Thriving abroad even in a pandemic
Story by Alayna DeMartini
When the quarantine began last year, Rachael Cline was in England, just three weeks into an internship she had long anticipated.
A soccer player growing up, Cline secured a spot on a crew that maintained soccer fields for a club team in northwestern England. But then suddenly that position was on hold as the virus Cline didn’t take seriously when she first arrived, gripped the world.
Everyone on her crew was sent home, not knowing if or when they’d return. An internship a year in the making looked as if it were over—after only a few weeks, leaving Cline perplexed: Should she stay and wait it out in England or fly home while the borders were still open for her to leave? And what about her plans and plane tickets for Spain? Would she have to forgo that adventure?
“I knew the lockdown was happening all over the world. If I were at home, I would have been in lockdown in my parents’ house. At least I was in a new place I could explore.”Rachael Cline
Back in her hometown of Toronto, Ohio, Cline’s parents worried. They wanted her to head back.
During the many months she had thought about the internship and what it might be like, she never expected to reach this stalemate. Yet she remembered what her dad had often said: “You can’t worry about the things you can’t control.”
And too excited about her job, she couldn’t leave.
“I knew the lockdown was happening all over the world. If I were at home, I would have been in lockdown in my parents’ house. At least I was in a new place I could explore,” said Cline, who graduated in May from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).
Every day, Cline walked for a couple of hours through the small, rural village outside of Liverpool where she was staying, passing the one small convenience store, its newspaper stand, post office, lighthouse, and couple of pubs. She loved it all. The area. The architecture. Walking along the docks of the River Mersey.
Back into the swing of it
Within three weeks of being sent home, the crew gradually was called in, a crew in which Cline was the only American on staff—the only woman and the youngest by about 10 years.
“In the beginning, everyone was being very polite and watching their language, trying not to offend me or make me uncomfortable,” Cline said. “Quickly, they realized they could just be themselves and treat me as just another one on the team.”
It’s likely Cline is not easily intimidated. Growing up on a farm raising cattle, she and her older brother are children of parents who believed in spreading out the responsibilities. Work had to get done. And she adapted, learning on the spot and carrying out chores that challenged and sometimes frustrated her, like moving cows from a wide open pasture into trailers, fixing farm fences, and cleaning stalls.
“In the beginning, everyone was being very polite and watching their language, trying not to offend me or make me uncomfortable. Quickly, they realized they could just be themselves and treat me as just another one on the team.”Rachael Cline
The tenacity Cline developed on the farm she carried to England. Beginning in the early morning, she worked on the fields spraying for pests, fertilizing, mowing, and painting lines across the grass where a soccer club played.
Fitting in and standing out
Early on, Cline felt a part of the crew, asking frequent questions to understand why certain decisions were made, like why they aerated or fertilized at a certain time.
In meetings with a product representative or any newcomer, Cline often took the person by surprise. With her long dark hair and hazel eyes, she appeared to be a native. “I loved the look that people would give me when I opened my mouth,” Cline said.
“An American?” a visitor would ask. “You’re an American?”
By the time Cline flew back to the United States, she had learned to figure out where someone was from in the Liverpool area—just based on their accent. Liverpool had its accent, and so did all of the nearby villages, each of them distinct.
Throughout her six months in England, Cline would never get COVID-19. Then a couple of months after returning to the United States when she was back in school, she caught the virus, which squelched her energy and left her unable to smell or taste for about two weeks.
But she got better and got through the semester. In May, Cline graduated. Months before, she received a job offer and began working as an assistant groundskeeper for Austin F.C., a professional soccer club in Austin, Texas.
“I get to live out my passion in one of the greatest and fastest growing cities in America,” Cline said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
“I get to live out my passion in one of the greatest and fastest growing cities in America. I couldn't be happier. ”Rachael Cline
Lessons from a horse
Having majored in sustainable plant systems, Cline aspires to become a sports turf manager in professional soccer, a sport she played through high school. Her internship in England and another stint with the Columbus Crew taught her about maintaining turf, and as for managing people, she’d learned a lot from training her childhood horse.
At 10, when she first got Chy (pronounced “Shy”), Cline struggled to train what proved to be a stubborn horse.
“She didn’t like to do what we asked her to do,” she said.
The horse’s resistance reminded Cline of how she felt when her dad doled out chores on the farm. Go clean the stall out. Get me a wrench. Fix that fence. Why not, Please clean the stall out. Please get me a wrench. Please fix that fence.
And why, she wondered, did her father insist on a certain way of doing things.
“I didn’t like being told to do something and that there was a specific way I had to do it,” Cline said. “I liked doing it myway.”
So, after a lot of struggling with Chy, Cline changed her approach.
“If I fought too hard with her, she would resist,” Cline said. “If I was gentler and asked instead of pulled her, she was more willing.”
“If I fought too hard with her, she would resist. If I was gentler and asked instead of pulled her, she was more willing.”Rachael Cline
That skill of building trust Cline hopes to develop further in a job managing a professional soccer field. Having worked at three already, she’s well on her way.
Through her years of playing soccer, she had longed to be a professional player but realized though she was talented at the sport, playing it professionally was unlikely. Now, working alongside soccer players, working all day outside, with her hands, she feels as if she has landed—at least for now.
Another trip to England is in the plans, this time with chances to venture to Spain and other countries along the way.