Why Soccer Players Should Study Abroad

Hope Soccer

Balancing academics, athletics, and social life is no easy feat. Student athletes certainly have a lot of on their schedule and often overlook studying abroad as it is seen as something unobtainable. The thoughts of, “My coach would not allow it” or “I would be missing spring workouts” often come to mind. This blog is to share my real experiences as a student athlete abroad through highlighting three main points on why athletes should study abroad… Especially in Barcelona!

  1. You’re not alone. In my IES program in Barcelona, I have met countless student athletes going through the same journey as me. To illustrate, there are college athletes from Wofford College, Virginia Commonwealth, University of Redlands, St. Thomas, Connecticut College, Augsburg, the list goes on and on. Most of these student athletes, female and male, are soccer players. This mixes well with the city of Barcelona, which boasts a handful of leagues from professional to semi-professional, thus allowing every college athlete to not only watch the most elite players in the world, but also find a place to play and improve their craft.

    Los Chicos Americanos
    Los Chicos Americanos
  2. You are challenged in different ways than before. It is no secret that the college soccer game revolves around fitness and athleticism. In Barcelona, these attributes fill the background as skill and craft lead the way through the Spanish “tiki taka” style of play. This challenges student athletes to sharpen other tools of their game, such as technical and tactical abilities. When returning to the college game, this will help make you a more complete player.

    Watching some of the best - Messi, Neymar, Suarez
    Watching some of the best – Messi, Neymar, Suarez
  3. You can play outside, all year round. In my two months in Barcelona so far, it has rained three times for a total of approximately one hour. There is no snow or bad weather to stop you from training outdoors and on a full size field. Also with the sun out every single day, you will have a little extra energy in your step to get through your workouts… Especially during the February blues.. which do not even exist here!

    Pitch of 3rd tier side CF Montañesa, where we have play are games. This photo was also taken in late February!
    Pitch of 3rd tier side CF Montañesa, where we play our games. This photo was also taken in late February!

These three points have been reiterated through my continuous experiences as a student athlete studying in Barcelona, Spain. I would not change this semester for the world and hope to inspire more student athletes to study abroad.

Shredding the Pyrenees

From the beach one day to the mountains the next, Catalonia is full of surprises. Earlier this week I travelled north to La Masella, a Catalonian-Pyrenees Alp that stands just above 8,000 feet tall. With bluebird skies, stunning panoramic views, and solid company to ride with, this trip could not be any better… Then again, we did the whole trip – transportation, day pass, and rental gear – for less than the price of a full tank of gas from the Holland Bp station. Not a bad way to spend your Friday.

Trae (right) Jimmy (middle) and myself (left)
Trae (right) Jimmy (middle) and myself (left)

Although the mountain is located way up in the Pyrenees, and a short drive from Barcelona,  it is not a tourist location. La Masella is survived by many locals, with Spanish actually being the second language of the mountain; to Catalan (Catalan is the local language, a mix of French and Spanish). Oh, and no one spoke English. Because of these “locals only” vibes La Masella expresses,  I found this trip culturally enriching. Encompassing myself in the tranquil mountainous spaces of northern Catalonia was an excellent change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the Cosmopolitan city of Barcelona.

Just above 8,300 feet are views of Catalonia, France, and Andorra
Just above 8,300 feet are views of Catalonia, France, and Andorra

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Words cannot describe how much fun I am having this semester abroad. Do not get me wrong, I absolutely love Hope College and miss family and friends dearly, but learning and adapting to an entirely different lifestyle is a new challenge that I will never forget. Cheers to you, Barca!

 

 

Resting the legs after a fun day on the slopes. Not a bad rooftop view either
Resting the legs after a fun day on the slopes. Not a bad rooftop view either

Fútbol, Football, Soccer

Camp Nou. The vibrance erupting through the stadium, the echo’s of yelling fans, the articulate yet free flowing style of Barcelona football, is all simply magnificent. A few days ago I had the pleasure of experiencing this firsthand as Barcelona FC played Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal. Barcelona triumphed Bilbao 3-1, winning the quarterfinal 5-2 on aggregate.

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Watching the likes of Messi, Neymar, Suarez, and Iniesta, whom are all some of the greatest soccer players of the modern era,  has been the highlight of my time abroad. I will certainly be back!

Charlie and I after the game
Charlie and I after the game

A few days after the Barcelona game, I traveled to Leeds, England to visit and watch a proper “football” match with two Hope College Alumnus: Will Morlock and Connor Kogge. We watched a Championship League match between Leeds United and Nottingham Forest. The Championship division is the 2nd division in England, underneath the Barclays Premier League. It is said to be the “real football experience” as these clubs are typically smaller in stature, but have a stronger, more centralized fan base than Premier League Clubs.

