A NEW life thousands of miles from home in a strange place can be testing at the best of times.
Throw in a pandemic, several long months in lockdown, job insecurity and worries about putting a roof over your head and food on the table and it becomes doubly difficult.
Gus Defelitto, an Argentinean-born rugby player with Rotherham Titans, is proof of that.
A couple of years ago Gus was just an ordinary student from Buenos Aires who played rugby in his spare time for his local team, La Plata, when one day his manager rang up and told him an English team wanted him.
At 24 and with nothing stopping him spreading his wings, Gus was intrigued.
“I told my family on a Wednesday morning. They supported me so I thought 'there will be no better time to do something like this, so why not?'
“On the Thursday afternoon I sent my signed contract off to Rotherham and on Friday afternoon I had my plane ticket to the UK and arrived here the following Wednesday.
“Basically in one week everything happened. It was crazy.”
Although it was a potentially life-changing experience, little did he know how much.
Things were straight-forward to start with.
The first row forward played and trained with the Titans and also worked for their Community Foundation promoting health and fitness in local schools.
Then, bang! Covid-19 happened.
“It was a strange moment,” recalls Gus, who has Italian nationality. “Rugby stopped and I had the possibility of going home but I liked the culture and the people here so I decided to stay.
“The trouble was, my contract at Rotherham was nearly up.
“For the first two months of lockdown I received payment until it ran out but after that it was a case of 'what do I do'?”
It was than that Nick Cragg, the Titans director who runs Stafforce, a recruitment company, answered Gus's request for help and got him a job at a warehouse in Barnsley.
Home ... Buenos Aires.
“It was so important because it meant I could breathe. I would have money to pay my bills, my rent and my food.
“I did everything at the warehouse — paperwork, packing things and carrying boxes around.”
It was also a culture shock for a lad who had been studying at university not so long before.
“I was grateful but working in a warehouse was not the best job,” he says. “The people were nice but it was a place I didn't like and it's a lot to go there every day for eight hours.
“I never thought I would do a job like that at some point in my life but you never know, do you?
“What kept me going was the need to pay the rent and have food at night on the table.”
Gus's living accommodation at the time was modest. He was in a flat above the High House pub in the centre of Rotherham which he shared with his new girlfriend, Liz.
At Christmas came further complications when he tried to go back to see his family in Argentina as a festive surprise.
The warehouse people kindly gave him two weeks off to go home but the day before departure his flight was cancelled. “That was really hard,” he says.
On top of that, he had to spend Christmas away from his partner. She works for British Airways and was thousands of miles away in Islamabad, Pakistan.
There was also another surprise around the corner.
One day, after finishing his day shift at the warehouse, a manager pulled him to one side and was told he wasn't needed any more.
“It was a shock. I only had enough money to last me two weeks.”
Luckily, word got out and the same day a manager from Stafforce got in touch with an immediate offer of a job, starting the next day working for a company back in Rotherham which repairs equipment for the NHS.
It was cleaner and better work, but wouldn't last for long.
Now back in the UK from Islamabad and unable to fly due to the ongoing pandemic and needing to find a job, Gus's girlfriend found employment at a call centre arranging appointments for Covid vaccines.
In a strange twist of fate, one day she was asked if she knew anyone who was bilingual who might be suitable to work there. Liz knew just the right person!
“One of the languages they were looking for was Spanish,” said Gus.
“I passed both interviews and now I am working for a call centre providing customer service for the UK and Spain.”
Even though this young man has squeezed more into a year than some people manage in five, his adventures don't end there.
He is doing an online degree to become an audio and visual producer and has his own You Tube channel and a podcast in which he interviews Argentinian people living around the world, asking about how the pandemic has impacted their lives and jobs and how they can introduce Argentinean culture in another country.
It's a line of work he'd like to get into in future.
In the meantime Gus is now settled in Worksop with Liz and looking forward to finally playing rugby again for Rotherham later this year.
“He's bulked up and he's got much fitter and heavier,” says Lindsay Jones, the Titans Community Foundation champion who welcomed Gus into her home when he was alone over Christmas.
“He's been a busy boy but he always has a smile and a positive attitude.”
Not surprisingly, Gus is much changed from the person who stepped off the plane and made his way to Rotherham less than two years ago.
“It's made me grow up as a man,” he adds.
“I learnt to solve my own issues, even simple things like connecting a washing machine!
“The pandemic has also made me appreciate family and friends even more. Coming to England has certainly been an adventure.
“I see my future in the UK but experience tells me you don't know what will happen tomorrow.”