More than 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean is not the only barrier that separates sabre fencer Gloria Aguilar from her homeland of Spain.
Along with the distance comes the language barrier that proved to be one of the many challenges Aguilar, a international transfer on the fencing team, has faced since she arrived on American soil six months ago.
“My English wasn’t that good,” Aguilar said. “I went to bed everyday with [a] headache focusing on trying to understand some things.”
“I had to record all of my classes because I didn’t understand anything,” she added. “So I had to record it, take notes and then re-listen to everything at home.”
With the help of her tutors, the coaching staff and her teammates including fellow sabre fencer and captain, Lauren Rangel-Friedman, who is a Spanish double major, the Madrid native has improved her English.
But the English language is not the only improvement Aguilar has made since being en garde for the No. 10 fencing collegiate program in the country.
On the strip, Aguilar has secured top wins against some of the nation’s top fencers. Her most recent came on Saturday when she faced off against sixth-ranked University of Pennsylvania and won 2-1 at the Philadelphia Invitational.
That was the same result that came forth in the dual between her and her Penn State opponent at the Penn State Invitational two Saturdays ago. After losing her first bout to then-No. 5 Penn State, Aguilar won the next two bouts to secure the win, knocking off one of the top teams in the country.
“My first bout with one of the Penn State girls was really bad and then I was like, ‘They don’t know me,” Aguilar said. “‘They will be afraid of me too.’ So I just started to fence, knowing that I worked hard for it and then I started thinking that this isn’t my first year fencing, I have my own skills, I am a smart person and that I need to be confident in my own fencing.”
It was that same self-motivation that attracted coach Nikki Franke and her staff to Aguilar when she was fencing in Spain.
“Gloria, she is a real fighter,” Franke said. “She is very competitive.”
Aguilar got the attention of Temple’s fencing coaching staff through AGM Sports, a recruiting agency in Spain. After getting in contact with Temple, assistant coach Anastasia Ferdman said they received a video of her fencing and liked it.
But Aguilar’s relationship with the sport of fencing wasn’t always stable as swimming and artsy gymnastics usually played a part in her life starting at the age of six.
As Aguilar continued to grow and mature, so did her interest for the game of fencing. Aguilar began attending fencing clubs in Spain and started excelling in the game, accomplishing national and international accolades.
In 2010, Aguilar was named Spain’s Cadet (age 17 and younger) National Champion after being successful in the city tournament and advancing and later winning the national championship. Aguilar continued to excel in the junior (age 20 and younger) category as she finished third in 2012 on the national stage in Spain. A year later, in 2013, Aguilar won the national championship and advanced to the World Cup later that year. Aguilar came in third in at the World Cup championship, which was held in Spain.
Now, Aguilar intends to continue her success on the US collegiate level, in which Aguilar is still adjusting to. Before Aguilar left Spain, she was in her sophomore year at university.
“I go to university, stay there with my friends,” Aguilar said. “I go home, then I go to practice that is not related to university at all.”
Although college students in Spain do not stay in school for months at a time, Aguilar does relate to university dorms.
“I always think this is like summer camp,” Aguilar said. “Not living with your parents and just being supported by yourself.”
Even though Aguilar had to make many adjustments since starting at Temple, she is aware of the opportunity that she was offered.
“This is a really different lifestyle that I have never lived before,” Aguilar said. “It is kind of challenging for me and sometimes I feel like I can’t do this anymore and [I want to] go back to Spain and never think about this anymore, but this is an opportunity that not everyone has.
“To be a part of this, to be part of the student body, to be a part of Temple fencing – is great,” Aguilar added. “I’m really happy that I am here. I am happy that coach Franke phoned me.”
Danielle Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org