By JON ADAMY | Grand Valley Lanthorn
For most students, a trip home during a break from school might include a car trip or a quick flight to get back to their families. But in the case of three athletes on the Grand Valley State University men’s tennis team, home means a trip across the Atlantic.
Although their stories and home countries may differ, senior tennis player Philipp Claus (Germany) and juniors Benjamin Delgado-Rochas (Israel) and Marc Roesslein (Switzerland) have a common home at GVSU and on the tennis team.
GVSU head coach John Black has coached international players from countries such as Canada, India and El-Salvador and said players who learn the game in a foreign country often have a unique playing style.
“Depending what part of the world somebody comes from, you’ll tend to see a particular style of play that’s more prevalent there,” Black said. “With Phillipp from Germany and Marc from Switzerland, that tends to be a similar climate to the northern U.S., where they have an indoor season and an outdoor season, so their games translate pretty well to the indoor tennis season that we have in Michigan.”
Claus has played tennis and developed his game since he was 5. After coming from Cloppenburg, Germany to Grand Ledge, Mich. for one year of high school, Claus faced the difficult decision to return to the place he called home or find a college to continue his education in the U.S. If he returned to Germany, Claus would have been required to attend two more years of high school along with a mandatory year of military or community service required for German men.
Even though avoiding extra years of high school may sound like a worthwhile trade, going up to a year at a time without being able to see his family takes its toll on Claus. Flights to Europe can cost more than $1,500, so trips are limited.
“It’s hard sometimes,” Claus said. “It helps being busy because it keeps your mind off things, but especially around Thanksgiving and all those times where everybody goes back to their families’ home, its a little bit more difficult for me because I can’t just go home for the weekend.”
Originally from Tel Aviv, Israel, 25-year-old Delgado-Rochas can sympathize with the difficulty of traveling home. After serving in the Israeli Air Force, he began his college career at West Alabama University. He said he experienced some culture shock in transferring from a college in the Deep South to Michigan.
“It was a little bit difficult for me in the beginning,” Delgado-Rochas said. “When I first saw snow, I was like, ‘What is this white thing outside?’”
Both Claus and Delgado-Rochas have a great deal of pride for GVSU and, at least for now, are happy to call it home. Claus already has a job offer in Germany and he said he plans to pursue the job after graduation, while Delgado-Rochas is still deciding if he wants to look for an internship in Grand Rapids.
Even though he may come from another country, Delgado-Rochas summarized his experience in a way to which many college students can relate.
“Oh man it’s intense,” he said. “It’s not easy. You know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It’s tough, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”