Welcome to Behind the G! This is a Georgia Way platform that shares student-athlete stories, hobbies, and what is important to them. To the world, student-athletes are viewed by their outcomes in their sports, but they are so much more than that. Our goal is to share with the world in their own words who they are as people, and the numerous ways they represent the G on and off the field.
I’m 20 years old and my hometown is 7,469 km away. I was born and raised in a small town in Northwest Italy, close to Turin, where the Olympics were held in 2006. I grew up as a skier, and only took up golf as a fun game for summer. The fun game quickly turned into a full occupation, and I fell in love with the game and had dreams to be a golfer. When I first made it to the Italian team in 2014, a lot of girls were coming back for Christmas from the USA. After hearing all their stories and experiences, I began dreaming of going to college across the ocean. Unfortunately, in Italy there is not a way to keep studying and attending university while playing at such a high level. Growing up on the Italian team, I was able to participate in different championships around Europe and Canada. Usually, a couple of coaches from US colleges attend those events and would reach out to some players afterwards. I was lucky enough to get different contacts, and I chose to visit three schools. I immediately fell in love with Georgia and committed to the tough decision to make it my home away from home.
I started my first semester in August 2019. I flew here with my family and they stayed a couple of days to help me settle in. When they left, it was the very first moment that I realized how big of a decision I had made. However, it wasn’t too tough at the beginning — the experience was just so amazing that I fully embraced it with no regrets and never doubted my choice to become a Bulldog. I was able to go home for Christmas and see my family and friends. When I left home I was sad, I had a really nice couple of weeks and summer seemed very far away. But when I got back to Athens, and met again with my teammates and friends, I was able to be very happy again.
When COVID hit, it was really hard to be away from home, knowing what was happening in your home country. I was able to fly back in the middle of March, and it was one of the craziest experiences of my life. Being so close to my family for a long time was amazing, but also made coming back to the states much harder. I experienced the first homesickness in January, after I didn’t go home for Christmas. Everyone was coming back from their holidays and telling amazing stories. While I was extremely lucky to spend Christmas at my roommate’s house and have an amazing time, I still felt that I was missing my family. It was, indeed, my first Christmas away from home. One thing that really helped me was knowing that my team was there to support me. I was able to talk about it with my friends and boyfriend, and they always listened to me and did everything they could to support me. A thing we did more than once when it wasn’t exactly the perfect day is getting dessert. We are huge foodies and nothing makes you feel better than finding a great dessert with some shared laughs. Being away from home can be really difficult, and my friends made me understand that you are not weak because you miss home, but you are extremely brave to leave everything and go live with a bunch of strangers that turned out to be my adopted family.
One piece advice I would give everyone that is missing home, family, and friends is to talk to someone around you. I know it may be hard to accept it, but we are all teammates, and good teammates will have your back and support you through whatever you are going through! And if y’all are like us and love food, go treat yourself to a dessert.
I was finally able to see my family again at the beginning of April, and it was amazing and fun. I got to share so many things I was able to do, even during COVID times. They told me they love to see me extremely happy, and that made me realize once again that I made the right choice. At UGA, I found my home away from home, and even if I’m happy with my choice and my life, I still have rough days. Whenever that happens, I am glad I can see the support of my friends and coaches to make me feel better.
Caterina Don – UGA Women’s Golf