July 13, 2024

Leaving home and moving to a new city or country can be challenging for athletes as they must adapt to different factors such as social practices, cultural norms and climate. Since many athletes come from different places worldwide, they often have to deal with homesickness. One of the main consequences of homesickness is that it increases stress levels both on and off the field.

Karolina Iznerowicz, fitness graduate assistant at the Recreation Center, believes that the type of family athletes come from and how close they are to them determines how much they miss them.

“I know a lot of international athletes who are fine being here for (a long time) without seeing their families,” Iznerowicz said. “Even though there are few foreign athletes I work with who are struggling with the distance, they would usually find a community of friends to not feel lonely.”

Some athletes want to return to their home country because it is hard for them to handle the distance without the direct support of their families. Other athletes simply miss the comfort of home. Iznerowicz knows how to interact and have friendly conversations with them since she was also a international student-athlete.

“When it comes to interacting with international students, they have some sort of ‘easy flow,’” Iznerowicz said. “We all know our struggles and difficult situations we face away from home. Therefore, we usually can understand each other well. Since I work in a place where all students are welcome — the Recreation Center — and my role is to serve others, I often meet international athletes with whom I can interact.”

Even though some athletes struggle with homesickness, some of them quickly adapt to their new environment with no difficulties. Scherine Dahoue, a player on the women’s volleyball team and master’s of business administration student, said that she handles homesickness well, as she left home when she was 12 years old to play volleyball and pursue her education four hours away from home.

“It is easy to interact with family and friends,” Dahoue said. “I FaceTime my mom three to four times a day since she is my best friend. I call my friends and other family members weekly to keep them updated about my life. I also use social media to post pictures and videos such as Facebook and Instagram, so people can feel part of my journey and stay in touch with what I am doing daily.”

Roman Zozulia, a member of the men’s cross-country and track team and master’s of business administration student, struggles with being far away from home.

“To tell the truth, I really miss my friends and family,” Zozulia said. “As I was born and raised in Ukraine, I have gone through many difficult moments in the past months. The more I stay here, the more I realize how important this state and country are for me and the people that I have.”

Home is on the mind even more for Zozulia, whose family and friends are facing the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Realizing that my hometown is being bombed and knowing that my family is constantly in danger while I am having a fresh breakfast is terrifying,” Zozulia said. “I am trying to call my family at least once every two weeks, but it is sometimes hard to reach out to them because they do not always have a stable connection.”

Even though it can be difficult for athletes to be far away from home, they said they are grateful for the opportunity to study and compete at the highest level.

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