International students made up 1% of admitted students in fall 2018, according to Cal Poly View. Of this 1%, only six are international student-athletes.
Kinesiology major and goal keeper for the Cal Poly men’s soccer team, Carlos Arce-Hurtado stood in their shoes in fall of 2017. Freshly admitted to California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, he was five hours away from his home, Tijuana, Mexico, by car, and 10 hours away by train, according to rome2rio.com.
Soccer is equivalent to a tradition in his family. His father’s side of the family dabbled in professional soccer, ranging from Division I teams to being retired from the career. His family gathering’s discussions centered around the ins and outs of professional soccer teams.
Arce-Hurtado began playing soccer when he was 3 years old and dreamt of playing professionally. He knew that one day he would have to make the decision between education and soccer, because in Mexico you couldn’t pursue both due to the club system, according to Arce-Hurtado. For him soccer is, and was, always Plan A, with the World Cup being his main goal. Still, he realized the value of education as his Plan B. Cal Poly gave him the opportunity to do both, in the form of a train ticket to visit the campus. He was enamored by Cal Poly and downtown San Luis Obispo, because it was so different from Tijuana’s big city, and a nice change of pace.
Nothing would prepare him for the feeling of leaving home. Arce-Hurtado said that the plan was always to leave by the time he was 15 years old because Tijuana did not have a professional soccer team. However, when Tijuana gained a team, he was able to stay longer and play in his hometown.
Being so far from home, he found solace in his teammates. More specifically, he connected with out-of-state student athletes, as they could relate to the feeling of being far from home and support one another.
Still, Arce-Hurtado faced challenges in his freshman experience. His hometown high school was full of Spanish-speaking students; however, he did know the basics of the English language. At Cal Poly he was astonished by how students were expected to study alone, and also faced learning material in another language.
His entire fall quarter was filled with soccer and classes as he was blocked into 20 units. Arce-Hurtado said he would practice until 11 a.m., and then sit in class from 12-7:30p.m, along with Saturday practices. Although overwhelming, he didn’t realize how abnormal his schedule was, as soccer was the objective. “I’m doing what I love,” he said. Arce-Hurtado said he wouldn’t have been able to do it without help from his academic counselor and the Mustang Success Center, who helped him curate his schedule.
On top of his hectic days, Arce-Hurtado was redshirted during his first season. Redshirting allows student athletes to develop and enhance their skills, while adjusting to the new academic climate, according to sportingcharts.com. Those who are redshirted train separately from the team, and often don’t attend the games, although he did sit in on some. Arce-Hurtado said this was especially hard because he wanted to play but had to sit on the sidelines and watch.
Whenever he doubted his own abilities, he said he would tell himself, “you sacrificed too much to go back.” He grew up missing out on a lot of family events like birthday parties and weddings, because he always had a soccer game to attend. He doesn’t want all his sacrifices to be vain.
“It’s better to fail than to wonder ‘what if’ ”
– Carlos Arce-Hurtado
He would also reminisce on his trip to Seattle, Washington, because the soccer team spent a day riding bikes around the city. More importantly, the trip solidified his desire to become a professional athlete, as he spent his two weeks in the city only thinking about soccer. He reminded himself that everything he’s doing how is so that soccer can be his life, like it was in Seattle. According to Arce-Hurtado, “it’s better to fail than to wonder ‘what if’,” and he knows he has to give it his all no matter the consequences.
Arce-Hurtado doesn’t really know where he would be without soccer. “Don’t ask me that question,” he said when reflecting on it. He credits everything he is now to Soccer. Soccer taught him everything, he said. He learned how to be responsible on the field. It shaped who he is today.
In fall 2018, Arce-Hurtado was finally able to make his debut. In a game against UC Riverside, he set a new record with 10 saves in one game. “I felt like I had to prove myself,” he said when remembering his first game. Finally stepping on the field of Spanos stadium reignited his passion for the sport. Playing on the field is like one big adrenaline rush according to Arce-Hurtado. “The day I stop being nervous is when I’ll stop playing soccer,” he said.
“The day I stop being nervous is when I’ll stop playing soccer”– Carlos Arce-Hurtado