Alejandro Ibañez Gallego – tennis player at Barry University (Miami): “I never thought that living in the U.S. would change my life for the better”

Alejandro Ibañez is a tennis player born in Puertollano, Ciudad Real, Spain, who is a third year student at Barry University. Thanks to his high quality tennis, he won a sport scholarship three years ago that completely changed his life. During this time, Alejandro went on to win the NCAA National Tennis Champion 2019, together with his team. That very year he also won the ITA Singles National Champion 2019, among other awards. Today, he will tell us how he managed to balance studies and sports in the U.S. and how his new life looks like. Continue reading to find out!

How did you get started in tennis and how did the idea of moving to the U.S. come up?

I started playing tennis at a very young age. This sport has been with me
all along and has seen me grow, so to speak; but at the same time it helped me grow as an individual. The possibility of
moving to the U.S. was offered to me when I was only 17 years old. They told me about all the benefits of studying at an American university and graduating there while still playing tennis. However, I decided not to go then but a few years later. Once I made the decision I realized that I suddenly had access to a broad range of options and possibilities.

When you arrived in the U.S. 3 years ago, what surprised you most?

There were so many things that surprised me, but one that stuck to me was
the team atmosphere and diversity. There were different players from around the
world and now they were my teammates. I felt blessed and still feel blessed to have met people from so many parts of the world and be able to play with them.

What is the easiest and most difficult thing about competing in the U.S. compared to Spain?

I’ll start with the most difficult. Compared to playing in Spain, the atmosphere is different here. You’re not just playing for yourself, you play on behalf of a team and therefore it’s team against team. Although I had played many matches over the years in Spain, I wasn’t familiar with this concept. But now I’m used to it, and it’s become the easiest thing about playing in the U.S. Having your teammates playing in the court next to you, trying to win every last point for the team is one of the most magical feelings that I have felt playing tennis.

Last year, you won the NCAA National Tennis Champion 2019, and on top of that, on an individual level you also won the ITA Singles National Champion 2019. Tell us about what that felt like and what it meant to you.

Winning the national team award in May, meant the world to me. It was undoubtedly one of the most amazing experiences I have lived in my entire life. Mainly because it wasn’t just me winning, we won as a team; and winning an award with your friends was an incredible experience. On the other hand, the individual title also meant a lot, especially because it was my goal to win it and I wasn’t going to give up on it. And I didn’t. I won.

How is life on campus?

Life on campus is very easy and entertaining. Both classes and training are on
campus, and everything is conveniently set out and easy. Also, my friends are all here, so it’s a lot of fun.

What is the experience like on an academic/sports level? Is it what you thought it would be like?

Academically speaking, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had some ideas, but when I arrived I found that the system is very different to the Spanish one. I liked it, though. Especially because at university sport students receive special attention. There are tutors just for athletes who help you reach both your academic and future work-related goals. In the sports aspect of it, the best thing is to be able to carry out your favorite sport activities and pursue a career at the same time. What happened was certainly much better than what I expected.

Tell us any fun story that has happened to you in your years in the U.S.

I will never forget the moment when I realized that this is the place I needed to be. When I arrived it wasn’t easy at all. I had a rough time because I felt homesick. But then I met my current friends and realized, while we were playing games in the pool, that this would be the time of my life and that I was going to live amazing experiences.

What are your plans once you graduate?

My plan is to either continue at an American university doing a master’s degree or applying for a job and start working. There are great opportunities out there if you have a degree from an American university.

If you had to summarize your experience in one phrase, what would it say and why?

This has been an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience that has given me personal growth. It is unforgettable because all the moments and experiences shared with my peers and friends will always be part of me. It is once-in-a-lifetime because now that it’s coming to an end, I am actually realizing how blessed I am to have been able to live this experience.

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