It was last Christmas, in Pittsburgh, when the parents of Georgetown lacrosse midfielder Gloria Lozano noticed their daughter could speak Swahili.
"We were watching a movie that was filmed in Africa," said her mother, Lisa. "It had subtitles, but she was telling us what everyone was saying. Sometimes she said the subtitles were right. Sometimes she said no, this is what they are really saying."
Lozano learned a little Swahili after spending the summer after her junior year studying in Tanzania. She learned Spanish after spending the summer following her freshman year studying in Ecuador and perfected the language after a summer working in Madrid following her sophomore year.
The work is part of her goal to become the program's first player to graduate from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service.
What she did not do in those summers was play lacrosse. It has not seemed to set her back. Lozano has 27 goals and a team-high 55 draw controls for the Hoyas (13-4) entering their game against Virginia (17-3) in an NCAA tournament semifinal at 8:30 tonight in Princeton, N.J.
It is the third time in four years Georgetown has made the final four.
"She hasn't been able to practice much lacrosse the past three summers," Georgetown Coach Kim Simons said. "I remember when she had to rehab an injury during one of the summers. It's not like you can go to the pool where she was. Even getting a bag of ice was challenging.
"She had to rehab her knee when she was in South America. She e-mailed me to ask for my help. We went back and forth, and finally I told her to find a hill and walk up and down it. That was the best I could come up with."
Simons normally asks her players to play in summer leagues or to be counselors at summer camps. She never asked those things of Lozano.
"She wanted to be the best student-athlete she could be," Simons said. "It would have been wrong if we denied her that chance."
Lozano instead spends much of the fall season catching up to her teammates, though she can do so fairly easily thanks to her natural ability. She was a three-sport standout at Sewickley (Pa.) Academy. She had offers from several Division I schools to play soccer and, at 5 feet 8, also was an all-state basketball player.
"She is a such a good athlete," said her father, Miguel. "She is a good tennis player. If you want to play pool against her, she will beat you. And don't play poker against her, either."
But it was hard for colleges to notice her in her native Pittsburgh, hardly a place where lacrosse has a stronghold. She started four games as a freshman before making her big play, scoring the winning goal in the final seconds of a 10-9 victory over Loyola (Md.) in the NCAA tournament semifinals in 2001.
"I think that's where she made her presence known," said senior defender Michi Ellers. "She does an amazing job all over the field."
Traveling also came naturally to her. Her parents met in Madrid where her mother, a Spanish major at Middlebury, was studying. Her father is from Madrid. Lozano's parents took her on her first trip abroad when she was 18 months old.
"I have always liked politics and geography and history," Lozano said. "Math and science, not so much. I took an economics class here, and it went very, very badly. They joke that SFS stands for 'safe from science.' "
The School of Foreign Service is the one from which Bill Clinton graduated in 1968. One of Lozano's teachers last semester was former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
One of her classes is called "Map of the World." In it, students are expected to learn about every country on earth. And countries that no longer exist.
Needless to say, the class only met on Fridays, which caused Lozano to leave practice early so she could attend.
"It's been a challenge," said Lisa Lozano. "Being abroad put her at odds with what one normally expects players to do during the summer. Normally, they are keeping in shape or going to camps. I think she only brought her stick with her for one summer."