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To international students in Bettendorf, the World Cup is a chance to feel at home again

Rivermont Collegiate has 35 international students hailing from 15 different countries, all getting a chance to experience the World Cup together.

BETTENDORF, Iowa — While the 2022 FIFA World Cups plays out on the world stage, some students at Rivermont Collegiate, a K-12 prep school in Bettendorf, are watching the games and learning about world history at the same time. 

"I think it's a teachable moment for some of the American students because you know, America is kind of unique in that soccer isn't our most popular sport," Rivermont Collegiate Assistant Head of School Collin Lawrence said.

The school currently has 190 students, and 35 of them hail from 15 different countries across five different continents. Some of those international students have only been in America for a little over two months.

"We really want to make an effort to celebrate those countries and celebrate our students from those countries and give them the opportunity to feel pride in their nations," Lawrence said.

So to do that, the school decided to allow the students to watch the myriad of World Cup matches and then teach them about the history of the countries playing. That's what some of the students did for the United States vs. Iran match that the United States won, sending them to the Round of 16.

"We took time to watch the US-Iran game. And we talked a little bit about some of the geopolitical issues between those two countries," Lawrence added.

And for Amine Nfissi, a junior from Rabat, Morocco, the World Cup matchup between Canada and his home country meant more than just a soccer game on the world's biggest pitch. It meant seeing home again.

"It's very special," Nfissi explained. "Because you don't actually see a lot of Moroccans in Iowa. So it's an honor and I'm very proud and I should represent the country, my country very well."

Nfissi transferred to Rivermont in late August, so he hasn't been in America very long. Despite that, he said he's wanted to visit America ever since he was a kid.

"My main goal was to go to the United States after graduation," said Nfissi. "But then I found the opportunity to go to this boarding school that welcomes foreign students. So actually, I think that it's an obligation for me to earn good grades and go to a good university because it's my choice to represent my country."

And for Sam Tinter, a sophomore from Dortmund, Germany, the chance to watch and talk about his favorite sport, fussball, with other international students is an experience he won't soon forget.

"It means a lot to me," he said. "Because I know my friends in Germany, they sometimes don't have the opportunity to watch other games because they have school. We can watch it here and it's awesome."

Fussball has been a part of Tinter's life since he was a kid. He plays for the Rivermont Collegiate Boy's soccer team, and in Germany, his family has season tickets for the local fussball club, Borussia Dortmund.

And though Germany has already been eliminated from this year's World Cup, Tinter loves to talk about the sport to his friends at Rivermont and to his parents back home.

"So the first one or two weeks were pretty hard for me because of course, I miss my family a lot," Tinter said. "But you get used to it. We tried to FaceTime a lot."

He says his parents are flying to America to see him for Christmas.

Yet not everyone who is learning about different international customs, cultures, and country histories, is international. Some students are born and raised in the Quad Cities, students like freshman Zavien Roberson.

Roberson didn't pay attention to soccer until a couple of years ago. He said this year's World Cup is his first.

"So, now seeing the World Cup, I'm really gonna share it with all the people here from different nations," he added.

But he said he's learning more about the sport and more about how different countries perceive the sport.

"I learned a lot about how soccer means to a lot of people outside of the United States. A least for me, a lot of people in the states, [their favorite sport is] definitely American football and I love like sport. And seeing people share the same love for soccer, how I like football, is really nice to see."

But even as Roberson sits in a room with people who come from different countries and watches the same game as them, he said it's a special moment.

"I know, for some people, especially their national team, it's more or less uniting their country. Especially for a lot of countries that are going through some tough times right now. So seeing how the sport can unite a country is nice to see."

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