Sunday, February 14, 2010

Studying Abroad in Barcelona

By Josh Zipin

Whatsup Cats! My name is Josh Zipin and I’m a junior on the men’s soccer team at Davidson. I’m currently lucky enough to be studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain and I’m having a great time. I’m here studying through a program called IES Abroad, and I’m taking classes right in the heart of Barcelona at Plaza (pronounced Plah-Tha) Catalunya.

I’m living with a host family in a neighborhood called Gracia. One of my Davidson classmates, Mike Foglia, actually stayed with them last semester, pure coincidence. The host family is amazing, with one mom, and two sons, ages 19 and 23. I’m right in the middle so I get to hang out with both of them. She cooks for us every night, but I don’t think it’s necessarily Coach Spear approved, with a lot of fried food served and a noticeable lack of green vegetables.

When I was choosing where I wanted to study abroad, I knew I wanted to use the Spanish I’d already learned at Davidson and go to a Spanish-speaking country. Being a soccer player, naturally, I wanted to go somewhere with a great soccer culture as well. Barcelona has fit the description to a tee and I’ve already improved my Spanish immensely and experienced what it means to be a “futbol” (never say soccer!) fan in Barcelona.

If you live in Barcelona, you are an FC Barcelona fan. There is no wiggle room, and very few exceptions. The team has an immense worldwide following, but here in Catalunya, it borders on obsessive. During games, you can find most people at a bar or café with eyes glued to the screen, living and dying with every pass and shot.

This connection with the team goes deeper than just being a fan of the local side. For years, Catalunya has lobbied for its independence from Spain. FC Barcelona, as the team of Catalunya, has been an example of how the people feel. To be a fan of Barcelona is to be a patriot for Catalunya in a way. FC Barcelona’s motto is “Mes que un club,” or More than a club (in Catalan, the local language here).  The club acknowledges that their on-field product goes deeper than just entertainment and extends into the political realm.

I have to say, that living here has almost forced me into becoming an FC Barcelona fan. Being neutral is not an option and viewed with the same disdain as cheering for Barca’s opponents. I went and saw Barca play Getafe at Camp Nou, Barca’s home stadium, and a kind of mecca for fans. The game was wild, with Lionel Messi, the world’s best player, scoring and assisting on Barcelona’s goals, and two red cards for Barcelona. Tonight they play Athletico Madrid, and they are going to have to use one of their young players from the second team to fill in for the regulars that are out due to suspension. It should be pretty exciting.

Okay, well that’s all I got for now. Hope everyone is doing well in D-town and I’ll blog again soon. 

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