Zoe Radojicic

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Straight out of Serbia

Milos Supica and Luka Vasic on the bench during a game. Photo by Chris Crews

Few people have heard of a small country named Serbia, but this season, Charlotte men’s basketball welcomed two freshmen from there: Luka Vasic and Milos Supica.

Vasic is from a town in Serbia named Pirot, and he plays the small forward position on the team. Supica comes from Serbia’s capital, Belgrade, and he is a power forward.

Prior to coming to school these boys didn’t know of each other, and only met about a week before coming to Charlotte. They both agreed, however, that the basketball in the United States is radically unalike to that which they experienced back home.

“It’s a lot different,” Supica said. “It’s a lot more physical and faster. That’s the biggest adjustment I had to make, to get used to the faster kind of basketball.”

Both players expressed how they have had to work hard on and off the court in order to get themselves in shape for the demands of D1 college basketball.

“European and American style is kind of different,” said Vasic. “[In the United States] players play with a lot of pace, with a lot of energy, with a lot of physicality, and I can say that the adjustment on the basketball court was harder than the academics.”

Amongst Serbian culture, the emphasis on education and academics is very strong, and this is prominent in Supica’s lifestyle now that he is at Charlotte. For him, it is just as important to succeed in school as it is in sports; and considering he one day hopes to go to the NBA, this says a lot. Vasic also talked about how the importance he placed on academics helped make his adjustment into college easy.

“I can say (the adjustment) was easy because my grades are pretty good. I try to be on top of both basketball and academics. And that’s basically how I want it to be,” Vasic said.

It is evident that this cultural importance placed on education has followed them from home, and they allow it to revolve their lives here at Charlotte. Both of the boys got to have a taste of living in America, though, before coming to Charlotte. Supica lived in Fayetteville, North Carolina for two years before coming to Charlotte, and he considers his host family there to be a very close element of his life. They were also a part of the reason why he chose to come to Charlotte.

“I tried to stay as close as I can to my host family, because they’re part of my real family now,” Supica said.

Vasic had also spent a year in the United States, but prior to coming to North Carolina he attended high school in Connecticut. He was recruited to Charlotte by assistant coach and fellow Serbian Ivo Simovic. The 2017-18 season marks Simovic’s first year here at Charlotte, too.

“When Coach Ivo moved here, I basically moved with him and I ended up here,” Vasic said.

Because the Serbian community is so small, they tend to band together when they can. After all, they all have very similar mentalities.  The coaches, especially head coach Mark Price, were also a big factor in why Supica chose Charlotte.

“When I came to visit Charlotte, the thing that I really liked was the coaches, that’s like the biggest thing that made me come here,” Supica said.

Both of the boys have their family back in Serbia, but the one thing they miss the most? The food. And if you’ve ever had a punjena pljeskavica, you would understand.

When talking about his family, Vasic said, “I FaceTime them every day, we stay in contact. It’s easy right now.”

It’s not easy to FaceTime food.

Even though these two boys had to come to a new country and had to face the difficulty of United States college basketball, both of them overcame this adversity and continue to show their worth every single day. As Supica told me his motto was, “just go day by day.”

Long Distance Dating

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Starting college is every cliché that everyone says it is; you are starting a new chapter in your life and about to discover the type of individual you want to be. However, no matter how desperate some of us may be to leave behind our old lives and go off to something new, there are those few of us that have something from our past we would like to hold onto. Whether a boyfriend or girlfriend, and whether you have been together for 2 months or 2 years, it can feel as though this is the only part of your life that isn’t going as great as everything else. If you are one of those lucky people that ended up at the same school as the person you love then I would advise you to not take advantage of such good fortune. However, if you and your significant other have decided to take different paths, geographically speaking, then I will hit you with the honest truth: it’s going to suck. There is no way around it. Long distance relationships are painful and disastrous; the more you love someone, the worse it is. Suddenly the person that has grown into a part of your world is out making their own new one, one that you will hardly be a part of.

