Maria Fassi

Maria Fassi gets ready to hit the ball at the Liz Murphy Collegiate Classic in Athens, Georgia. The Hogs took third place in the tournament April 7-9.


Maria Fassi sat at the front of the room, giving the professor her undivided attention while many of her fellow students’ thumbs were flying across their phone screens in the back. This complete focus is essential for Fassi because English is not her native tongue.

This focus in the classroom translates into a comparable focus on the course.

Fassi is a sophomore who plays for the UA women’s golf team. She has been successful on the course and in the classroom earning SEC All Freshman Team and UA Academic Honor Roll honors.

Fassi is from Pachuca, Mexico. During the recruiting process, she found out about Arkansas from two fellow Mexican female golfers – Gabriela Lopez and Regina Plasenica. They were older than Fassi and played for the Hogs.

When she first joined the team, she enjoyed getting to talk to them in Spanish. Now, they have moved out of Arkansas, and she has nobody on the golf team to talk to in her native language.

“It’s kind of annoying speaking English all day long,” Fassi said.

In her free time, Fassi dives into the Netflix drama “Narcos.” She doesn’t just enjoy “Narcos” because it is a good show – she also tunes in because most of it is in Spanish.

While speaking English can be frustrating for Fassi, she has become good at it.

She started taking English classes in first grade, and had extra exposure to the language at U.S. golf tournaments, which she has been competing in for the past eight years. Those early opportunities helped her realize the importance of learning English.

“I love to talk,” Fassi said. “So whenever I would come to the U.S. to play, I had to find a way to communicate with whoever I was playing with. Even if my English was great, I was just trying to talk to someone because I would get bored if not. So I think more than school or actual English classes, what truly helped me was traveling and coming to the U.S.”

These experiences alleviate any difficulty Fassi has communicating with her teammates. Sometimes she even gets so immersed in English, it interferes with her ability to speak Spanish.

“There are a lot of times where I’ll be on the phone trying to talk to my mom and I’ll be thinking of the word in English and I can’t say it in Spanish, so it is super annoying,” Fassi said. “I’m like, ‘Oh my god, this should not be happening.”

Fassi said she appreciates the benefits that come from speaking English, but looks forward to any opportunity to chat in Spanish.

“If I hear someone speaking Spanish, they become my friend immediately,” Fassi said. “I need to speak Spanish with someone. I don’t care who he or she is; I just go and approach them and ask them where they are from, and we just create a bond because we are in the same situation.”

In addition to a language barrier, Fassi deals with day-to-day cultural differences between Fayetteville and Pachuca.

In Fayetteville, most people eat small lunches and have dinner at about 5 or 6 p.m. Fassi said that was a big change for her because in Mexico, she ate huge lunches and waited until about 9 p.m. to eat dinner.

Another change is the way people greet each other.

“I feel like we are a lot warmer with the way we express our emotions,” Fassi said. “We hug and kiss every time we see each other and if I walk in or out of a room, I’ll say hi or goodbye to everyone and hug them and stuff like that. Coming here and not being able to express those feelings the same way was kind of awkward.”

Her romantic relationships are also affected by the cultural differences.

“I cannot be in a relationship with someone who is not a Spanish speaker,” Fassi said. “I’ve tried and I was like ‘This ain’t gonna work’ because it is really hard to express and feel some sort of connection with them.”

Fassi said a lot of the Spanish-speaking athletes spend time together off the field.

“We all go out together,” Fassi said. “We have dinners together. If we go to a game, the first people we go to are those Spanish speakers because it’s nice to get away from all the English for a while.”

Despite a lack of people who share her native culture and language, Fassi said she is happy at the UofA.  

“I think it’s a great community,” Fassi said. “It is super cool, the coaches are amazing and the school is great.”

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