Traveling to a foreign country to compete for a Division l program can be intimidating, but many international athletes chase after this experience — even if it means teaching themselves a second language along the way.
Maurane Corbin, a freshman on the University of Utah women’s basketball team, made her way to Utah from Quebec, a predominantly French-speaking territory in Canada. Leaving home to compete for a Pac-12 team and earn an education posed new, but exciting challenges.
“As a student, this is the first time I’ve studied in English, which is a [big] difference between back home and here,” Corbin said.
Learning a second language means homework assignments take a bit longer to complete, but Corbin said she has received guidance from academic counselors and staff, and that has made the transition manageable. Because English is used in various areas of Canada, she was somewhat familiar with the language prior to coming to Salt Lake City. Corbin did grow up taking a few language classes here and there, but English was never used as the dominant language at home.
While becoming more familiar with English has been a challenge, her experience on the women’s Canadian national team made her transition to playing with the Utes easier. As a part of the team, she competed in the U19 World Championships and other high-level tournaments. Corbin had the opportunity to battle the best basketball players in the country, which she said not only improved her game, but forced her to practice her English. Her teammates spoke in English, so in order to play effectively, she had to speak it, too.
Now in the Pac-12, Corbin is experiencing another type of competition.
“It’s definitely a higher level,” Corbin said. “Everything is much faster. … I was kind of used to being the tallest player back home on the team.”
Assistant coach Gavin Petersen said Corbin has been a positive contribution to the Utes, and he continues to have high expectations for her to meet.
“Her job is to come in and defend, rebound, run the floor and just play as hard as she possibly can,” Petersen said. “And she [has] done a good job overall.”
It is not uncommon for the Utes to seek out talent from Canada. Elaine Elliott, former head coach, started the tradition of recruiting Canadian players and the succeeding basketball staff has maintained connections. Petersen said the positive relations with Canadian players have made the recruiting process successful for the Utes. Because of this, Utah has welcomed players like Corbin to the team, a 6-foot 5-inch freshman, who is coachable, skilled and determined.
Although the coaches have high expectations for Corbin, she has her own goals she hopes to achieve by the end of this season. One of her biggest priorities involves helping the team make it to the NCAA Tournament and to give the seniors a positive farewell to their college careers. She knows the work required of herself and her teammates in order to accomplish their goals.
Even though the transition from Quebec to Utah has brought many obstacles for Corbin, it has in no way impeded her athletic performance.
“I think it’s just an adjustment every day,” Corbin said. “It’s hard, but I like the transition. I knew that coming here was going to be a big challenge and it is, but I know that I’m getting better, and that it’s good for my game.”