Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2012, 10:15 pm

Augie foreign students enjoy Olympics, closing ceremony

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By Jonathan Turner,

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Photo: Todd Welvaert
Lawrence Palmer and Jordan Crouch, international students from the United Kingdom, watch the closing ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games Sunday, Aug. 12, 2012, at Augustana's Westerlin residence hall as part of an international students group party.
ROCK ISLAND -- Nils van de Ven sat close to the big-screen TV in the Westerlin Hall lounge at Augustana College on Sunday night with a large Netherlands flag spread out on his lap and over to two of his fellow incoming freshmen from Holland.

He was among dozens of Augie students who gathered for a party to celebrate the closing ceremony for the London Summer Olympics. Mr. van de Ven's right foot is in a cast after being injured back home training in field hockey three weeks ago. While Augie doesn't have a field hockey team, "in Holland, it's really big," he said.

Holland won 20 medals in London, including women winning gold in field hockey, Mr. van de Ven said with pride. He's enjoyed meeting other students during orientation for international students, which started Friday. There are 27 new international students at Augustana, among 52 total, and the Sunday Olympic event (including free food and drinks) is among many social activities for the foreign-born students, said Jane Tiedge, international student advisor.

Lawrence Palmer, a sophomore from Leicester, England, is on the college tennis team and said it's been "awesome" for his nation to host a successful Olympics and for Britain to do so well.

"Honestly, leading up to it I wasn't that into it because China did such a good job (hosting in 2008). How can we top that?" he said. "But the crowds and everything have been incredible." He was proud to see fellow countryman Andy Murray beat tennis foe Roger Federer for the gold and the wins of England's heptathlete Jessica Ennis (in seven track-and-field events) and Mo Farah, who won gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters (track), helping the host country to its best Olympic medal count ever.

"I don't think anyone ever thought we'd do nearly as well. We just destroyed what we did in Beijing," Mr. Palmer said of England's 29 golds among 65 total medals, compared to 19 gold and 47 total in 2008.

Jordan Crouch, a freshman from Bristol, England, who plays football, said Ms. Ennis "was like our face of England." During concerns leading up to the Games, "every day, all you'd hear was the negativity," of whether London was ready, Mr. Crouch said. "Then came the opening ceremony, and everything came together, and everyone was so proud the next day."

Alyssa Anderson, a senior from Orion who studied in London last fall, liked watching medal king Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin, another swimmer who won four golds. Ms. Anderson doesn't play sports -- no time as a biology major (pre-med), an art minor and choir singer -- but enjoyed seeing Olympic venues under construction last fall, then on TV during the Games.

Siming Cheng, a freshman from Chengdu, China, is a swimmer and likes Sun Yang, who became the first Chinese male swimmer to win a gold. "I'm just proud of my country," she said. "I like to cheer and feel proud of my country."

Jichen Zhou, a freshman from Zhengzhou, plays table tennis and noted China won four gold medals in all individual and team play in the game at London. "They are always so good," she said, noting she would have no chance to make the Olympic ping-pong team.

In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ms. Cheng said it was nice to watch the events live, as opposed to on tape delay this year. China finished second in total medals (to 104 for the U.S.) but the Chinese students said results don't matter. "Everyone has tried their best," Ms. Cheng said.

Sunday's event included student global ambassadors, such as Ms. Anderson and Mr. Palmer. Each new foreign student is paired with an ambassador, who is either an older international student or an American who has studied abroad.

Twenty-three percent of incoming freshmen are multicultural, including international, Hispanic and African-American students (the largest percentage in Augie history), said Greg Aguilar, director of multicultural services.

He was ecstatic that Mexico's men's soccer team upset Brazil (the sport's powerhouse) for the Olympic gold. "My mom and I were emotional," said Mr. Aguilar, a Mexican-American. "It's so nice -- everyone that's from Mexico, no matter where they're living in the world, they celebrate that moment, and it unites the entire country."