I first saw Astrid again just about a month ago. She returned to Union on January 1, 2017. She was standing in line with her teammates about to run out onto the court to run through the Lady Bulldog’s pregame warm up. I ran, jumped on her and gave her the biggest hug possible. She laughed her casual, good-hearted laugh and said, “I missed you, man.” (I always use the term ‘man’ regardless of who I’m talking to and she used to always make fun of me for it.)
The best thing about college is the friends you make. The worst thing about college is the time you have with those friends is short; especially those friends from other states, let alone other countries.
Six years ago, Astrid Hutteman arrived on Union University’s campus from Paraguay, South America. She barely knew any English, she didn’t have any friends, but she was recruited to play basketball.
Huttemann arrived on campus in January, 2011, took her first semester of American classes that spring and then went back home for the summer. The following fall she began to play basketball for Union and didn’t return home until the following summer.
“The language was my biggest challenge,” Huttemann said. “And being my first time in America and the first time being away from my family. It was hard at first. My routine was breakfast, class, basketball practice and then read my bible. I didn’t have any friends, but I grew really close to Jesus that year.”
“God used those times to mold me and build my character,” Hutteman said.
Hutteman graduated with a Bachelors in Social Work in three years from Union and went back to Paraguay leaving behind a year of eligibility to play basketball. Returning home, she worked in her family’s bakery for a year and then became a general manager assistant for the non-profit, Fundacion Paraguaya. While she was working full time she played basketball for Paraguay’s National Basketball Team.
Huttemann and Mark Campbell, Union’s women’s basketball coach, kept in touch throughout the years she was home. This past December she received a text message from Campbell asking, “Hey, are there any Astrid’s like you that would like to play in the states?”
Jokingly Huttemann replied, “The National League season is over, but hey. I’m here!” A few days later, Campbell responded confirming her eligibility to play at Union again and presenting her with a second chance to play collegiate basketball. From that moment Huttemann believed it was a great opportunity to get her masters and to finish what she had started so many years ago.
“I left three years ago without finishing well,” Huttemann said. “I feel like it’s a second opportunity that God has given me, not just an opportunity given by Coach Campbell or Union.”
Some things are easy to take for granted when you’re uncomfortable and miserable in a new place. Maturity and distance has made Huttemann appreciate the small things about college.
“Like living in nice dorms and having free food,” Huttemann said. “The first two weeks was weird. It felt like it wasn’t real life. I never thought I would be back. I got to experience real life already and real life is kinda tough. So here it’s a pretty nice bubble that we get to live in.”
Huttemann played in 10 games since rejoining the Lady Bulldogs. She has been a much needed asset to this year’s team adding maturity on the court and pure determination to win. Huttemann has always and will always be the “go-to” girl. Her presence on the court leaves an air of assurance. She takes shots the crowd never believes will go in, and then does. She’s the kind of girl you want on your team.
“I’m glad to be back,” Huttemann said. “God has grown me and molded me here.”