“Snapchat is a huge part of my relationship,” says student Gabriela Gonzalez, “I have a streak with all of my closest friends but to have it with my boyfriend is really important to me. Especially since we don’t get to see each other every day, it makes me feel like I’m still a part of his life.” Be thankful you are part of the generation that has mastered social media, because it’s easier now to be in a long distance relationship than it was 50 or 60 years ago (or ever). Nevertheless, not being with somebody physically is already cutting out 50% of what relationships are about. The habits of theirs you pick up on, the face they make when they laugh, the way you can reach over and grab their hand in those silent moments just to let them know you’re still there. I don’t want this to be misinterpreted as a way of explaining why long distance will never work, because I am a firm believer in true love. If you and the one you love are meant to be then you will be; but this isn’t to say that there won’t be hard work involved. Katelyn Johnson, a freshman here at Charlotte, has a boyfriend who she has been with for a year and a half that lives up in Mooresville, NC. When asked if this long distance is difficult and how she makes her relationship work, she responded, “It’s hard not being with him all the time, which I was so used to before we went separate ways.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Obviously when you love someone it’s tough but we just plan to meet on a day when we are both available for at least a few hours at a time. We make it work.” I would advise talking and calling them as much as possible and sending each other as many photos of each other as you can. My biggest piece of advice, though, would have to be about the little things. Talk about them. Magnify them. It is those small moments in your lives that are the most important, I promise you. If you accidentally tripped in front of a stranger, mention how embarrassed you felt and laugh about it. If you had a small heart attack in class because you thought you forget your notebook, talk about how dumb you felt once you found it. If, after a few months or years, talking to each other starts to feel like a chore, then you’re probably not with the right person but think of it this way, if after four years of only seeing each other once or twice a month you still want to be together, then you know you have found the person you can spend the rest of your life cherishing these little things with. Suddenly you understand the meaning of a hug or a kiss or holding someone’s hand. Suddenly every time you wake up in the same bed as this person and look over and realize they are there, you feel as though it’s a gift. Long distance relationships will always be more difficult than any other kind of relationship, but I believe that those who make it out still together will be unbreakable.

Freshman Phobia: New School, New Life, New Friends

Photo by Katie Gruninger

 

Being a student at a large university, nobody here at UNC Charlotte is a stranger to the lone wolf. Whether you are one or you have seen them around campus, they are usually sitting by themselves in the Student Union or eating by themselves at the dining halls. Though there are people who prefer to be this way, it’s safe to say that the majority of these pack-less wolves are freshmen. Being thrust into a new environment can be so much to handle sometimes that it can seem as though you don’t even have time to make friends, especially if you’re not from here. According to the UNC Charlotte website, each year almost 2,000 international students arrive representing about 85 different countries. It can be tough coming from a different state, but a different country? That seems almost unimaginable. “I came here from Spain,” says Rocio Safont, a freshman at UNC Charlotte, “It’s really hard being so far from all the people I know. It seems like everybody here knows somebody except me.” Rocio is just one of many that had to leave her entire country behind in hopes of finding a better education in Charlotte. For many, their family is just a phone call or car ride away, but for Rocio, her family is in a completely different time zone, and an eight-hour flight away. It can make a person feel pretty lonely.

Photo by Katie Gruninger

The majority of the people who attend UNC Charlotte are in-state residents, and so it’s not hard to believe that most of the freshman here might have high school friends that came with them. Finding your own clique can be easy when it’s with people you have known for years, but everyone should keep in mind that meeting new people is not easy by any means, especially when it seems like everybody already has their own group. If you are this person that has your squad set already, I can understand why you might be hesitant to let somebody new in. However, making new friends doesn’t necessarily mean letting them into your personal friend bubble. It can just mean that you made someone feel less alone simply by introducing yourself and starting up a conversation. Owen Lee, a freshman here at UNC Charlotte, also sheds some light on this “I’m from Fuquay, which is a small town just outside Raleigh and a lot of people from there ending up coming to school here in Charlotte too. The people I hang out with are people from that area.

Photo By Katie Gruninger

I met this one girl that’s from Miami, but she’s really the one that introduced herself to me and started our friendship. It made me realize that maybe I should introduce myself to others more because you never know the friends you might make.” It’s also important to keep in mind that college is definitely not high school. UNC Charlotte has about 30,000 students attending, give or take a few hundred, and it is highly doubtful your high school had even 1/3 of that. You could be a senior and you will still be encountering new people, whereas in high school you probably knew everybody who was anybody just after your first few months. Taking this into account, it can be easy to feel like a small fish in a huge pond, but this is only preparing you for the rest of your life. Another thing to know about college is that, unlike high school, cliques are a good thing. If you want to make friends, there are endless ways to do this on campus. You could join one of the 400 student organizations on campus, you could rush for a sorority or fraternity, you could start/join a study group for your classes, etc. Rushing is a great way to meet new people and feel out what type of environment you want to see yourself in. Joining an intramural sport is also a good way to be grouped up with people who have similar interests to you. College is all about meeting new people and making new friends, and everybody here has heard this all before. I understand it’s not easy being the person to actually do it. Yes, it’s true that eventually everybody will find a group of people that they fit in with and get along with, but why should someone have to go through weeks of solitude before something like this happens? And even still, why should we be limited to our one trusty group once we find it? I believe in the idea of having friends everywhere and in every aspect of college; make friends in class, make friends in clubs, and even make friends at the dining halls. Go sit with someone who looks lonely and talk to them about anything, you might be surprised at how much you want to be this person’s friend afterwards