Although I’m known for the occasional FIFA upset, I would definitely not consider myself a very big sports guy. Social media and being friends with people who play sports have helped me always stay semi-knowledgeable on the topic, but, until recently, I probably couldn’t name you more than a few players on each of my favorite teams.
While in Madrid, though, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for American pastimes like football—not to be confused with soccer, which I’ve always kind of followed—and baseball. I’ve found myself staying constantly up to date with highlights and stats from the sports teams that I’ve grown up admiring, whereas back in the States I never had much of an interest in keeping up with these sports.
I noticed my new interest in American sports over the weekend, as I found myself in Puerta del Sol on Sunday night with friends from Tufts searching for a bar to watch the New England Patriots take on the Dallas Cowboys (a game very exciting for me as a Texan living in Boston). We stumbled upon an Irish-themed pub named O’Reiley’s that had an American flag hanging outside of it, so we took this to mean that the pub would show American football. Sure enough, we entered into a scene that made us feel right at home: loud, angry Americans cheering and shouting at a large screen showing a football game. The crowd was made up of people that were in Spain for a variety of reasons: while there of course a handful of study abroad students in the room, we also met young professionals who had come to work in Spain, families here for the long weekend, and even a couple Spaniards who were American football fans.
It felt comforting to see other Americans at this pub because it felt like we were back in the States, even if only for a second. I think that the phrase “distance makes the heart grow fonder” seems to fit well here, because I’ve found myself missing so many parts of American culture that I had never really thought about before. Me gaining new appreciation for sports makes sense because I am now suddenly missing a lot of parts of our culture that I took for granted, whether it be sports, music, or even the weather. I love Spain and all that I’ve gotten to do thanks to studying abroad, but I am still an American at heart and know that my heart belongs in North America.
I have gained such new perspectives on a myriad of different things through this experience so far, and, through reflecting, I’ve not only developed my view on my relationship with Europe and Spain but inevitably with the United States as well. It’s experiences like these, where serendipitous occasions turn into life lessons, that help remind me of how blessed I feel to have the opportunity to study abroad in Madrid this semester. I hope that, as the semester continues to develop, I challenge myself more to explore Spanish culture and gain new perspectives on even more things.