In the summer of 2017, then first-year and now fourth-year St. Thomas University student David Effiong would venture to Fredericton, New Brunswick. With no friends or family coming from Oman, Effiong ended up meeting Phil Schwenteck, who was also a first-year STU student and would become an important part of his university life.
“It sounds cheesy but I genuinely view him as a brother,” Schwenteck said. “We’ve gone through a lot together and plan on going through more. [Effiong] and I are just two guys who click so well.”
With Effiong being an international student and not having family with him in Fredericton, Schwenteck became his family. Effiong believes he was the reason he was able to transition to a much different region.
“I can’t thank him enough for that,” said Effiong.
But the brotherhood started as distant teammates. Originally, they met at an exhibition game during the Tommies’ men’s soccer pre-season, as both of them were on the team. Schwenteck said it wasn’t until three months after when the two started to connect.
“I didn’t really know or talk to him much and I thought he was really shy for us to be really good friends,” said Effiong. “But the more we hung out together and as a team, the more I learned that we shared a lot of qualities in things we had interests.”
Schwenteck recalls trying to hang around Effiong during those few months. No matter where he went, Schwenteck said Effiong was at the centre of attention, being popular from the get-go. Effiong later admitted he thought Schwenteck was a bit creepy.
The two eventually agreed to be roommates, convincing their current roommates to swap and move in together. The two said they loved rooming together. Schwenteck said he remembers stacking their beds to make bunk beds, making enough room to put in a TV and a PlayStation4. They ended up naming the room “PAD,” standing for “Phil and Dave.”
After their first year at STU, rooming and playing Tommies’ soccer together in two seasons where the Tommies steadily grew better, Schwenteck decided to take a different route with his athletic career. He’d stay on the pitch and keep his cleats but his slide tackles turned into rucks. Schwenteck decided to join the rugby team.
“Switching was such a good idea for me,” said Schwenteck. “With rugby, I think I just found the right group of guys for me and really fit in.”
He said he still considered his former soccer teammates family but he never felt like he belonged. Rugby was the atmosphere in which he did.
“[Schwenteck] is an exceptional athlete, with an incredible amount of drive toward reaching his personal goals,” said Effiong. “So I understood his decision.”
Still, it came off as bittersweet for Effiong, who continued to play Tommies’ soccer for two more seasons. He said Schwenteck was his go-to man during training camp and when they were on team road trips. He was disappointed to not have him there to see his accomplishments but said he’s glad it worked out for him.
Schwenteck shared some stories of the two, saying one that stood out is when he picked up Effiong from the airport in the winter, a few years ago, during a massive snowstorm. Schwneteck and another friend ventured through the storm, going 30 kilometres per hour on the highway, just to pick up Effiong at the airport.
Another one was when one of their favourite shows, Naruto, was mentioned. Neither of them knew of each other’s love for the show but they both started slowly hinting they were fans. Eventually, they were telling each other about how much they loved the show.
Effiong said he’s also excited for their friendship to grow.
“I’m glad to have made a life-time friendship with him,” he said. “I’m excited to have many more adventures and experiences with my best friend as I continue my stay in Canada.”