TAMPA, FL – A Kiwi is just one member of the worldly University of South Florida women’s tennis team.
New Zealand native Kate Parker is in her junior year at the school, which boasts a group of tennis talent from the likes of Spain, France, Venezuela, and the Republic of Moldova.
The Bulls, who lost to North Carolina State Wolfpack on Wednesday, are currently ranked 70th this season and have meshed well, even with culture differences and language barriers.
Parker said the team’s multiculturalism has made them closer.
“You have to communicate with everyone differently, I’ve absolutely loved it because being from New Zealand you don’t have any experience with Spanish people,” said the 20-year-old, sporting a heavy Kiwi accent at the USF tennis facility.
“It’s made my experience a lot better and the fact that I can now communicate with everyone is really cool.”
Parker fell in love with the sport as a youngster in New Zealand and made the decision to move to the United States to progress in her athletic career, something she believes needs to be done for most international student athletes.
“In New Zealand it’s very hard to go pro being 17, 18-years-old because tennis dies down dramatically,” she said. “You really have to go to the States to continue tennis.”
Going to school at USF was the first time Parker stepped foot on American soil, and found many things different, including the massive portions of food served at restaurants.
It may have taken a while, but Parker has gotten use to the American lifestyle and hopes to remain in the country after school.
The economics student, who went 10-9 last year, loves the mentality behind tennis.
“I like the aspect of doing it yourself. I think it’s pretty cool being able to play college tennis and having the ability to win by yourself and also having teammates to cheer for,” said Parker, who hopes to be an accountant after school.
Parker also played field hockey growing up, but realized tennis was the way to go.
“I’ve always loved playing field hockey, but in my heart I wanted to play tennis,” she said.
One of the biggest things Parker misses from home is her family and her five-year-old dog, George.
“I only see them twice a year: at Christmas and for five weeks when I visit them in New Zealand,” she said. “I still keep in touch by skyping ever night, it’s very important to me.”