Freshman Forward From Across the Pond Finds a Home at IUPUI


For most parents, 2 a.m. is an hour to catch some shut-eye. But for IUPUI women’s soccer forward Valentine Pursey’s parents, the five-hour time difference between the U.S. and England means the early hour is the time to cheer on their daughter.

Eighteen-year-old Pursey is the IUPUI women’s soccer team’s first international recruit. The freshman was born in tiny Ticehurst, an English village of fewer than 5,000 people, in East Sussex.

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Which made moving to a city of a little more than 850,000 residents quite an adjustment.

So what sold the small-town superstar on IUPUI?

“I chose IUPUI because it gave me a family feeling when I visited in April,” Pursey said. “The girls on the team and the coaches made me feel very welcome.”

Pursey is the anomaly on a team of Indiana and Illinois recruits. Before arriving at IUPUI at the end of July, she played for Brighton and the Hove Albion Football Club, both now part of the England Women’s Super League, the highest league of women’s soccer in England.

IUPUI Women’s Soccer Head Coach Chris Johnson saw video of her in action--and he was hooked. He reached out to her agent.

“Technically, she's a very gifted young lady, especially with her skills on the ball and her vision in the attack,” Johnson said in an April announcement of her signing.

But what stood out to Johnson about Pursey was her determination and strong work ethic.

“Those things made her a priority for this recruiting class," Johnson said.    

Pursey was intrigued. She and Johnson met for the first time over Skype and exchanged emails and texts throughout the recruiting process. He traveled to England in February to meet her.

She committed to IUPUI two months later.  

Although it was the tight-knit team community that sold her on the school, having a Sports Management program situated in the amateur sports capital of the world didn’t hurt. Pursey, who is majoring in the subject, eventually hopes to recruit for an English soccer team or The Football Association, English football’s governing body.

Indianapolis can offer international students like Pursey a diverse downtown cityscape and professional sports teams, as well as a thriving cultural scene.

But life in America hasn’t been without its challenges. Shortly after arriving at IUPUI in July, Pursey placed an online order--which she accidentally shipped to her home address in England.

And she’s a car-less college student in a car-centric city.

“I often have to ask someone to take me somewhere,” she said. “Whereas I’d rather just do it myself, like I would at home.”

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But her biggest adjustment is one familiar to many Americans: math. British schools only require math classes until age 16, so before starting at IUPUI in August, Pursey hadn’t taken a math course in more than two years.  

And then there’s the language barrier.

“Some people didn’t completely understand what I was saying, or what I meant by what I was saying, sometimes,” she said.

But wait, don’t Britain and the U.S. both speak English?

Not exactly.

Americans vacation in Florida; Brits go on holiday in Spain. The English stow things in the boot; Americans pop open the trunk.

Most important? Using the word “pants” in public across the pond will earn you peals of laughter. In England, the correct term is “trousers.” Pants are, well, underpants.

Like her play on the field, it’s a language Pursey is working to master.

Syntactical stumbles aside, fewer than three months into her four years on American soil, Pursey has already made an impact on the pitch.

She’s been an integral part of the first-place IUPUI women’s team’s nine-game winning streak. Her best game to date was a two-goal performance in a 3-0 victory over Illinois State on Sept. 10.

Now if she could just master the difference between English chips (french fries) and American chips (Doritos).

Johnson is confident she’ll be just fine. "V is a very mature young lady, and I think that'll help her adapt well to our program and our university,” he said.