Nathanael Linquist spent much of his childhood overseas. Now as a senior at APU, he reflects on his life, the lessons he has learned and his favorite sport that has brought him to where he is today


Senior Nathanael Linquist is no stranger to being the “odd ball out.” Originally from San Jose, Calif., he moved at the age of four to a new country on the other side of the planet and was raised in an environment that differed from the one in America.

As a “missionary kid,” Linquist recalls being uninterested in the idea of a big move, since he was happy and comfortable in his Bay Area home. But as his parents were called to Uganda to spread the Gospel, and he had no choice but to follow.  

Not long after his move, Linquist faced a multitude of social trials. As his father built a church in the area, he remembers the natives feeling like his family was intruding on their ground, becoming protective of their country. As a result, Linquist felt left out and struggled to find acceptance. 

“It probably took two years to be accepted. There are a lot of missionaries that come for like two months and then they just leave and that’s what a lot of Ugandans are used to,” Linquist said. “So when they saw that my dad and our family was there to stay, things started to come around.”

Liquist pictured with his friends as he grew up in Uganda. Photo courtesy  of Nathanael Linquist.

As he grew older, connecting with the culture and people of Uganda proved to be challenging. By the age of nine, Linquist’s fluency in Luganda was helping him overcome language barriers. 

“I think when you’re younger, it’s easier to learn languages and what they say,” Linquist said. “I lived there for a long time.”

Even at a young age, Linquist remembers times when he was bullied and not accepted because of his nationality. Although he struggled to establish relationships with the others, Linquist was able to connect with them through one thing they shared in common: soccer.

He had started to develop a love for the sport over the years, and he would play soccer every day with the kids at his school.

Among all the positions, goalie was somewhat involuntary for Linquist. Since he was “one white kid,” Linquist said that the position came naturally to him. 

“If I’m just being honest, goalie was the position, when you’re young…no one wants to play,” he said. “I started getting really good at it and that’s when they kept inviting me back to play and that’s when those relationships started growing.”  

Linquist jumping up and blocking a goal. Photo courtesy of Travis Nielsen.

Linquist credited soccer for allowing him to not only find a place socially, but to establish a passion that would stay with him for the rest of his life.  

“Because soccer was the thing that kind of broke that barrier between us and the locals, it really became something passionate for me, and something that has become really important in my life,” he said.

Linquist continued to play as he spent his high school years in Kenya at Rift Valley Academy, where he met some of his best friends and made lasting memories.

“We didn’t have Gatorade or anything. We would have these long stocks of sugarcane that you would get for like 10 cents, and you just sit there, play soccer, and chew on the sugarcane, and then keep playing,” he said. “It was so fun.”

With his love of the sport and his talent, Linquist had no question in his mind over whether he would play in college. What mattered was where he would attend. As he was on the search for top NCAA DII teams in the U.S., Azusa Pacific stood out because he had a family friend who attended there.

“It’s a cool name…Azusa Pacific. Sounded like a cool school,” Linquist said. “So I had a highlight video made and tried out here and at a couple other schools.”

He got offers from two schools, but the community at APU caught his attention. He remembered loving the environment when he got to campus and how welcoming the coaches and players on the men’s soccer team were.

Linquist playing during the 2018-2019 season at Azusa Pacific.  Photo courtesy of Holly Magnuson.

Since coming to APU in Fall of 2016, Linquist has played on the soccer team every year, totaling about 16-17 games per season. He is on track to graduate in the spring with a double major in international business and economics with a minor in humanities.

“I thought that economics was an interesting major. I thought it worked well with international business,” Linquist chuckled. “It’s really tough, but I really like it and I’m going to stick with it and just get it done with.”

With the coursework from his double major and minor, soccer commitments, and an on campus job, Linquist has a full schedule. But he most definitely has the skills to successfully handle all of his obligations.  

“You’ve got to have good time management. It’s good to be busy, but you’ll still find time to go enjoy life,” he said. “I usually just try to dedicate certain hours of my day to get that homework done as soon as possible, so I can enjoy the hours I actually have free.”

As for his future, Linquist said he eventually wants to go back to Uganda to do something sports related. One of his goals is to create an academy or organization where kids can play soccer and receive scholarships with an opportunity to play in America. He even has a plan for kids that may not have an interest in soccer.

“We would teach them skills like carpentry, electrician, mechanics,” he said. “So, even if they don’t become professional soccer players, they will still have skills so they can increase the intelligence of the workforce and bolster the economy in that way.”

As for his life journey and where it has brought him today, Linquist believes others could benefit from something similar to his childhood in Africa.

“Everyone should leave the American bubble at some point in their life and just go somewhere where there is no money, somewhere near the poverty line,” he said. “Just to see what life is like outside our little bubble.”