Freshman Isabel Vara de Rey is not only a new addition to the ISU basketball team, but a new addition to the United States. Vara de Rey is from the Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago off the coast of Morocco, and explained that a main reason for coming to ISU was because she was offered a scholarship to play basketball.
In addition to her scholarship, Vara de Rey said that it has always been a goal of hers to play basketball in the states. “Since I was 14, I always wanted to come to the states to play.”
Basketball has been a part of Vara de Rey’s life far before she decided she wanted to play in the U.S. She began playing when she was eight years old, saying, “I have two older brothers, and one of them started playing basketball. He is my older brother so I just followed him.”
She went on to play in an elite basketball league in Spain, as well as CB Isla Unica de Tenerife and Segle XXI, one of the top basketball programs in Barcelona.
While Vara de Rey is excited to be in the states, she said that there are many cultural differences that she has had to overcome, one of them being greetings.
“When you meet someone here, you just shake hands. But in Spain, you give two kisses on the cheek; that was weird to me,” Vara de Rey said. She added that she is also unaccustomed to Americans’ lack of physical contact. “I’m a really huggy person, and at first it was kind of hard. I had to control myself.”
In addition to the greetings, the Southern Idaho winters have also been an adjustment for Vara de Rey. In the Canary Islands, the temperature stays virtually the same all year long because it is near the coast. But Idaho is hundreds of miles from the coast and sees all four seasons of Mother Nature come and go. When Vara de Rey first came here she was very excited about the snow, however, that quickly wore off. “I was excited for about a week. But after that I was like, ‘wow! It’s so cold.’”
A language barrier is something that Vara de Rey said she has had some practice with because her mother is an English teacher. “I have had English in my family since I was young,” she said. “But when I first got here, people spoke so fast.”
Despite the differences, Vara de Rey said that overall, her expectations have been met 100 percent. “Living here in the states is like living in a movie,” she said.
Vara de Rey said that one of the best things about the states is how big basketball is. “The gym is huge and the games have a lot of people,” she said, adding that she was surprised at how much excitement the games generate.
“I feel like if you go to Spain, and you ask anyone if they want to go to the states to play basketball, they would say yes for sure,” Vara de Rey said. “Coming to the states to play any sport is a big thing.”
Overall, Vara de Rey said that she is extremely happy to be at ISU and fulfilling her goal of playing basketball in the United States.