Jan. 28, 2002
Sometimes life takes an unexpected turn and it changes you forever. For senior Petra Hofmann, a native of Pecs, Hungary, it was the sport of basketball and the opportunity that came with it that changed her life forever. Hofmann started playing basketball and many other sports when she was in the first grade. Little did she know where it would lead.
“I started playing basketball when I was in elementary school,” she said. ” I went to a “sports” school. We had regular classes, but then we had more physical education classes than the regular schools. You have to play all kinds of sports, but then when you are in sixth grade, you have to pick one sport that you want to do and I picked basketball.”
Hofmann picked basketball because her mom had played it and she always encouraged Petra and her sister to play the sport. The more Petra played, the better she got and others began to notice.
“In high school, they said I was good,” Hofmann said. “They put me on the women’s team with all the 30-year-olds. I was 16 and the youngest one. After one game after we won some kind of championship, this man came over to me and asked me if I wanted to go to the United State to play basketball. I was always dreaming about it, because I heard that a lot of basketball players go to America and go to college, but I was never really thinking about it for me.”
At first thought of the opportunity, Petra was very excited, but when reality set in, excitement turned into fear. It was Hofmann’s mother who set her straight.
“At first, I was so excited and said I was going,” Hofmann said. “But then, after I was thinking about it, I thought, I can’t go away from home. I can’t leave my family. I used to get so homesick if I was away from home just one day. I told my mom that I wasn’t going, and she said, ‘Yes you are. You have to try it.'”
Hofmann’s first trip to America would be to Arkansas City, Kansas, where she would spend the next two years playing at Cowley County Junior College. Aside from being homesick, Petra’s biggest challenge was learning English. She knew some words when she got to the United States, but couldn’t put them together as sentences. She often had to translate in her mind before saying anything, but after a couple of months, she began to adjust to her new language and her new surroundings.
“When I got here, I was so homesick and I wanted to go home and my mom said to give it time and that I would like it and she was right,” Hofmann said. “After a couple of months, when all you hear is English, that’s on your mind and you start thinking in English and it just comes.”
Junior college, academically, came easy for Hofmann. She basically studied the same things in high school, and just had to look at the words and translate. She admits that living in Kansas was boring, but she made a lot of good friends there. Her performance on the court playing in the Jayhawk Conference sparked the interest of many Division I schools, but Hofmann narrowed her choices to Providence, Clemson and Florida State.
“It was between FSU, Clemson and Providence,” Hofmann said. “I didn’t like Providence when I first went over there, but Clemson, I was kind of thinking about it. But when I went there, it was so different. They took me to a baseball game and I hate baseball. When I came to Florida State, I liked it a lot. The people were all so friendly and acted like they already knew me. The coaches were easy to talk to and so was the team.”
Hofmann has played in every game since joining the Florida State family and this season, she worked herself into the starting point guard position. She has more than doubled her scoring output from her junior season and has set new career highs in every category.
Once her playing days at FSU are over and she earns her degree in sport management, Hofmann, although she misses her family, friends and the food back home, would like to stay in America. She feels like life in the United States has more to offer her.
“The whole thing is so different (living in the U.S.),” Hofmann said. “People are so much friendlier here than at home and just the lifestyle people live here, it looks easy here. You have to work so much at home and it’s hard to find a job. You have to have two diplomas just to even find an average job. There’s so many people that don’t have jobs. It’s just hard to live there. It seems easier and life here is so much better.”
Hofmann truly has an appreciation for the sport of basketball and she also appreciates the people who told her to play the sport and who encouraged her to pursue a collegiate career. Although it was hard to let her go, Petra’s mom has provided constant and loving support.
“The first month I was gone, I called my mom crying everyday and told her I was going to get a ticket and come home the next day and she would say, ‘No you’re not,'” Hofmann said. “When I went back home for the first time at Christmas that year, she told me that she would cry so hard everyday after she hung up the phone with me and that she wanted me to come home so bad but that she knew that I needed to stay.”
Hofmann’s mom has been visiting Petra in Tallahassee the past month. The visit has been great for Hofmann and her mother, who has been cooking all of Petra’s favorite foods.
“It’s been good talking with her and just having time with her,” Hofmann said. “She thinks it’s better for me to stay here than to go home because there’s more opportunites here. We’ve talked about her and my sister moving here, so maybe someday. My mom means a lot to me. There’s no words for it. She’s my mom. Everybody’s mom is just something you can’t explain.”
Sometimes you just don’t have to.