Published on 24 November 2022
Forget American Werewolf in London – the real horror is being an American student in Sunderland this week.
And Ryan O’Hara is caught up in this very nightmare.
The 19-year-old Sports Journalism student at the University of Sunderland has been on the receiving end of enough banter to last him a lifetime for the past few days.
And it’s all because Ryan comes from Pennsylvania in America and will be flying the stars and stripes on Friday as his home nation takes on England in the FIFA World Cup 2022.
“Let's say it’s been interesting,” says Ryan as he recounts the past few weeks in the lead up to the game.
“But I can give it out as well as take it, so I think Friday is going to be a lot of fun.”
So, how did a young student from Lewisburg in Pennsylvania end up studying in the North East?
“Well, I’d been considering a number of American colleges, which are incredibly expensive, when my mum suggested looking at some in England,” said Ryan.
“For years now, I have known that I wanted to work in the field of communications and, more recently, I wanted to involve sport in that, so the programme at Sunderland seemed perfect.
“I also knew I would get personal support from the academics here, much more than I would in America, so that was another reason.
“The University also seemed to be able to prepare students, and get them into, the career they want and that’s something that is important to me.”
From being young, Ryan has always had a passion for football – soccer, in his case – and basketball.
He said: “Football has really been growing in the US, particularly since the World Cup there in 94 – and it is continuing to grow still.
“I knew it would be interesting to be in England when we played them this year, and I’ve been looking forward to watching the game.
“Part of me would like to go out and watch it rather than say in my university accommodation with my British flatmates, but I’m not sure how England fans might feel about me being there.”
Football aside, Ryan, who only arrived in Sunderland in September, is enjoying life in the UK and has adapted well – with one exception.
“It’s just that some people’s accents are so thick, I literally can’t understand them. I’m sure I will get used to it but it’s been a bit of a challenge at the minute."