Home away from home: An international student’s Newman journey

Oct 23, 2023
Dana Issabayeva plays on the Newman University women's tennis team.
Issabayeva plays on the Newman University women's tennis team.

Junior Dana Issabayeva may be more than 6,400 miles from her home in Kazakhstan, but she is happy to have a second home at Newman University.

Issabayeva is fluent in Kazakh, Russian and English. She describes her home country as having “beautiful nature, tasty food and friendly people.”

Because tennis has played an important part in her life since she was 4 years old, Issabayeva was determined to continue playing the sport she loved beyond high school. Universities in her country didn’t offer the opportunity to play tennis while studying, but luckily for Issabayeva, she discovered Newman with the help of her recruiter.

Issabayeva met her future tennis coach, Shella Augspurger, and decided to enroll. Newman University proved to be the perfect fit.

“A lot of people here are from different countries and I was able to find my friends easily,” Issabayeva said. “I like how Newman connects people. I feel safe.”

The women’s tennis team gives Issabayeva a closeknit community of students working toward the same goal. She also enjoys learning about different cultures from her teammates, many of whom are also international students.

2023 Women's tennis team at Newman University
2023 Women’s tennis team at Newman University

“I also like that the tennis team is so energetic. They are always ready to do something or go somewhere and I have fun with them all the time. Our team is also very responsive, faithful and attentive. We support each other no matter what.”

Issabayeva looks up to Augspurger for her wisdom, kindness and for teaching the team how to be strong on and off the court. In Issabayeva’s words, “Shella has energy like she’s 20.”

“Shella is an amazing person with a lot of experience and I admire her,” Issabayeva said. “Sometimes I wonder how she can carry 20 people on our team. She has a lot of positive qualities and I can learn a lot from her.”

Issabayeva enjoys campus life, the residence halls, entertainment on campus in the form of theatrical plays and musicals, as well as academic support and career services offered by the university.

“I never get bored here,” she said. “And I like how Newman assists students with free tutoring, for example.”

I like how Newman connects people. I feel safe.

Dana Issabayeva

Overall, Issabayeva is most impressed by the people at Newman University.

“The professors here are very nice,” she said. “I noticed that they are always ready to help students improve and be better people.”

She will never forget the helpfulness of professors like Angie McCoy, assistant dean for the School of Business & Technology and MBA program director; Mark Mannette, associate professor and director of theater; and Huachuan Wen, associate professor of education.

Issabayeva (right) lifts weights with fellow teammates at Newman University.
Issabayeva (right) lifts weights with fellow teammates at Newman University.

“In Professor McCoy’s class, I told her I have problems with English and she told me, ‘I can speak slowly for you. If you don’t understand something, just let me know.’ Professor Mannette also knew my language was Russian and helped me with theater. I worked with Professor Wen in speaking and writing classes. Even when I was making a lot of mistakes, he understood me, and I really think I improved my English because of him.”

Although it can be challenging to attend college in another country, Issabayeva, advises that other international students “focus on their goals to achieve something greater.”

Issabayeva wears the flag of Kazakhstan, her home country.
Issabayeva wears the flag of Kazakhstan, her home country.

“When I came to America, it was like flying,” she said. “Everything was new for me, but it made me stronger. Don’t be shy. Talk to people and you will find your peace.”

Once she graduates from Newman with her bachelor’s degree in business organizational leadership in May 2025, Issabayeva plans to work towards her dream job.

“I would love to own several tennis centers in different countries so my future kids can play tennis everywhere,” she said with a smile.

Issabayeva is grateful for her family and recruiter for helping her make it to Newman.

“It was the best choice and I’m really enjoying being here,” she said.

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