Suffolk international athlete finds community in Boston

Vanessa+Stuart+celebrates+a+Rams+goal+during+their+comeback+win+at+UMass+Boston+earlier+this+season.

James Bartlett

Vanessa Stuart celebrates a Rams goal during their comeback win at UMass Boston earlier this season.

Suffolk University sophomore Vanessa Stuart is navigating her way through college as an international student athlete, juggling athletics, friends and academics, all while attending college in a new country.

Stuart is a forward on Suffolk’s undefeated women’s hockey team, and originally hails from Montreal, Canada. 

Growing up, none of Stuart’s immediate family played hockey and she found her love of the sport through her cousins. She joined a team when she was 10 years old, and has been playing ever since.

“There’s just so many positive things that come out of hockey; the relationships you can build with people, it teaches you to be determined, to not give up, to give yourself goals and try to reach them,” said Stuart.

When it came to college, abroad wasn’t always Stuart’s answer.

“I never really imagined myself moving to another city, or another country, for university, but it’s been really fun,” she said.

Stuart emphasized that the mindset surrounding college in Canada is more community oriented than it is in the United States. Rather than moving across the country or across the world, most students stay in a familiar area.

“The culture in Canada is pretty different, in regards to college. Most people stay home, or in their hometown for college,” said Stuart. 

However, hockey led her to Suffolk, where she says she fell in love with Boston’s rich history and the campus in the bustling heart of the city. Stuart felt Boston had a similar culture to her home of Montreal, which made her feel right at home in her new city.

“[Coming to Boston] was such an exciting opportunity for me, to move to another city and live on my own, playing hockey,” said Stuart. “I really wanted to continue playing [hockey] throughout university, I wasn’t really ready to stop.”

Despite the change of living abroad, Stuart said her transition has been seamless. Having grown up traveling, she added that immersing herself in a different culture is nothing new.

“My family loves to travel so I’ve been exposed to many different cultures already. Montreal is very culturally diverse, so I wouldn’t say there was a culture shock,” Stuart said. “It’s been pretty smooth, I can’t complain. I feel like I’m pretty independent and I haven’t had much trouble adjusting.”

While Stuart’s responsibilities may be daunting at times, she said her dedication to hockey and her love of her team keeps her motivated to succeed.

“[Playing hockey] has definitely forced me to manage my time properly and make sure that I’m getting my work done,” she said. “The team has welcomed me with open arms, it’s been really fun.”

Looking back on her first season, Stuart recounts Suffolk’s victory over UMass Boston as one of her top career memories, and is looking forward to her future as an athlete at Suffolk.