For Western Nebraska Community College soccer players Ygor Brito and Rafaella Ornelas this is the first time they will be away from family for the holiday season.
Brito is a freshman on the Cougar men’s soccer team from Sao Paulo, Brazil, while Ornelas is a sophomore on the women’s soccer team from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Both are thousands of miles from their family back in Brazil.
“It’s tough I feel like I am in the movie ‘Spiderman: Far from Home,’” Brito said. “It is a feeling hard to describe because holidays back home, it’s the moment that I spend with my family and best friends.”
For Ornelas, it is her first time away from family in Brazil, where her family always celebrates Christmas together.
“It is sad to be away from family this time of the year. It is a time where the whole family get together, and to have everybody in one place makes me happy,” she said. “We usually celebrate Christmas at my house, where my mom and dad’s family are invited to celebrate with us. My mom and my aunts spend their time cooking very good food for everybody, and later we open the gifts. It is my favorite holiday.”
Both said while it is lonely being away from family, they are making the most of it. The two will head to Denver for Christmas to spend time with friends.
“Most of my friends from Brazil went back home or went to Denver to stay with some other friend’s family,” Ornelas said. “Me and Ygor decided to stay in Scottsbluff, but we are heading to Denver to at least spend Christmas with some friends, which I hope will be nice. Our friends are always supportive, always offering a place to stay and or to help us.”
Brito said the friends he has made here on the team and the community become the most important thing to them during times like this.
“I’ll try spend the holidays close to the friends that I made here because they are everything I have here,” he said. “They, naturally, become my family also I’ll try to go to new places and explore more about America.”
Brito said that while he will explore America and make do, he still thinks about being with his family.
“It’s tough because my family is my base and I do not have them close to me,” he said. “It’s hard because I can’t touch them, I can’t hug them and I am a person who is affectionate.”
Brito’s Christmas tradition back home in Brazil is simple, plenty of food and good times with his family.
“Back to Brazil, the holidays are amazing,” he said. “I am always with my family and friends. We always barbecue and make other kinds of Brazilian food. We enjoy each other all day.”
Both, though, accept the fact that they will be missing spending time with their families for the first time over the holiday season. Ornelas said she knows her family will be there in spirit.
“The hardest part being away from family is that I won’t physically have their love with me. Everybody is gonna be gathered and I won’t be there,” Ornelas said. “But it is worth it to make this sacrifice for my dream. I know, besides the distance, my family will always be with me and will always support in my decisions.”
Same with Brito, who said to make his dream come true of playing soccer, there has to be sacrifices.
“Honestly, I believe that for every dream we must make a sacrifice, even if it hurts,” he said. “This is what is going to make our journey valuable and worthy. It’s a challenge for me do not have my family around or don’t have my favorite food, but this is a moment in my life where, in growing as a person, I am developing a strong responsibility. I will surely be grateful for it in the future.”