The road to Iowa Central for Juliana Vidal was filled with obstacles and hurdles.
But that hasn't held the Brazilian down.
Vidal, a sophomore captain for the Triton women's tennis team, saw the opportunity to join Iowa Central as a chance to fulfill part of her dream.
Even if that meant leaving her home and family.
"I always wanted to be a student-athlete and now that I have the chance, I will do everything that I can to complete this dream," Vidal said. "I chose to attend Iowa Central primarily because most students are athletes. I realized that there are many international students and so my adaption would be easier. The campus has a spectacular structure where I can have the comfort and security of my home.
"It also offers individual earning and the teachers give you more attention and help you better understand the subject because of the smaller number of students. ARC helps students in this part as well with tutors for subjects in general and the reading and writing centers. Plus, the tennis program is among the best in the NJCAA."
Just getting to campus, though, was a difficult road for Vidal to navigate.
"Since COVID started my country is not dealing well with the pandemic," she said. "I lost a lot of close people and family. Also, the American borders got closed for people that were in Brazil so to come back and play the season, I had to stay at least 14 days in another country. I chose to stay in Mexico, did my quarantine there and after that, I could enter the U.S.
"When I got here, I had to do another quarantine before starting classes. I am not going to lie, it was hard to be in this situation both financially and mentally speaking, but my parents were always supporting me and motivating me to keep strong because this is my dream."
Vidal is currently playing in the No. 2 singles position for Iowa Central and at No. 1 doubles. And despite all the troubles, she doesn't regret anything.
"I am having a great season," Vidal said. "For me, it is a blessing that even with the pandemic going on, we can still play and make such amazing memories."
While tennis wasn't something Vidal started at an early age, it has always been a family sport that turned into more for the standout as she plans to continue playing beyond Iowa Central.
"I am planning to stay in America since my borders are closed and Brazil is getting worse related to the number of affected people," she said. "I got a summer camp job and this is such an amazing opportunity for my life. I am also trying to sign with a university where I can continue my studies and tennis.
"I want to get a degree and become a biomedical engineer. (Head coach Jerry Thor) is helping me with the transfer process and keeps motivating us to not settle and try to be the best version of ourselves every day."
The Tritons are set to host a home dual with Simpson College on Saturday, April 24 before preparing for nationals in Meza, Arizona.
-By Dana Becker