International freshmen students who are new to the country probably expect they’ll need a substantial amount of time to get into the flow of college life.
“In Brazil, my coach said to come [to Temple] and just work because you’re a freshman,” freshman Ingrid Mello said. “It’s not about getting into plays.”
“I thought the transition would be harder getting used to everything,” freshman Clara Guenter said.
The early indication is that they both thought wrong.
In the first four games of the 2013 season, Mello and Guenter, both midfielders, have adjusted to their locale changes to become offensive weapons in the Owls’ starting lineup.
This season, Mello has recorded two goals, both coming in the Owls’ 2-0 victory against NJIT. Guenter has also netted a goal, which came in the 4-0 shutout win against Delaware State. Both players have started every game.
“Having done it myself, it’s a very hard thing to do,” said coach Seamus O’Connor, who has lived in Ireland for most of his life. “They don’t give themselves enough credit.”
The freshmen duo share a similar backstory as they’ve come to Philadelphia after spending their entire lives in countries other than the United States.
“Sometimes I think about how I’m playing here [and] I’m not in Brazil,” Mello said. “It’s surreal.”
Before attending Temple, Mello lived in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais in Brazil. She was the 2012 MVP for her high school team, the American School of Belo Horizante.
“In Brazil, there’s no competition in [its collegiate athletics],” Mello said. “In Temple, specifically, they are very good in academics, they’re [a Division 1 program] and very competitive. I thought it was the best option.”
Guenter’s hometown is Bonn, Germany, where she attended the University of Applied Sciences. Guenter also spent more than a year of her high school career as an exchange student in New Zealand, attending Waiuku College.
While Mello has visited the United States for past vacations, Guenter had never stepped foot on American soil until her first day of preseason practice with the Owls.
“I wanted to play soccer while I was at college,” Guenter said. “In Germany, we don’t have college sports at all. So, I made the decision to come over here. Temple was the best choice athletically and academically.”
Considering where their soccer experience comes from, Mello and Guenter said the biggest challenge they’ve faced in adapting to American and collegiate soccer is the physical demands.
“What [Temple does] is pretty much the same as we do in Germany, except it’s a lot more physical,” Guenter said. “I’ve never lifted before in my life. It’s more professional here. In Germany, we really didn’t have the time to do the athletics as much. We did more technical stuff, and the players would just have to work on physical parts of their game on their own time.”
Mello said she appreciates the new resources at her disposal within Temple. Since the college game demands more from her physically, Mello thinks Temple facilities will help her growth as a player.
“I think it is better [at Temple] because we have those classes, the structure and other things to use,” Mello said. “In Brazil, I didn’t have that much support, like the weight room.”
Though the two freshmen’s success has come against some of the weaker opponents on Temple’s schedule, the Owls’ defense, which has earned four shutouts, gives Mello and Guenter confidence that they can continue to produce.
“It’s comfortable that while [the opposition] has the ball, I trust [that the defense] won’t let them score,” Mello said. “You play more comfortable when you know that your defense is good, then the midfield can work the ball and play free.”
Off the field, Mello and Guenter said it has been easy to build a comfortable relationship with their new teammates, who have made the transition easier.
“It’s really easy to get along with everyone there,” Guenter said. “They’re really open. I think everyone on the team gets along well.”
The Owls have had their share of fun when it comes to the cultural difference between them, such as Guenter’s pronunciation of certain words like ‘aluminum’ and the team’s attempt to speak Mello’s first language, Portuguese.
“I asked them to speak Portugese,” Mello said. “They’re not good at it.”
The competition will progressively increase for Temple this season, but Mello and Guenter are happy that their collegiate career has begun on a positive note.
“Everyone says the games are going to get a lot harder when we get to conference games, but starting off with wins is great and getting playing time is awesome,” Guenter said.
Brien Edwards can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BErick1123.