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.

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)

Adventures, Thanksgiving and Thankfulness of the Adventure

¡Amigos!

I’ve now been stationary in Alicante the past three weeks and wow, has it been busy!

Last week we finished up our last week of normal classes at CIEE as the next few bring presentations, paper writing, review sessions and final exams. I write, now, with the knowledge of exactly 3 remaining weeks. I cannot fathom that fact. It’s going too fast!

Just the other day, one of my host family members asked me if I was ready to return to the United States. My answer? “No.” A week, or two, ago my response would have been along the lines of, “I’m getting ready…” but the present truth is not that. It’s hard to imagine returning home and quite possibly never seeing the majority of my fellow students and new friends, the professors, program directors and my host family, ever again. I don’t even want to think about that. Leaving home and Hope in August was hard enough, but I can only imagine what it will be like leaving Spain.

As for the recent adventures? They’ve all taken place here in the province of Alicante. Like I had mentioned before, I was able to spend a weekend with my parents! We had such a great time. I must say it is kind of strange having parents come visit your “new life.” – but a fun weekend, nonetheless.

Last weekend, myself and five friends took a quick day trip and rode the tram to the very last stop, a small town called Dénia. We visited the castle, there, walked along the pier, which felt like a little slice of home (Holland State Park), and had paella and tapas for lunch. “Muy typical eSpanish.”

Dénia Castle
Dénia Castle
Dénia Pier
Dénia Pier

Another fun little tidbit for my Literature and Film class, I went with my classmates and professor to see the new Hunger Games movie! Having felt slightly deprived of American Culture, it was very nice! It was the first time I’d been to a movie theatre since being here and I was extremely surprised by its resemblance to an American cinema. We watched the movie in its original version, but with Spanish subtitles.

And Thanksgiving… let me tell you. Just another reason for me to rave about my CIEE program. Early that morning, all students went to lesson on making Turrón. Turrón is a typical Spanish Christmas treat. Similar to Christmas cookies, for us Americans. We taste tested all different types and then made cookies! Mine failed miserably, but hey, it was all for the fun! But the best part of the day came later.

Taller de Turrón
Taller de Turrón

Our student services director did a more than fabulous job collaborating with a restaurant out on the marina at the Regata Club, putting together a delicious and oh-so American Thanksgiving meal. It was just another obvious example of how much the program cares about each and every one of us. Our directors both spoke and made sure that all of us students knew that we have become part of their Spanish families and that they were honored to be sharing an American tradition with us, in their country. Then 6 students spoke and shared their thankfulness. Needless to say, it was amazing. And even after Skyping with family back home and realizing that I couldn’t be there with them on this day, I was overjoyed with thankfulness to be with my new family.

CIEE Alicante students, Fall 2014
CIEE Alicante students, Fall 2014

That’s all for now, friends. I hope each of you had as wondeful of a Thanksgiving as we did here in Spain.

Hasta luego.