Hispanic Heritage Month: ETSU tennis players describe their journey to the US, finding new communities

Hispanic Heritage Month

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – For many new college students, moving communities is enough of a challenge. For four South American ETSU tennis players, going back to school meant leaving everything behind.

“I didn’t know anything about English,” said Alejandra Morales “I was like ‘Okay, I need to start studying.'”

Morales joined Juan Zabala, Frazier Rengifo and Maria Emilia Alfaro in speaking to News Channel 11 about how they integrated into American life together despite hailing from Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina respectively.

“You have a lot of different cultures and everyone is kind of on the same boat,” said women’s tennis coach Ricardo Rojas, a former player and immigrant himself. “Everybody kind of leans on each other to make it work and create your own little family here.”

One thing the players have in common: a fun-loving attitude.

“South Americans, we are very energetic, you know,” said Zabala. “We are always smiling trying to make conversation.”

“We hug a lot, we cheer a lot, we scream a lot,” said Alfaro. “We’re super vocal, expressive.“

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