Home Away from Home: The Challenges of being an International Athlete during Covid-19

Photo: Liz Flynn

Photo: Liz Flynn

Kevin Borba

Leaving home to pursue their soccer careers is something that Jordon Bennett who is from Central Coast, Australia and Oriac Vila Rotxes out of Navas, Spain knew would require sacrifice. However, COVID-19 has made it much more difficult to make it back home or have visitors. Prior to the pandemic, both of their families had plans to come, but are now unable to. Both Bennett and Vila Rotxes have had to adapt to cultural norms of the United States that they were not so familiar with, and grow accustomed to life without their families and friends.

Unlike Bennett, Vila Rotxes had to overcome a language barrier, as he did not speak English when he first came to America.

“The first two to three moths I had problems communicating with other people, expressing my feelings and opinions.” said Vila Rotxes.

Bennett deemed the weather the hardest thing to adapt to, as there is rarely ever freezing temperatures or snow in Australia. They both agreed upon the fact that there was slang and popular cultural differences they were unfamiliar with. Both Bennenet and Rotxes acknowledged that they have learned a different vocabulary, and have begun taking an interest in American Football and baseball.

Bennett and Vila Rotxes both try to have a piece of home while here as they do go long periods of time without being able to participate in familiar traditions. Bennett’s mother sends him a box of his favorite snacks that he loved growing up, and even some toilet paper as that is something that has been in high demand as a result of COVID-19.

Vila Rotxes explained the difference of cuisine as a motivation for the reason he tries to cook a lot of Spanish recipes for himself and friends. Connecticut does not have a lot of Mediterranean dishes that he consumed growing up in Spain, but he explained how he really enjoys cooking those recipes and having his teammates and friends try the Spanish cuisine.

“It was pretty different in terms of culture and language, everything’s bigger in America, the language is completely different.” expressed Vila Rotxes.

Going to Australia for the winter is something that Bennnet was looking forward to, it is the one time he is able to visit home. It has also been close to a year since Bennent has last been able to see his family in person, as Australia has implemented extremely strict preventative measures which are clearly working in diminishing COVID-19 cases.

“People are living the dream in Australia. There’s only about 10 cases a day, and no one has to wear a mask, bars are open. It’s pretty much like it never happened.” explained Bennet.

However, COVID-19 has still managed to find a way and put a wrench in Bennett’s homecoming plans. Flying to Australia is expensive already, but COVID-19 has marked up the price substantially because of the measures they are taking to prevent the spread of the virus.

“I’m not going back home for winter break, everything in terms of COVID-19 has just messed up all of those plans.” said Bennett “Australia has a very strict quarantine law, as soon as I go home I have to go to another city and stay in a campsite for two weeks, and you have to pay a lot of money for that.”

Bennett will instead stay with a teammate’s family and celebrate the holidays at his home away from home, and hopes his family can attend a game later in the year.

Vila Rotxes will be able to go back to Spain, but COVD-19 has made it extremely difficult just to get a flight to Spain, not to mention it will make his family’s celebration almost unrecognizable in comparison to their normal gatherings. Spain has experienced a country-wide lock down once already, and is about to endure another as COVID-19 cases have been increasing.

“They have changed my flight 16 times, it has been a mess to figure out when to go home, but once I am home the plans are different.” explained Vila Rotxes. “I am used to hanging out with my whole family, we are a big Christmas family but that will change because of COVID-19. In Spain we can only have 6 people inside and 10 people outside.”

Vila Rotxes is still appreciative of the chance to see his family, but knows the holidays will not be the same with the restrictions.

With all the challenges the two have faced as a result of moving to the United States, and the unexpected pandemic, they both expressed how much they love being at Quinnipiac. It has allowed them to not only continue playing the game they love, but also introduced them to so many great friends and showed them so many new experiences.

“I haven’t been homesick in a long time, it helps living with athletes and your best friends.” said Bennett.