Ramapo Basketball Player Adjusts from Belgium to Bergen County

Freshman Joy Piazza isn't the typical Ramapo College student. A forward for the women's basketball team, Piazza is trying to adapt her game to the college level, while at the same time trying to adjust to the culture of a new country.

Piazza's home is nearly 4,000 miles away, in Liège, Belgium. After deciding that she wanted to continue playing the sport she loves and further her education, Piazza elected to take her talents stateside.

"In Europe, you don't have sports at school," Piazza said. "So that means if you want to play sports, you have to do it outside of school."

Some of Piazza's relatives settled down in Mahwah a few years ago, which led her to Ramapo College. Even though she was never recruited or guaranteed a spot on the team, a tryout was all she needed to prove she belonged.

"I told the coach, 'Okay, I'm coming here, I want to play,' and he told me we'll see at practice, and that was that," she explained. 

Now Piazza is focused on improving her game. She didn't start playing seriously until six years ago after learning the game from friends and family, but conforming to the American style of play is another tough task Piazza is looking to overcome.

"I feel like in Europe it's much faster. I'll try to run fast breaks, but it doesn't really work as well," she said. "Coach [Mike Eineker] has been really good; he's advised me and I've tried to change things about my game."

Although she may face challenges on the court, blending in with the American lifestyle may be Piazza's hardest test. She didn't quite know what to expect when she first arrived. Piazza said it can be a bit of a culture shock-it's still weird to her that cars are a necessity when it comes to transportation.

"Usually in Europe, I take a bus everywhere, even living in the city I just have to walk and I'm near everything," she explained.

Nevertheless, Piazza said she has enjoyed her stay in America so far.

"You have less class here. Back home you have a full schedule of eight classes, so I think it's really relaxing," she said. "It's nice having a lot of free time."

From the outside looking in, Piazza and her fellow Belgians shared a peculiar view of the states.

"Have you ever seen 'Supersize Me'? That's how we think about it," she said, laughing.

Unfortunately for Piazza, she won't be able to return to Belgium until May, and while she misses her family and friends, her teammates have made her feel at home.

"My team is amazing," she said. "The girls have been so welcoming to me, and we do so much stuff together that I don't feel that disappointed."