In high school, Butler senior and Germany native Aliya Diagne knew she wanted to pursue both of her passions in college—soccer and academics. “As a college student in Germany, you can only play soccer as a hobby,” she says. Not willing to sacrifice one passion for another, Diagne was willing to travel thousands of miles to the United States for college.

It was during a university showcase her junior year of high school that Diagne met with coaches from Butler’s Women’s Soccer Team. She was instantly intrigued. Shortly after their conversation, the coaches invited her to visit campus. This would be Diagne’s first trip to America.

“While facing this life change was scary, I knew it was the direction I wanted to take. Butler was known for their soccer program and well-established academics. Finding a top-notch soccer program and top-notch university was important to me, and I was able to find that at Butler.”

Alya’s family cheer her on at Butler

That visit to Butler turned into an acceptance and in August 2019, Diagne was officially a first-year student. Although thousands of miles away from her home in Germany, Diagne credits her coaches and teammates with helping her acclimate to campus.

“Everything was so new to me; I felt like I didn’t have time to think about being so far away from home. My coaches and teammates quickly became my family, which helped me to not feel so homesick.”

“There were also many international students on my team—from Australia, England, Canada, and Israel. We shared a bond about our different cultures, which also made my transition from Germany a little easier.”

In addition to having support from her soccer family, Diagne credits the connections made with professors as just as important to her Butler experience.

“When I was researching how to make the most of the college experience, one of the things I kept reading was the importance of developing relationships with your professors,” she says. “The smaller classes allowed me to do that.”

Diagne, who is a double-major in Finance and STS (Science, Technology, and Society), credits STS Professor Carol Reeves with boosting her confidence with the English language. “My sophomore year I took a course with Dr. Reeves. The course was discussion-based and she wanted all her students to participate in the discussion. At the time, I was extremely insecure about my English. One day after class, I told her I was from Germany and that I wasn’t comfortable speaking English. She then helped me with my English writing and speaking skills. She really pushed me to be more confident in myself.”

Like all student-athletes, there are multiple commitments to juggle. For Diagne, these have resulted in new transferrable skills she will continue to use once she graduates.

“Being a student-athlete has taught me the importance of time management. From balancing my double majors, soccer practice, and internships, I have learned to prioritize my time more efficiently. Additionally, my coaches and teammates provide me with the support I need if I’m ever feeling stressed with my commitments. Our coaches care about us as people, not just as soccer players.”