Melissa Garciglia from La Paz, Mexico, explained her volleyball journey from when she was a child to the challenges she faced when she attended college in California.
Q: What made you want to play volleyball?
A: My dad was a well-known volleyball player in La Paz and throughout Mexico. He even got the chance to try out for the national volleyball team. After my dad completed his years of playing volleyball, he became a coach. The fact that my dad played volleyball played a role in influencing me to have an interest in this sport. When I was ten, my best friend invited me to practice with her. I did not enjoy playing at first, but after days of practicing and working on things and progressing, I fell in love with the sport and have played it ever since.
Q: Why did you choose to come to play division II volleyball at the California State University of San Bernardino?
A: I was not looking for this program. Before coming to CSUSB, I had no expectations of what was to come because one of my teammates in Mexico was the one that wanted to be a part of this program. In the end, I received an opportunity to come and play here, and I took it. I have always wanted to live in California, and when I visited the school, met the team, and practiced with them, I loved it. The school was nice, the girls were talented and challenged me when we were playing, and the coaches were critiquing me and helping me to improve, and I enjoyed that. Everything felt right when I came to this campus and was introduced to the program. I knew I wanted to come here.
Q: How is volleyball here, compared to La Paz, Mexico? Any differences?
A: Competition-wise, in Mexico, we do not have a defensive specialist. We only have one libero who goes back row for our middles, and everyone else defends in a game for themselves. Also, a service ace that is not touched the other team and lands in is two points compared to one point here.
Q: Did you face any language or cultural barriers while at CSUSB?
A: Yes, there was a language barrier and a cultural barrier. Sometimes people do not understand that, and they can be ignorant and think they are better than you because you do not know the language well enough. When it came to school, I faced challenges with homework and tests that were time limited. Times when it took me four hours to complete an assignment, whereas if it were in my language, it would have taken me an hour to complete. I felt like there were times when people were closed-minded to get to know me because I am from another culture. I was challenged every single day in school, volleyball, and socializing.
Q: What did you like about playing volleyball in California, and what did you dislike?
A: I loved playing volleyball in California. It allowed me to learn and grow. The level of competitiveness is insane. The coaches are highly educated in volleyball, and the girls on my team and the players we competed against had a very high-level volleyball IQ. Playing in California allowed me to become a better person and athlete. I do not have any regrets when it comes to that.
Q: What advice would you give to someone from a different country who wants to travel and play volleyball in the U.S.A.?
A: I advise taking it one day at a time. Be present and stay positive. Play because you love it and because volleyball is your passion. Even if you are playing for a program, a team, or whoever, do it because you enjoy it. You are representing your family, city, country, and culture. Knowing and understanding everything that you go through serves a purpose for you as a person and for your character. No matter what you go through, do not let it stop you from achieving your goals. If you have good intentions, good things will happen. Opportunities will come, you just have to embrace the challenges and enjoy the ride. The dream is not the process, but it is the people you get to know, the things you learn, the new experiences, and the person you are becoming.
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