Despite language barrier, Osorio shines

Freshman Andres Osorio came to the United States from Ecuador in January.

Dan Miller

After graduating from Gabriel Garcia Marquez High School in Quito, Ecuador, 18-year-old Andres Osorio arrived in the United States on Jan. 22 to play for Minnesota’s men’s tennis team.

He wandered onto campus on a bitterly cold winter day, speaking no English, and was placed in Sanford Hall, where he shares a bathroom with nearly his entire floor.

Welcome to the United States.

Almost four months later, Osorio is making the adjustment. He handles a full freshman course load and plays No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles for the Gophers.

But needless to say, going from the equator to nearly the North Pole has been a big transition.

“It’s been tough,” Osorio said. “I came here in January speaking nothing, no English at all. I came, they put me in the dorms and told me to start studying. It’s hard,” Osorio said.

Osorio is no stranger to being in foreign countries. He was ranked as high as 30th among junior competitors of the International Tennis Federation, which has circuits circling the globe. But Osorio hasn’t immersed himself in a culture like the one he’s in now.

In addition to the cultural clashes – such as the craziness of residence hall life, which he said he dislikes – Osorio has had trouble closing the linguistic gap.

Taking classes in economics and mathematics, Osorio has had big problems understanding his professors, who speak English second, like him.

He has found few people who speak his native Spanish and has had to learn to adapt quickly by being thrown into the language.

But, as evident in his understandable English, he has been up to the challenge.

“It is tough, you know. It is not my language, but it’s OK. I am learning very fast,” he said.

Along with his linguistic adjustments, Osorio has the responsibility to help the 31st-ranked Gophers vie for a Big Ten championship. The Gophers are 6-1 in the Big Ten and second behind defending national champion Illinois.

Osorio also has a shot to be named Big Ten freshman of the year, as he has gone 10-5 overall with teammate Chris Wettengel in doubles action, and 9-8 in singles.

Aside from a few rule changes between international and NCAA tennis, Osorio is adjusting well.

Minnesota coach David Geatz said that even tough Osorio will go through challenges off the court, he doesn’t play like a first-year player.

“He’s not really like a freshman; he has all kind of international experience,” Geatz said. “But what I like about Andres is that he really works hard. He plays with a lot of energy and heart. That is all you can ask from a kid.”

Geatz has dealt with numerous international players in his 15 years of coaching at Minnesota. He said he thinks Osorio has been making a good transition into the team and into his academic life.

“He seems like he is happy,” Geatz said. “He has a good tutoring schedule. We have a good academic support system for him.”

After the Gophers’ 7-0 victory Sunday over Wisconsin, Osorio was joking around with teammates in the players’ lounge. Junior captain Avery Ticer said it is obvious Osorio has fit in well with the team.

“He’s just a really positive and nice guy,” Ticer said. “Everyone really likes him, and his energy on the court rubs off on every one.”

Osorio, who isn’t afraid to show his emotion on or off the court, said that besides his residence hall situation, he is enjoying his time in the United States. He has support from the coaches and tutors with the transition into college, a new country and a new way of life.

“It’s all language and culture,” Osorio said. “I have to learn; I think it will be OK.”

Motherly coaching

Osorio’s mother, Isabel Hernandez, has coached him since he was 6 years old. She played professional tennis and, at one point, was ranked as high as 50th in the world.

Osorio said he is very close to his mother and has had a difficult time being away – not to mention having to deal with other coaches.

“Now is the first time I have had another coach,” Osorio said. “The first month, it was tough because I didn’t want to listen to my coaches, because I thought they were going to change something in my game. But now it is different, I can kind of trust them.”