As the crowd’s roar dissipated into a silent stir, Australian all-around gymnast Jay Pery took to the pommel horse. The ASU men’s gymnastics team watched as Pery made his first steps in the events, but these weren’t his first steps in a new place.
Growing up in the tropical part of northeastern Australia, 21-year-old Pery moved to Arizona in July 2016 from Brisbane through ASU’s study abroad program. Pery has been involved in gymnastics since the age of six after observing his sister training one day. He came to the University to join the men’s gymnastics team.
“I’ve trained as a gymnast for over a decade now, so the ASU men’s gymnastics team was a very big part of why I chose ASU for my exchange program,” Pery said.
Pery said he found ASU is the perfect place for an exchange student because of its social scene, which made the transition from his Aussie life to the U.S. much easier than expected. He said experiencing new things and meeting new people greatly improved his confidence and interpersonal skills.
“I can confidently say I’ll go home a different person, and that I’ll be able to reach my career and personal goals much more easily,” Pery said.
Despite being a foreigner, Pery said he has only experienced the most positive of treatment from his peers and gymnastics team.
Fellow ASU gymnast Andrew Atkeson said since joining the team, he has never viewed Pery’s abilities differently due to his background.
“The fact that he is Australian has never caused me to treat him differently, except I love the accent and all of the phrases that we have never heard of in the U.S.,” Atkeson said.
Because it's the gymnasts’ first years on the team, Atkeson said he and Pery were able to bond since Pery is treated as a freshman on the team despite being a junior in Australia.
However, since coming to ASU, Pery has discovered a new love for gymnastics.
The ASU Men's Gymnastics program is one of rich tradition and history. Being part of this team takes commitment... https://t.co/tXByx9oEW2— ASU Men's Gymnastics (@asumgym) July 15, 2016
“This is the first time I’ve truly been immersed in a team culture where I have people around me pushing me to make myself and the team better everyday,” Pery said. “I feel like a change of environment as substantial as the one I’ve witnessed forces me to change my perspective on a lot of things.”
Ryan Dietzman, a sophomore on the men’s gymnastics team, said his impression of Pery has changed immensely. Dietzman said he moved beyond Pery’s Aussie accent to learn more about the Australian culture.
“Jay is the first person I have met from Australia, and he did an amazing job showing me that people from Australia are incredible people,” Dietzman said. “I would be happy if Jay stayed on this team for the next two years, but unfortunately he has to go back to Australia.”
Although Pery’s experience at ASU was originally supposed to end this January, he decided to extend his studies until May in order to experience more with college gymnastics.
“I never realized there was this incredible world of college sport waiting to be experienced at ASU,” Pery said. “I can honestly say I will go back to Australia with a new love and appreciation for gymnastics.”
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