 

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Leeds Stadium just after the 2nd half kickoff

This stadium’s atmosphere differed entirely from Camp Nou (Barcelona FC’s stadium). First off, it is much smaller, holding just under 40,000 fans. Second, the style of football being played is completely different. Leeds played a very direct style with many long balls forward and over the top of Nottingham’s defence. The  Leeds United fans actually booed their own players whenever the ball was passed backwards. Finally, there were no tourists (besides myself), only locals at this game. Leeds United fans bleed Leeds football until they die, and have a deeper passion for their team than Barcelona’s fans do for Barca FC.

Experiencing these two games, totally different in culture and location, represent the possibilities available to Hope students through studying abroad. One day you’re in Barcelona, and the next you are halfway across Europe on a flight costing you less than $40. I could not fathom doing this at any other time in my life, especially while in school. To be able to experience theses tastes of different cultures firsthand is a memorable experience and one I recommend to any and all.

Week Two Complete! Park Güell, Tarragona, and so much more

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Hello everyone! Week number two is complete here in Barcelona and I could not be more excited to share my recent adventures with you. Just yesterday, I visited Park Güell, a masterpiece of the famous Catalonian architect, Antoni Gaudí. His work primarily was created around the early 1900’s, when Barcelona was flourishing after expanding rapidly through the Industrial Revolution. Interestingly enough, Park Güell is declared a Cultural Heritage of Humanity by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Please view the slide show below to see more of Park Güell!

The weekend prior, I went on a mandatory school field trip to the coastal city of Tarragona (I know, a mandatory, free, weekend trip… sounds awful right? (; ). Tarragona is about an hour south of Barcelona and is one of four Spanish Provinces in Catalonia. During the existence of the Roman Empire, Tarragona was the main hub for Romans in all of the Iberian Peninsula.

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View of the Mediterranean Sea from Tarragona.
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Amphitheatre of Tarragona

I found this trip not only educational, but also an excellent way to build relationships with other students. I was able to meet Garrett and Charlie, two soccer players from Wofford College in South Carolina, whom to no surprise, I have a lot in common with (For those that do not know, I play soccer at Hope). I also met a lot of students from the Midwest, since nearly one-third of my entire IES program are business students from the University of Indiana.

At the end of my previous blog, I set a few goals for myself. One of these goals, was to find a soccer team to play on. After jumping through a couple of hoops, I have managed to achieve this goal. I am now officially a member of FC Lokomotiv Chill. The team has Amateur status and plays in the BIFL – Barcelona International Football League. Players in the league vary in age and ability; some being former professionals and others, well, not so much. All and all it is an excellent way to further my craft as a soccer player and participate in a game that I love, soccer.

We had our first friendly this last weekend. Although we did not get the result, it was great to finally get out and play; especially at a wonderful stadium of a 4th Division side, CF Montañesa. I am looking forward to the challenges and adventures that will arise in the next week. That is all for now, hasta luego! IMG_1007

Barcelona: First Thoughts

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What’s up guys! I have finally made it to my study abroad destination, Barcelona, Spain. The time change has taken some getting used to, as well as the lifestyle of Catalonians. For instance, mornings last until 2 pm, dinner is at 9 pm, and the daily dose of tapas is a bit overwhelming. Tapas, for those that do not know, are Spanish appetizers that are a blend of culture and deliciousness. They are eaten just about every day. Below, you can observe shellfish tapas – one of the most flavorful dishes I have had since arriving in Spain.

Shellfish Tapas
Shellfish Tapas

I have also taken the pleasure of visiting Camp Nou, the compounds of Barcelona FC. Here, they have a soccer stadium, ice rink, restaurants, bars, and a three story megastore where you can buy anything and everything related to BFC. Barcelona FC has not only a professional soccer team, but also basketball and handball teams as well. Pretty cool stuff!

Camp Nou, is the sports compound for Catalonian giants, Barcelona FC. It is also only a 20 minute train ride from my homestay!
Camp Nou, is the sports compound for Catalonian giants, Barcelona FC. It is also only a 20 minute train ride from my homestay!

I have also been blessed with the most lovable homestay grandmother, Margarita. She is kind, caring, and full of smiles and joy. She is in her 13th year of hosting American study abroad students. The largest struggle we have is communicating, as she does not speak any English and I speak very little Spanish.   Below, is a picture of her.IMG_0888

There is so much to see and do in Barcelona. Looking ahead, I have a few goals set for myself for the next couple weeks.

  1. Find a soccer team (equipo de fútbol) to play on
  2. Go to a Barcelona FC game!
  3. Complete all my homework (This one is for you, Mom)