When we spoke, Liz Agatucci, a first-year on the varsity field hockey team, was living under a nearly month-long national quarantine. If that measure doesn’t sound familiar to U.S. readers, that’s because Agatucci, originally from Chapel Hill, N.C., spent her fall semester in Canterbury, England.
In mid-August, the University announced that the semester would be entirely remote, upending Agatucci’s semester plans — including for her first collegiate athletic season. Less than two weeks later, she found herself, along with four other teammates, in Canterbury, where they had the opportunity to continue practicing field hockey as classes began.
When asked why she relocated to England, Agatucci replied, “Robin [Thompson], who is also a freshman on the field hockey team, offered for us to come to England and play for her club team just so we could get training. We all rented a house together.”
One of the virtues of playing a team sport such as field hockey is camaraderie. Agatucci saw her relocation as an opportunity, not only to maintain her athletic training, but also to grow closer to the teammates with whom she made the journey. Another perk? Playing on a club team doesn’t count towards student-athletes’ four seasons of NCAA eligibility.
Being abroad did pose difficulties, though. Adjusting to the time difference, along with homesickness, proved burdensome.
Having spent over three months apart from her family, Agatucci said, “Being away from family is difficult. Homesickness is normal though.”
Fortunately, not all was lost — Agatucci was still able to have a taste of home in England. While spending her first Thanksgiving abroad, Agatucci recalled, “Robin’s parents offered to cook for us, even though they do not celebrate the holiday. It is almost like we were adopted by their parents. Robin’s mom has been so great; she’s been like a second mom for us.”
Her growing ménage fast became one of the best aspects of Agatucci’s time in England.
The start of the semester also posed the challenge of balancing both academics and athletics. Agatucci and her teammates maintained a rigorous training schedule, with two high-intensity training sessions every week, accompanied by weekly matches.
Several days before our interview, the University released its plans for the spring, which include inviting undergraduates to return to campus.
When asked what she looked forward to most about being on campus, Agatucci replied, “While I have met and talked to a lot of people online, I am just excited for some in-person relationships as opposed to online ones. I am excited for the social aspect.”
The Ivy League canceling the past fall athletic season was disappointing, though Agatucci said she remains positive.
“I have always been optimistic and confident in Princeton,” Agatucci said. “If there is one thing I know about this team, it is that we fight no matter who we’re playing. We are the Tigers, baby.”
One further setback of COVID-19 is that Agatucci and her teammates from other class years have not come to know each other as closely as they would on campus. Agatucci said, however, “from the few days that I’ve spent with them and through Zoom sessions, the team chemistry is just amazing.”
Adding to her positive reflections, she further noted, “the coaches are amazing as well.” Through the experience in England, Agatucci has been able to build a mutual relationship with the coaching staff, building her optimism that “when we mix with the other girls” and the team fully reunites, “it will hopefully be a smooth transition.”