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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Abroad but not alone

Gordon Bates
Zachary Vito / Arizona Daily Wildcat From left, Andre Vidaller, Frank Chen, Mike Pigou pose after a practice as foreign exchange players for the University of Arizona’s tennis team on September 20th, 2011.

Moving is always tough, especially if you are only 12 years old.

It’s even worse if you’re moving to a foreign country, and you’re moving all by yourself.

That was sophomore tennis player Giacomo Miccini’s journey to the United States in a nutshell. Miccini left his native country of Italy to begin attending a premier tennis academy in Florida at the age of 12.

“It was tough in the beginning but then you get used to it, like all other things,” Miccini said.

Being far from home is not a unique occurrence for the men’s tennis team. Of the eight players on the Arizona roster, five of them have an international background.

So while players can communicate with their friends and family over the phone this weekend, the impracticality of travel makes celebrations like Family Weekend a painful reminder for the players.

“I definitely miss home a lot … It is a lot different (in America),” said junior tennis player Frank Chen who, like Miccini, moved to America from another country. Chen came to America from Taiwan six months before he began studying at the UA.

“It is just very weird (to be so far apart) because I am the only child in my family, and I care a lot for my parents,” Chen said.

But being on the team gives players a chance to form bonds with people who can sympathize.

“Everyone kind of knows how you’re feeling if you’re having a rough day or anything like that,” said sophomore Mike Pigou, who came to the U.S. from New Zealand. “We all kind of go through the same sort of stuff.”

Pigou especially bonded with sophomore Kieren Thompson, who came to the UA from Australia.

“It’s always good to talk to someone from a country that’s almost near,” Thompson said “It’s really easy to talk to people about (living in a different country).”

Fortunately for Pigou and Thompson, they already spoke English, even if some people may struggle to understand their strong accents.
Andre Vidaller, who moved to the U.S. from Brazil, was not as lucky. Vidaller had to learn a language he could not speak less than a year earlier.

Miccini faced the same difficulty when he moved abroad.

“When I came here I didn’t speak a word of English,” Miccini said. “So to learn (the language) and make friends, it is the hardest part (of coming to a new country).”

Vidaller said he misses family and friends the most, but he still loves the environment at the UA because it offers a unique opportunity for players to play highly competitive tennis while earning a degree. That is something that few other countries offer and why playing collegiate tennis in the U.S. is so popular.

The trend of bringing overseas talent to Tucson does not appear to be ending any time soon for the men’s tennis team. Head coach Tad Berkowitz said the team has a player coming from India next semester and it is still searching for at least one other recruit.

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