Today we caught up with Jayme-Lee Hunter, one of our engineering interns working out of Clark Dietz’s Evansville office. Jayme-Lee is a bit of an anomaly to our Clark Dietz team: not only is she not from the Midwest, but she’s not from the States! Read below to learn more about our Kiwi intern.
Q: From the accent I can tell you’re not from around here! Please tell us a bit about where you’re from.
A: I grew up in Wellington, New Zealand. Though I guess it’s small by American standards, in New Zealand it’s the fourth largest city at about 400,000 population, and the capitol. Wellington is a harbor city and I lived in a suburb right around the harbor and on the beach – something I really took for granted when I was a kid but grew to miss when I came to Indiana!
Cable Car Gardens - Wellington, New Zealand
Q: How did you end up in the States, and more particularly in Indiana?
A: My journey to the United States started with football, or American soccer. I played soccer as a kid, and I grew pretty good at it and kept progressing in the sport. At age 14, I’d already gotten as far as I could go – I was on the most competitive team with the best players who lived in New Zealand, with no other options for further honing my ability.
Jayme-Lee playing soccer in Evansville, Indiana
Q: That must have been frustrating!
A: It was! I was able to do a sort of exchange program for six weeks in the Netherlands with PEC Zwolle Vrouwen, a women’s pro football team, when I was 16. I learned that although I was good, I still had more I could learn and lots of room to grow. In New Zealand universities don’t have actual school-sponsored athletic teams; they’re more like social teams, and not a pathway for advancement. As I was in high school, I determined that the best way for me to grow as an athlete was to leave New Zealand and go to the United States. In 2017, I was offered a sports scholarship to attend the University of Evansville and play on the women’s soccer team.
Jayme-Lee kicks a soccer ball in the studio
Q: Why the United States? and why Indiana?
A: In the US, there are great opportunities for young athletes, both through the NCAA program as well as through scholarships that support promising players, and I needed a full-ride scholarship if I was going to make the jump to America. I shopped around for Division 1 universities recruiting women soccer players with the resources to provide scholarships, and eventually settled on University of Evansville. Not only does the school have an outstanding engineering program, I really hit it off with the coaches, who were friendly, welcoming and excited to work with me.
Jayme-Lee poses for pictures holding the New Zealand flag
Q: You must be getting near graduation.
A: Yes, I guess you’d call me a super senior. Since COVID-19 postponed our 2020 season and we only ended up playing 8 or so games, the NCAA allowed student athletes one more year of eligibility. I will be graduating in December 2021, but not before I’m able to play a full season of 20 games!
Q: What’s next for you after graduation?
A: Since I’m able to work over here on OPT I want to make the most of those opportunities available to me. I’d like to do some more traveling too. In terms of soccer, college definitely took its toll, so I’d like to take a short break at least and I’ll just see if any opportunities to continue playing come up.
Q: With the Olympics underway in Tokyo as we speak, is that something you could see in your future with New Zealand’s team?
A: Maybe! I have friends that I played with who are right now in Tokyo getting ready to compete! The path to be on the New Zealand team – the “Football Ferns” – typically involves leaving the country to play at a higher level at college in the US or professional teams in Europe and then being recruited to play for the national team. I would definitely be open to that if I was scouted and contacted by the head coach and will be cheering on my friends as they play in Tokyo!
Thank you, Jayme-Lee, for your time – we’ll have to watch this promising young athlete/engineer’s career as we have a hunch there are more victories and excitement ahead. In the meantime, go Purple Aces!