In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world implemented travel bans and embassies closed, making it difficult to apply for visas. These new changes and guidelines disrupted travel plans for millions of people across the world, including international students who had plans to study abroad.
Cameron Huefner, freshman in psychology, is a new international student this semester from Adelaide, Australia. Huefner was recruited to play basketball and will join the Pitt State men’s basketball team as a forward.
“I just wanted to chase the basketball dream,” Huefner said.
Upon hearing the travel bans implemented, Huefner anticipated not being able to travel to start the year at PSU.
“I didn’t think I was going to make it,” Huefner said. “I even called the coaches and said ‘It’s (going to) be a bit hard to get over there,’ because my government wasn’t letting people out of Australia and they weren’t letting people in.”
In order to travel, Huefner had to apply through exemption forms.
Huefner was able to make the journey to Pittsburg and will begin his career as a Gorilla. He is the only new international student to arrive this semester.
“We’re excited to get at least one (new student), with embassies all shut down across the world, no visas were being issued,” said Aaron Hurt, director of International Programs and Services. “It just so happened that Cameron was able to get his visa before the embassy shut down back in March. So, we’re thrilled to have at least one new student join us here on campus.”
Huefner’s journey to Pitt State was approximately a year in the making. He was recruited by assistant basketball coach Justin Bailey.
“I was in Houston last year, and I’d been in contact with Coach Bailey for several years through a contact in Houston and he invited me up to meet Coach Anderson,” Huefner said. “I did a workout and they gave me a scholarship the next day. As soon as I got the scholarship it was basically, ‘I’m going to Pitt State.’ That’s how I ended up here. I had no idea I was going to come to college until the end of year 11.”
Huefner decided to persist in trying to make it to the United States to pursue basketball as well as the opportunity for the education he will receive at PSU.
“I never gave up on coming, even though I did tell them I probably wasn’t going to make it,” Huefner said. “I didn’t think I ever gave up on the dream, because I always wanted to play basketball and I had people telling me to go to college because it will just make me better over the four years.”
Huefner hopes to play basketball professionally in Australia once he graduates.
“Education’s great,” he said. “Especially since I’m on a scholarship, I’m very privileged that it’s all paid for me, and back home I would have built up a big debt…”
Huefner also said he looks forward to his time at Pitt State and in the United States
“I’m excited to meet people and travel and see the country a bit more,” Huefner said. “…We get to travel to other states to play games, so I’m keen to see what’s out there really and meet new people.”
Huefner says he’s grateful to the international office for helping him in his transition to Pitt State.
“The international office has been great,” Huefner said. “So, meeting a bunch of other people from other countries has been really great.”
Hurt said that despite COVID-related obstacles he’s glad Huefner made it and can begin his career at Pitt State.
“I think he got a great welcome, all things considered,” Hurt said.