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### Fostering Community: The Primary Aim for Students

Luanga Kasanga ’25 (far right, standing) engages in a game of football (soccer) with a mix of familiar and newfound friends while participating in St. Olaf College’s Global Semester.

Describing his unexpected journey to finding a community during his first year at St. Olaf, Luanga Kasanga ’25 reminisces about bonding over the African Cup of Nations with peers from diverse backgrounds. The camaraderie experienced while cheering for Senegal’s men’s national football team in the company of students representing various nations like Burundi, Guinea, Jordan, Nigeria, Palestine, the U.S., and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his home country, left a lasting impression. The shared emotions during the intense match, culminating in a celebratory moment, highlighted the sense of belonging within an international setting.

The African Cup of Nations holds immense significance, uniting 24 men’s national teams from Africa in a month-long football extravaganza that captivates over half a billion viewers worldwide. For Kasanga, a Congolese native, the tournament is a cherished tradition that typically involves festive gatherings with friends and fellow enthusiasts. The vibrant scenes at Stade Kamanyola in Congo, characterized by colorful attire, rhythmic tunes, and passionate crowds, exemplify the deep-rooted passion for the sport within the African community.

Transitioning to his experience as a first-year student at St. Olaf, Kasanga found himself pleasantly surprised by the opportunity to watch the tournament alongside peers like Haakon Lehn ’23 and Mohamed Radalla ’25. The communal viewing sessions, initially starting with a small group, gradually expanded to include a diverse mix of students from Carleton and St. Olaf, creating a lively and engaging environment for all participants.

During the final match, Kasanga and his friends recreated a stadium-like atmosphere in a Carleton physics classroom, complete with large screens projecting the game and a pre-match meal reminiscent of a matchday tradition. The sense of unity and shared excitement reached its peak when Senegal emerged victorious, eliciting jubilation among the gathered fans.

The close-knit international community at St. Olaf provided Kasanga with a sense of familiarity and support, akin to carrying a comforting companion to a new destination. This warmth and camaraderie extended beyond campus borders, accompanying him during his Global Semester in South Africa and Namibia during the 2022 World Cup. The shared viewing experiences with his cohort underscored the bond forged through a mutual love for the sport and arbitrary team loyalties.

Currently studying abroad in Oxford, England, during this year’s African Cup of Nations, Kasanga continues to immerse himself in the football fervor by watching games at a local pub and participating in matches with his college and the university’s African Caribbean Society. Embracing the essence of community-building, whether at St. Olaf or abroad, Kasanga looks forward to nurturing these connections and fostering new friendships across borders upon his return.