Stepping Beyond the "Bubble"
Benny, Spring 2024, Barcelona
May 3, 2024

When I began studying abroad in Barcelona, one of my goals was to try and step beyond the study abroad “bubble” and immerse myself within the local culture as much as possible– a big ask given that the only Spanish phrases I knew were “Hola” and “Buenos Dias.” I soon realized that I more or less had two options: 1) Learn Spanish, or 2) Speak the world’s universal language: Sports! Naturally, I chose the latter.

One of the sports that I played while abroad was rugby. Because I had some prior experience playing rugby through my college at home, I was able to play with my university’s (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) rugby club. While I was pretty nervous at first, I ended up having a great time! Some of my favorite experiences with the team included new player initiation and being able to participate in a “third-half” (where after a rugby game, players from both sides meet up at a bar and hang out). However, above all else, I loved practicing with and befriending a great group of people. Being able to be a part of the team was an amazing opportunity for me and it definitely furthered my enjoyment of the sport, while also increasing my affection for the culture of a beautiful city that I was already growing to love. 

Half Marathon

Another activity that I participated in was running. After arriving in Barcelona, I learned about a group called Midnight Runners, a local running/exercise group. I really enjoyed running with this group as the atmosphere was very vibrant and friendly, and I got to meet a lot of great people. I was also able to run both the Barcelona Half-Marathon and the full marathon, which were both very enjoyable and rewarding (albeit somewhat humbling) experiences. Overall, I am very grateful for both Midnight Runners as well as the half/marathons, as I was able to explore various parts of the city, while also rekindling a fondness for running that was long lost prior to studying abroad.

SAI Spring 2024 Soccer Team

SAI Spring 2024 Soccer Team

While I enjoyed running and playing rugby, the sport that I enjoyed most abroad was soccer, which ended up being my overall favorite study abroad experience in general. Upon arriving in Barcelona, I was fortunate to be friends with some locals who invited me to play with them in an upcoming match for a soccer league they were a part of. It was an amazing experience, and one game very quickly turned into me playing almost every game. Being able to play alongside and against locals is something I will always be grateful for, not only because I got to play soccer, but also because I was able to grow closer with local Catalonians that were able to teach me more about what it is like to be a resident of Barcelona! I was also able to play in a local study abroad league through SAI, where I was able to play alongside and against other students from America, which was a truly amazing experience as well. 

Overall, I am very grateful for my study abroad experience in Barcelona as I was able to not only enjoy the city as a tourist, but was also able to learn more about the city as well! 

Written by: Benny, Spring 2024 Barcelona student from, University of Michigan


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