European soccer player finds a home at Biola

Sava Pantic is the newest international student to join the Biola men’s soccer team

Nov. 28, 2011 By Heather Tanji

Adjusting to college life is never easy. New friends, new classes and newfound independence are a lot to take in for any student. For 25-year-old Sava Pantic, Biola was more than just a new school — it was a new country.

Pantic first found Biola when browsing the internet for colleges in the United States, continents away from his home in Serbia in Europe. He contacted Coach Kuderman and started the process of applying as an international student. 

“I wanted to study in the United States and play soccer at the same time,” he said. “It was a great opportunity.”

A former Euro Cup soccer player, Pantic would have pursued a professional career had he not endured several injuries that set him back. After several surgeries and months off the playing field, it grew too difficult to continue a career.

While vacationing in Egypt over the summer, Pantic found out he was accepted to Biola. He had four weeks to pack, say goodbye to his family, and make the journey to the U.S. He flew in two days before the semester began and hit the ground running.

“After my 16 hour flight I was told soccer practice was the next day at 6 a.m.,” he said. “The time difference is nine hours. It was crazy.”

Pantic had never been to the U.S. before, nor did he speak English. He encountered culture shock not only from Southern California, but from the Biola community itself.

“Everybody wants to pray for you,” Pantic reflected. “Every single step, it’s like, ‘let’s pray.’”

In Serbia, Christianity is more orthodox and prayer sessions are saved for Sunday services, Pantic said. Having professors, students, teammates and other Biola staff taking the time to pray was a whole new experience. 

Learning a new language, new classes, new foods and soccer also occupied much of Pantic’s first semester.

“Everything’s different,” he said. “Another language, culture, people from all over the world, different food, different exams and school systems.”

Despite all the drastic changes in his life, Pantic is enjoying life in California, especially the weather and the community at Biola. For now, he’s taking it one day at a time. However, he has found family with the team at Biola.

“It’s a brotherhood,” he said. “The team is a combination of people from all over the world, a few Mexicans, one from Ecuador… they accepted me from the first day.”

The Biola men’s soccer team recently won the GSAC Tournament Championship.

Learn more about Biola athletics.

Written by Heather Tanji, Media Relations Intern. For more information, contact Jenna Bartlo, Media Relations Coorinator, at 562.777.4061 or at jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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