Miles and nations away from home, international student-athletes face different circumstances when it comes to home life year-round. Now, those circumstances face new challenges with each announcement made because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This includes the decision athletes made last spring whether to stay or head home, unsure of what may be next as the March announcement halted Creighton’s in-person classes and the opportunities to play quickly disappeared.

For two men’s soccer players, junior goalkeeper Paul Kruse and junior midfielder Alejandro Maillet, the March decision flipped their previous expectations entirely.

Kruse, from Heilbronn, Germany, stayed in Omaha with the plan of playing in an Omaha summer league, but that was canceled. He remained at Creighton in hopes of a fall season.

While on campus, Kruse kept up fitness with virtual workouts from athletic trainers, but as the campus continued to empty, the circumstance became tougher.

“I realized how much of a social person I am and how important it is to socialize with people, and building relationships does for me,” Kruse said.

Despite the challenge, he appreciated the way trainers handled the situation, saying he still felt a sense of normalcy as he faced the unexpected in the months spent on campus.

Kruse wasn’t alone in having to make a decision. While some international athletes remained on campus over the summer, others stayed in the country with friends or relatives and some spent the early months of quarantine back home.

Maillet, a newcomer to the team, went home to Copenhagen, Denmark, for a few months.

Playing for Kansas City Kansas Community College until last spring, his start at Creighton is far from what he expected.

In July, the new Bluejay returned and saw a very different scene from what he was dealing with back home.

“I went from no restrictions at all to a 14 day quarantine,” Maillet said. “That switch was tough.”

The mandated quarantine meant two weeks in a room in McGloin Hall, where he spent his time watching Netflix and trying to keep up with workouts for the upcoming season that soon was postponed until the spring.

Although a difficult period, the time alone is now something he considers valuable.

“It created a mental toughness and most of all gratitude,” he said. “We can’t take anything for granted, and I appreciate even more the things I can do now.”

Despite the many changes, decisions and the lack of a fall season, Kruse and Maillet both agree the focus isn’t only on getting sports back, but in getting the world back to the old normal.

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