Both Ata Atakan and Edward Colakyan have been long time friends since their days in Turkey playing soccer on club teams and in high school.
Born in California, Atakan moved back with his family to their homeland one month after his birth. In the following years, the Atakans would visit the United States for summer vacations.
Colakyan was born in Switzerland, but lived in Turkey for most of his childhood and adolescence.
After finishing high school in Turkey, both would come across Fullerton College while looking at universities to settle into the United States.
Atakan arrived in California this past June, while Colakyan followed a month later for the summer practices.
Both of the player’s motivations were to experience life independently outside of Turkey.
“My mother supported me and wanted me to experience life by myself in a new country,” Atakan stated.
“I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, to improve myself like my personality and soccer skills,” Colakyan said.
After practicing for about 2 months in Fullerton, both have noticed and adapted to the technicalities of American soccer that differ from the Turkish variant.
“You make the ball run in Turkey, but here we run a lot. I’ve never run (sic) so much in my life,” Atakan explained, “Here, it’s about fitness.”
The other team players and coaches have showed their utmost care and support for their new international players in assimilating them to the American culture.
“First, I thought I wasn’t going to have a good relationship, but now it’s perfect,” Colakyan explained, “They know how to train, how to improve their players, mentally and physically.
I like the connection, there’s a team spirit,” Atakan said.
Greg Aviles, head coach for men’s soccer at Fullerton College, explains that “they’ve been fantastic” in their performance.
He and the other members of the team love learning new things about the players whether about their personalities or interests.
“The guys have really gravitated to the new culture that we’re bringing to the program,” Aviles claimed, “They’re very commendable because they’ve sought opportunity here on their own to make their lives better.”
Despite sharing a deep affinity for soccer, both friends are pursuing very different academic paths.
Atakan is currently studying business, taking two classes this semester along with his soccer commitment. He plans to transfer to a UC school in the near future when he has settled.
Colakyan is majoring in art, with a dedicated interest in graphic design. He was previously enrolled in an international baccalaureate program in Istanbul where he studied two years of advanced level art. He is also looking to transfer soon and hopefully to obtain a scholarship off playing soccer.
Although their families are on the other side of the globe, Atakan and Colakyan always have the opportunity to call or FaceTime their families occasionally to check in.
“Because Edward is here, it’s a bit more relaxed,” Atakan said, “I have someone to speak my language with.”
Colakyan’s family will be surprised when he knows how to do simple home tasks like doing laundry and wash the dishes.
“I’m a full adult now,” Colakyan said jokingly.
Both friends also miss having Turkish meals every day, but enjoy adapting to a new culture and the hot Southern California weather.
There is still time to see these two in action on the soccer field, the mens soccer games for the regular season run until Nov. 8.