If there's one word that comes to mind to describe South Carolina senior midfielder Jeff Addai, perhaps "adaptable" is the best fit. Addai, who tore his ACL and missed all of what would have been his first season with the Gamecocks last year after transferring from Spring Arbor University in Michigan, has lived in four countries, speaks three languages, is an honor roll student and looks forward to the day when he can give back to his country when his playing days are over.
"People say I have a weird accent," Addai said. "They can't tell where I'm from originally. Being able to adapt to that, the lingo, and the way people talk is huge for me. Another thing is the gestures. Little gestures can mean very different things in other cultures, so you have to be careful with that because they can take offense to some things."
"The best part about being at South Carolina is being able to play the sport I love at a high level, being around people who are so friendly, making some of my best friends and getting an education out of all of this is a complete blessing."
Moving around wasn't always easy, but he seemed to take it all in stride.
"Well, now I have friends abroad all over," Addai said. "I've very aware of different cultures. It was hard moving around and leaving friends behind."
Addai's family is part of the Ashanti tribe in Ghana, and the exposure to different cultures taught him a lot and enabled him to speak Twi, French and English.
"It was easy because I learned it when I was young," Addai said. "The hard part was maintaining it because I got away from home and had nobody to speak Twi to. The tribal lifestyle in Ghana is different. You know who your family is just by their appearance. The conditions were good in Ghana, but not as developed when I was younger like it was in Canada. I had to get used to the education system, which was hard, but I was able to adapt and catch up."
In his travels, Addai has experienced and learned to appreciate a variety of delicacies in order to come up with a favorite meal in any place he has called home.
"In Ghana, it would have to be fufu," Addai said. "It's like a soup, but with a type of dough that use your hands to dip and eat. In Canada, poutine is a delicacy there. It's French fries with gravy and cheese. In England, I liked fish and chips. In America, it's a burger. I haven't found a fufu place here."
With Gamecock teammates hailing from England, West Africa, Denmark and the United States, Addai said it was not a problem trying to fit in when he came to South Carolina.
"The Americans can relate to my North American side, the ones from England can relate to my European side, and my roommate (Mahamoudou Kaba) is from West Africa, so we have so much in common," Addai said. "I'm sort of outgoing, so I have fun doing new things and meeting new people. It drives me to learn more and be friendly. Coming from a Christian background, God has been a big blessing to my family and really provides us with a lot that maybe others don't have. So I appreciate everything and try to live life to the fullest."
He is currently studying sociology with a minor in French, and looks to put his education to good use whenever he does hang up his cleats.
"When I'm done with my soccer career I want to start an organization in Ghana where I could give back to my community," Addai said. "I want to use my sociology background to work with the people to make better living conditions and that type of thing. There are plenty of non-governmental organizations, such as World Vision or UNICEF, which I'd like to be a part of. Ghana is one of the more developed countries in West Africa now, but there are definitely areas that are very impoverished, and neighboring countries such as Togo and Nigeria are in trouble at times. Just being able to help West Africa would be a dream."
His brother, Godwin, is following in his father's footsteps and playing professionally for the Ashanti Kotoko team in Ghana. Before the next phase of his life begins, Addai is simply happy to play the game that has been such a big part of his family's life.
"I'm having the most fun when I'm playing," Addai said. "I can free my mind and let all of my passion for the sport represent my family well. The best part about being at South Carolina is being able to play the sport I love at a high level, being around people who are so friendly, making some of my best friends and getting an education out of all of this is a complete blessing."