Many Division-I athletes have similar stories and have embarked on similar journeys to get to the school of their dreams.
UC Santa Barbara’s student athletes have logged many hours
in the classroom as well as the gym. But not many
student-athletes can say that they traveled across the world to a
foreign place to follow their dream. Fifi Baiden did just that.
Originally from Ghana, Fifi grew up playing soccer. With the encouragement of his parents, Fifi played soccer daily and fell in love with the sport. Not having soccer fields or club teams available, Fifi would play in backyards with his friends. He knew he had a great talent and decided to pursue his soccer dream by joining a soccer academy in Ghana called “A Right to Dream Academy.”
“A friend from school told me about a soccer academy that recruits talented soccer players,” said Fifi. “Hearing this convinced me into joining the academy. I was ten when I tried out and joined the academy shortly after.”
With the motivation from his family and friends in Ghana, Fifi defined his life goal by achieving an excellent education and striving to become a better soccer player. At the “A Right to Dream Academy,” he developed a desire to come to America and play soccer.
“I heard about the Dunn School in California that brings
in people from the academy in Ghana to attend school there,”
The Dunn School, in Los Olivos California is a private, college preparatory, a sixth- twelfth grade boarding school. Former Gaucho Waid Ibrahim also attended the Dunn School.
“My Dunn School experience was the richest experience of my life,” said a reflective Fifi. “They provided me with a diverse environment, different people, and made me feel comfortable.”
Most would look at Fifi’s life as a challenge, but Fifi took his life-changing experience as an opportunity to pursue his dreams. Machael David and Waid Ibraihm embarked on similar journeys and helped make Fifi’s journey more comfortable.
“Having fellow Ghanaians already here on the UCSB soccer
team definitely helped my transition,” said
Fifi. “It was an instant support system, and helped me
gain confidence in my new environment.”
As a leader on the UCSB Men’s soccer team, Fifi demands hard work every day from himself as well as his teammates.
“Thinking back to Ghana, I grew up with the mentality that you always have to work hard and do the right thing to succeed.”
Fifi is on his way to accomplishing his dream of becoming a professional soccer player. As a starter for the Gauchos, Fifi was one of just six players to appear in all 23 games last year.
While an outstanding soccer player, Fifi still has a goal to obtain a degree in either Economics or Sociology. He remains passionate about his home country, yearning to share the opportunity he has received at UCSB with those back home.
“I want to pursue my dream of acquiring a good education and a degree in social sciences so I can return home and give back some knowledge to my country.”