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We interviewed Margherita Giani, our student-athlete, who took part in the American College Volleyball Showcase 2023 this year as a tutor, but who began her journey, her adventure right from our event, the first time in 2018.

A testimony rather than an interview. Margherita talks about her experiences, her feelings and how this path is changing her life.

You took part in the Showcase as an athlete and then as a tutor. What were your feelings today and what were those of the past? I had the opportunity to participate in two showcases as an athlete during the summer of my third and fourth year of high school with Sportlinx360. As an athlete, I felt tremendous excitement and happiness in visualizing my future in the United States, studying and playing volleyball in American colleges and universities. However, I can’t deny that during the showcases I was also a bit afraid to think about a future so far away from my family, my friends and Italy in general. In the third year, I was still in the process of exploring this option, while in the fourth year I was pretty much 100% sure that I wanted to go down this path. Participating in the showcases in 2018 and 2019 was one of the most significant experiences of my journey both as a student and as an athlete. In addition, participating as a tutor made me reflect once again on the importance of the path taken and of my sports and educational career, making me very happy to be able to help other girls overcome the doubts and uncertainties that I had also had in 2017 and 2018.

The Showcase is an essential step for those who dream of flying to the States. How do you prepare for this event? What advice can you give to those who want to participate and take advantage of this opportunity? The showcase is a key step as it offers a taste of what awaits you in the United States once you leave. It introduces you to the world of sports and American university studies. Jesica and Elitza, along with the rest of the staff, play a valuable role in guiding and explaining all the stages of this experience, making the showcase a unique and very interesting experience. There is no specific preparation, but it is important to be ready to get involved in every aspect: on the volleyball court, in the English language and during possible interviews with American coaches. My advice for those who want to participate in this experience is not to be afraid to show off, the showcase is the perfect opportunity to get noticed. American coaches not only evaluate your athletic ability, but also pay attention to your behavior on the court, your interest in studies, your leadership qualities and your ability to collaborate with teammates, and much more.

Your experience in America continues. What have been the main steps and the most important stages so far between life, study and volleyball? Moments, successes and emotions. This year I finished my third year in the United States, the first two at Southern Illinois University in Illinois and the last, after moving, at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Texas. Living in America has been a journey that has allowed me to learn many things in different areas, from daily life to study, passing through volleyball and the social sphere. The first semester as a freshman was the most complex and challenging, especially since I left during the COVID-19 pandemic. I had to adapt to a culture that was very different from ours, to the English language, to the intense life of student athletes, to the new social relationships I developed, to the different way of dealing with sport and studying. Even the most difficult moments I consider them as opportunities for personal growth and a fundamental part of my journey. There are so many good memories: the trips around the United States to play in huge arenas that we don’t even have in Serie A in Italy, the fun moments with my teammates and new friends, the excitement before games, the fun during training and the adventures with my friends outside of university. I was also fortunate enough to travel as a guest to my teammates’ homes, both in Colorado and Florida. I took a trip to New York City with my boyfriend one year and another trip with my mom and sister the following year. This year has been the best so far: at UTRGV I found a family and I had a lot of fun and satisfaction. The greatest joy was winning our Conference Regular Season during the fall of 2022, a moment I will never forget.

What has this student-athlete experience given you so far? How has it improved you? This experience has enriched me in every aspect of my life. I came to the United States as a young girl and came out as a grown woman. Living alone so far from home has made me understand and learn many things. I had to put myself out there and manage my time well. Personally, I’ve learned to believe more in myself and my abilities, not to be afraid to start something or fail, because it’s part of the journey. I learned to live and understand totally different cultures and I understood the importance of consistency in things: step by step, we can achieve what we want.

Many guys are leaving, others will leave. What’s the main piece of advice you want to give him? My main advice for those who are leaving or who will be leaving is to inform themselves thoroughly about what awaits them, in order to limit surprises once they arrive. It is helpful to listen to TV series or songs in English spoken in the United States, to familiarize yourself with the language and accent. You also don’t have to worry too much about making friends, as it’s much easier to bond on American campuses, where many live nearby and share similar routines. Finally, I recommend asking lots of questions to those who have already left, since we had the same doubts as those who are about to leave and we can offer valuable advice and stories of personal experiences.