Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Bird’s Eye View:

Charles Nailen/The Hoya Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, looking down from seven feet up.

Growing up in Cameroon, I never thought I would ever come to the United States to pursue my academic career, far less a basketball career. My plan was very simple – I wanted to get into medical school in Cameroon and work for an international organization. I grew up playing soccer like every kid, I then was introduced to volleyball and I finally ended up playing basketball because I loved it.

I thought it was the most exciting game to play; I love the moves and the spectacular plays and the whole artistic flavor that surrounds the game. But it was never a question for me or my parents if I would pursue a career in basketball or any other sport. School was the surest way that would have allowed anyone, at least back home, to make a living in the future. Plus, my desires to succeed academically were very strong and my parents knew my dedication and ambitions. When I got the opportunity to come to this country, I was very excited, but I did not know much about the social life and the culture except for the few things that I had learned through the media.

However, my adjustment to the lifestyle grew rapidly, thanks to my caring and loving guardians. My senior year in high school served as a trampoline as I adapted to the culture and the new environment I was facing. As a consequence, I did not have time to make any real friends, but I was able to see some of my schoolmates while at Georgetown. I was extremely excited to attend Georgetown.

It was going to be my second community, the opportunity to meet different sorts of personalities, to experience real American social life around people of my age, to receive a valuable education and to learn a game that I love while competing with great athletes. I never realized until school started what a big deal it was to be a student athlete.

But even scarier, how could someone try to be a pre-med chemistry major while playing basketball? Less than a week after school started, as people were hearing about my academic ambitions, they started to cast me out from my fellow teammates.

“He is the smart one!” On top of that, I was not American, so “He must be different and maybe special!” Why? This is probably because I came from a very different culture in terms of lifestyle and manners, a more traditional culture where social values seemed to generate individuals who are less impressionable than American kids. I was labeled to be innocent, sweet and smart.

I did not really understand for a while why I was characterized this way and why it seemed to be such a big deal. Through my four years at Georgetown, I learned what boat I had embarked on, from being who I was coming to Georgetown and having all these ambitions. I learned the difficulties in maintaining my academic endeavors and my basketball goals simultaneously. I ended up being a pre-med math major, probably just as difficult as being pre-med chemistry major. But whatever I achieved today, I was able to do it with the unlimited help of my professors and my coaches. I dearly appreciated the time they put in helping me to achieve my goals, because I never expected to be so welcomed by them.

I never conceptualized that they would so promptly open themselves to me and help me in whatever way possible. I also learned the difficulties of having a social life. I did not have much time because of basketball, but I had to face all the consequences of being who I was. I always wanted to have a simple easy life, I always loved to meet people and share with them their perspectives about life, know their culture and inquire about their ambitions in life.

Although I always would love people to know that I exist as a human entity, I have never really liked people to devote too much attention to my person. I guess being seven feet tall does help, and being innocent, sweet and smart also.

Unfortunately, as much as I love to meet people, I had to learn to control myself and watch the people I was either dealing with or wanted to deal with. I am sure that I do not have to enumerate the everlasting reasons that led me to change my social endeavors: I was pretty much forced to do it, thanks to our society. I guess I should perceive it as an adjustment. As a consequence, I met tons of people, I enjoyed getting to know some of them and I made very very few friends. I probably can count them on top of my fingers.

And I always wanted to have a lot of friends! This is certainly a regret about my four years at Georgetown. I am sure I would have done the same thing at any other school, and my situation could have been worse. So, I cherish the whole experience I had at Georgetown, I really appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to attend this school and to benefit from it.

I learned a lot and I grew up a lot. Academically, I learned how to learn; basketball-wise, I learned more about the game, about my skills and the discipline and work ethic to be successful. Socially, I learned more about the cultural diversities of my peers, their views regarding life, their personalities and their obsessions. I also learned the atmosphere and sense of community that exists on this campus.

But more importantly, I learned how lucky, blessed and gifted I am, how much I am spoiled by my family and the Georgetown community and about the expectations that surround me. After these four years, I am still labeled as being smart and sweet, but not innocent or uncorrupted. They say I am more “Americanized,” – I say I have adjusted and matured.

However, the most important thing I have learned is that I will always give my best.

Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya