By Gabrielle Jara
A native of Valencia, Spain, Carmen Carbonell began her college journey by living on her own in a different part of the world. She decided that she wanted to study abroad while also continuing her soccer career.
“I thought that America could provide me both, get a degree, and play soccer at a high level,” she stated.
Carbonell began her college career at Rider University with the women’s soccer preseason training camp in August 2017. She explained that going to Rider University was the first time she had ever been to the United States.
“I have traveled over Europe, but I had never traveled to America before,” she said. The move created a whole new experience for her.
Going to America was a major transition for Carbonell. Not only was it the first time she lived on her own, but she did not know how to speak the language.
The only English she knew was some basic material she had learned during high school, “but it wasn’t enough to be able to hold a conversation,” Carbonell said.
She explained that she had always been a very independent person, so living on her own wasn’t too difficult. However, she expressed how “learning a new language and adapting to a whole new culture was hard at first.”
Luckily, she had the help and support from her teammates who helped to ease the transition.
“With time and some help from my friends I improved pretty quickly,” she said.
Having met new people allowed for Carbonell to open up her eyes to new experiences, cultures and traditions.
While the social and living aspects were a substantial change in her life, soccer was the one thing that stayed consistent. Carbonell became the Rider women’s soccer team’s starting goalie her freshman year. She played in all 18 games and started 16 of them.
Within one week of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) season opener, Carbonell was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week. By the end of the season, she had made the MAAC All-Rookie Team selection, compiled three shutouts and had a .795 saves percentage.
Her achievements continued throughout her college career as she had also earned All-MAAC Second Team recognition, had six shutouts which tied her for second in program single-season history, was named MAAC Defensive Player of the Week three times in one season and stopped a career-high 12 shots, twice.
As the years went by, Carbonell became very comfortable living on her own in America. She had found a new family in her new life.
“When I think of Rider I feel that it’s like my second home, the soccer program and the people that I’ve met are all fantastic,” she said.
However, all of Carbonell’s success and experiences were cut short when the coronavirus pandemic hit. By the end of her junior year, Carbonell was sent home, along with the rest of the university, due to the pandemic.
In August of 2020, the coronavirus was still a threat and she was forced to decide on how she would finish out her senior year at Rider University. After much thought and consideration, Carbonell decided it was best to stay home and finish out her degree online.
“I thought it was a pity not to finish my last year at Rider, but the university offered a very nice and organized online program for those who preferred to study at home. Since times in the U.S. and Spain with COVID were tough I thought it would be better to stay safer at home, next to my family and not so far away,” she explained.
Rider women’s soccer junior captain, Teresa Richardson, expressed what it has been like without Carbonell out on the field.
“It’s definitely unfortunate and there has been a big change in the team’s atmosphere. Carmen was such a team player and a major leader of this team, which is exactly what we need in a time like this. It’s sad we can’t finish out her senior year playing together as a team, but we are all supporting her in her soccer career in Spain,” Richardson said.
Since the pandemic had such an impact on student-athletes, many had turned to the option of using their fifth year of eligibility. While Carbonell said she had not decided what she would do yet, she stated that if she did decide to play for a university for her fifth year it would be at Rider.
In the meantime, Carbonell decided to continue her soccer career while being back home in Spain. She chose to play for a semi-professional league to continue to better herself, all while she carried on with online classes to pursue her degree.