindrance for international students like Frosty. For example, at Essex, she was unable to go home due to an issue with her passport and visa. Instead, she took summer classes in order to maintain the eligibility to compete and successfully transfer to Clemson University—meaning she spent three years away from home! When she reflects on being away from home, Frosty shares, “I really don’t know how I do it! I guess I miss home because I miss my siblings and especially my twin. It’s something I have learned to live with.”
Covid-19 and Olympic Trials
It’s one thing to be alone and away from family while living in another country, but Frosty, like many international students, found the pandemic to be particularly tough. Frosty said she, “always had a getaway though [her] sport and in person classes” and when these outlets were taken away, she learned a lot about herself. “I grew closer to myself, got the rest I needed… but when you’re not around your teammates 24/7, I discovered that I actually do love alone time… but it was very lonely at times.”
Frosty went to the Jamaican trials to qualify this summer for the Olympics because she would not have anyone to run with at home and she needed a good race. Unfortunately, she did not get the time but was only 4 spots down from the top 48 qualifiers.
Frosty is another example of the strength and resilience embodied by our international student’s and student-athletes at Clemson. Frosty is a fierce competitor on the track, a daughter, sister, and wonderful friend because of her warmth and amiability.
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