Pierina Imparato. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics

There is a love-hate relationship between students and the college experience. There’s love for the freedom, the people you meet, the opportunities that open up; and a hate for the busy schedules, the constant homework and missing family.

After moving out of the house as a freshman, some students choose to only see their families once or twice a year, but for Charlotte’s international tennis players, seeing family is a rare occasion since their families tend to live on the other side of the world.

Charlotte’s women’s tennis has players that have come from England, Venezuela and Sweden. The distance from their home towns isn’t the only obstacle that international student athletes have to face. Athletes get no special treatment from professors when it comes to class performance. For freshman Immie Cowper from Shrewsbury, England, balancing classes, homework and playing on the tennis team is a challenge that she is not afraid of.

“It’s intense, especially keeping my grades up but it’s good. I like being busy though, I like having something to do, it feels weird now having a day off. I know everything will get better so on the hard days I just think about next week and how this day won’t matter and just push through,” Cowper said.

Immie Cowper. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics

Playing sports at the college level requires major sacrifice to excel at the sport. There are very few days off and little time for leisure activity. For Venezuela native Pierina Imparato, those sacrifices started early in life.

“I was playing soccer and dancing flamenco but tennis is what I enjoyed the most and what I was best at,” Imparato said. “My parents and I decided to just go all in with tennis; I was only doing tennis twice a week, but I decided drop everything else and focus on tennis.”

Like any challenge, it’s easier to take them on with a team. Everyone on the team is in a day-to-day struggle to stay ahead of the competition from competing for a strong GPA to competing on the tennis court.

“When you have another person on the court with you it’s more fun, its good to know that there are people on the team that have my back and are there for

me,” Imparato said.

Tennis is a difficult sport to go pro in only the top 100 players are normally able to make a career out of it. Senior Victoria Pahlett from Vaxjo, Sweden was lucky enough to have a top-ranked college athlete as a father and have a good idea of what it would take to make it at this level.

Victoria Pahlett. Photo provided by Charlotte Athletics

“My dad went to University of Minnesota and was ranked number one in the country. I would love to play after college in some professional tournament and I will try to play in the fall and make a decision after that,” Pahlett said.

Pahlett has had a little more experience with the grind of balancing school and sport and is now throwing an internship into the equation.

“I have an internship now and one lined up for the summer. I stay motivated knowing that one day there will be success, that one day I will have a job that I can enjoy and not a job that is boring,” Pahlett said.

Though they all will eventually go their separate ways, the team is determined to stay together and make the most of the grueling season. People bond over different things; some bond over similar tastes in food or movies, others over family traditions and some bond over their love for the game. Tennis is has brought these athletes closer and has brought a little taste of the world to Charlotte.