Traveling to America from a foreign country can be a big change, offering an unfamiliar culture with new languages and learning experiences for some international students.
The Ohio State women’s tennis team (12-4, 5-0) has eight players on its roster. Only half of those players are from the United States. The other four have traveled thousands of miles from Peru, Japan, Ireland and Venezuela to become Buckeyes.
Coach Melissa Schaub said she considers international players to be great assets for the team.
“Tennis is a very international sport, so you see a lot of international players in college tennis,” Schaub said. “It is much more popular in other countries than it is here in the U.S. These girls have been traveling around the world since a young age playing tennis, which is something not every American gets to do.”
She said it can be difficult selecting eight scholarship players who can easily adapt to the program.
“Recruiting in general is probably one of the biggest aspects of our job,” Schaub said. “There are some really good international tournaments called the Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr where you get to see the international players but get to stay here in the U.S. Once you see what you’re looking for, then you will take a trip over there to meet their coach and their family before bringing them to the U.S. for a visit.”
Schaub said the girls brought a lot of experience as far as tournaments and playing internationally. She said the four international players have been a great addition to the program as teammates who show support for one another.
“We have a good mix of different players on our team, and the American kids get to have a little bit of culture,” Schaub said. “College athletics for any athlete is an amazing experience, but for the international players, it’s even more amazing in some ways because in most other countries it’s either you continue with school or you continue with tennis, and here they get to do both.”
Sophomore Gabby De Santis from Venezuela said she would have been faced with that difficult decision in her home country. Santis added that one advantage of moving to America is learning about a new culture while continuing her tennis and academic careers.
“It’s interesting to know different people that think in different ways,” Santis said. “It is much more competitive here than in Venezuela where I would not have had the opportunity to study and play at a collegiate level at the same time.”
Sophomore Ferny Angeles Paz said her native country of Peru and the U.S. are different in many ways.
“I’ve never played indoors in Peru. It is very different because we don’t have indoor courts,” Paz said. “It’s pretty tough here. Everyone is good, everyone practices hard, and every team is competitive, so it’s tough.”
Japanese sophomore Miho Kowase said the opportunity to move to the U.S. has offered several difficulties and benefits beyond playing tennis.
“It’s hard for me because my family is 13 hours time difference compared to America,” Kowase said. “My sister lives in Georgia, so that has really helped me adjust to living in America. Also, for me to learn English and being able to speak English is such a huge advantage in Japan.”
Junior Grainne O’Neill from Ireland said Buckeye tradition is what has helped make her experience at OSU so gratifying.
“It’s great, I feel like the whole Buckeye community really helped me out big time when I first moved here because I really did not know anything at all,” O’Neill said. “It’s just great to have people behind you. We have a whole team and our coaches and staff are great so they really have helped out big time. When we travel to different places you hear ‘O-H’ and ‘Go Bucks’ and that’s really nice.”
With no seniors on the roster, all eight players are set to return next year for the 2015-16 season. In the meantime, the Buckeyes (12-4, 5-0) are set to take on Purdue on Friday in Columbus at 3 p.m.