In a four-year professional volleyball career that has taken her to Switzerland, Spain, France and Poland, Nicole Edelman has enjoyed the opportunity to experience many different cultures.
Perhaps more than ever this week, however, she is happy to be home in Boulder.
A former Fairview High School and University of Colorado star, Edelman was in Poland gearing up for the playoffs in her league just a week ago, before concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus changed everything for herself and so much of the world.
“It was crazy because things moved so quickly,” said Edelman, who was living in Bielsko-Biala in southern Poland. “We went from training every day, our normal routine, and then within 48 hours, our league was suspended and then canceled and everyone was going home.”
People all over the world have had to deal with rapid change over the past week to 10 days. In the United States, there’s been sudden cancellation of sports at all levels, schools, businesses and more.
Edelman, who has spent so much of her post-grad years abroad, had not only an abrupt end to her season, but urgency to uproot her life in Poland.
“The airports were shutting down and they were going to do city quarantines, so they didn’t want people going from city to city unless they had a permission from work,” said Edelman, who took a flight from Poland on Sunday. “For the foreign players, that’s a scary thought because you really don’t know how long the quarantines last for. Also, it’s a language you don’t speak and it’s a completely different healthcare system. God forbid, if anything went south, it’s kind of worst-case scenario.
“The club took care of me and everything there and they take care of the players, but since you are in a country where you really don’t know anyone besides your teammates, you don’t really have a support system, so I definitely wanted to get back to the States and my family, as well.”
Edelman’s season began in October and she said there were about six weeks remaining in the season. The concern over the spread of the new coronavirus didn’t become serious in Poland, she said, until a little more than a week ago.
“Things started escalating in Italy,” she said. “Everyone was kind of cautious, a little bit nervous. Going to the store and stocking up on non-perishables, that whole thing started and then once they realized that it started spreading pretty seriously outside of Italy is when everything started shutting down.”
Edelman and her teammates were told last week that their practice arena was going to be turned into a hospital to care for coronavirus patients.
Bielsko-Biala is located near the southern border, where Poland connects with Czechia and Slovakia. Both Czechia and Slovakia were shutting their borders and Edelman said, “I kind of knew that Poland was going to be next in line, so it definitely was on the horizon.”
Within 48 hours of her final practice, the league’s season had been canceled and Edelman was on a flight out of Poland.
“Customs was really crazy,” she said. “They had questionnaires to fill out, like what countries you’ve been to and they were taking everyone’s temperature as you went by. Since everyone was trying to get back from Europe, there was just a huge rush. Lines were three or four hours long. What was portrayed in the news was completely accurate.
“Of course, there was panic in the air because everyone just wants to get home and you also don’t want to be in large crowds, so it’s not a good mix.”
Edelman made it home safely, but having traveled from overseas, she is considered high risk. While back home in Boulder, she is in self-quarantine for two weeks.
“I’m doing great,” she said. “I’ve had no issues with health. It is difficult coming home and still not being able to see my grandparents. I won’t be able to see them for at least a month or two, just to take the correct precautions.”
Having seen this pandemic from across the world, however, Edelman is happy to take whatever precautions are necessary, especially as she has seen some places she has made home, including France and Spain, go through difficult times.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It affects every human being on the planet, unless you were already in isolation. Just seeing how quickly it’s progressed is the most difficult part. Everyone has been doing their part, especially in Europe, of just quarantining and staying home, not only for the health of yourself, but also for the health of others around you.
“It’s really been, I think, an eye-opening experience, just to see how globalized we really are.”
For Edelman, who played for the CU volleyball team from 2012-15, the opportunity to play abroad for four years has been “an unforgettable experience,” she said.
“I feel like I’ve done a lot of personal growth, just from traveling and putting myself into new culture,” she said. “You do a lot of learning, pick up a lot of different languages. I’m really, really grateful that I’ve been able to do this now for four years. It’s something I’ve loved and have really appreciated.”
Ideally, Edelman will have more opportunities in the future, but for now, her thoughts are on everybody being cautious and getting healthy.
“For the time being, the best that we can do for ourselves and for all of us to slow down is just take things day by day, stay at home, take care of your health and just spend time with family and slow down a little bit,” she said.