Kirsty McLauchlan swims her way from South Africa to SMU

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Sophomore Kirsty McLaughlin moved from South Africa to become a member of the SMU swim team.

Imagine moving from Johannesburg, South Africa to Dallas for college. Now, imagine your mother falling ill after a 16-hour flight. These were the biggest challenges Kirsty McLauchlan overcame before beginning her life as a Mustang.

After her mother was whisked off the airplane in a wheelchair, an ambulance took her to an Atlanta hospital, where she swiftly recovered. The next day, Kirsty and her mother caught a flight to Love Field, and her international adventure began.

Dallas “was a place I only got to see on TV and in movies,” McLauchlan said. “I was in awe for a while looking out the cab window to see what Dallas had to offer, and while trying to process that this is going to be my new home.”

McLauchlan explained that very few universities in South Africa offer sports programs other than Rugby.

She first learned about SMU from Peter Williams, her swim coach in Johannesburg whose pupil joined the SMU swimming and diving team in 2007. After completing some research of her own, McLauchlan knew it was the school for her to both be on the swim team and pursue academics.

As a sophomore today, she is expertly juggling being a member of the SMU swim team with a biology major.

Junior Madison Meyer swims on the team with McLauchlan. “The SMU swim team has so many international students, so I think we’re a really welcoming group for people like Kirsty,” Meyer said.

When she and her mother finally arrived on campus, they stood in front of the Lloyd sports center, sweating, not knowing her dorm, and tingling with nerves.

McLauchlan recalls the memory with fondness.

“To this day, every time I pass that spot in front of the Lloyd sports center building where my mom and I stood for about an hour feeling very hopeless with all of our luggage, I give a bit of a smile to know how far I have come from that day,” she said.

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