While the World Cup wasn't the reason Kyle Johnson, '19, decided to study abroad last summer, the global event certainly was a perk.
A forward for the Albion men's soccer team, Johnson and communications studies department chair Karen Erlandson gave the Barcelona SAE program a try.
"The communications studies department needed a guinea pig to see if it was a reliable program because I had heard about the College of International Studies and programs like that," Johnson said. "SAE did a fine job. We were taken to the international house upon arrival. We had an orientation at the international house where I would take my classes and I met a lot of great people.
"I was hooked up with my rooming situation," he added. "I had a roommate from Lebanon and one from New York. They had already set up the place. We had a nice, big apartment in the Gracia neighborhood. It was a great area with awesome food, and my favorite was the paella, a big vat of rice, seasoning and seafood or chicken. I also ate the chocolate Nutella croissants and drank coffee with milk every morning. I don't like coffee, but it was very impressive that way they did it there."
Yes, there was Erlandson's persuasive speaking class, designed to help students master how to pitch the sale or win the interview. However, class lasted just three hours a day, allowing Johnson plenty of time to enjoy the Mediterranean climate.
"Everything about it was the perfect mixture of vacation and studies," Johnson said. "There was perfect weather with a ton to do."
Encouraged by family to take advantage of the opportunity to expand his life experiences – like navigating a subway on his own – Johnson realized he may never get the experience to travel Europe for a month. So he didn't miss opportunities for additional travel to Paris and Girona and other locations on the coast of Spain made famous as the filming location for popular TV series Game of Thrones.
"Going to Paris for 25 euro (the equivalent of $29 in the U.S.) was the best thing I've ever done in my life," Johnson said. "We were not sure what we wanted to do on one of the weekends when we weren't doing anything so we decided to check on one of these European flights and see if we could find a deal to go to Paris, Portugal, or something like that. We made an impulse decision, and it was the best decision because I fell in love with the city.
"As a soccer player, I visited cities based on the games," he added, noting that he was in Europe through June 29 when the World Cup was still in the group stage. "I waited until France played Germany to go to France. I was strategically setting up my trips or nights around the viewing parties. I could go to a viewing party with hundreds of people in a yard watching the game on a big screen or one of the places we went to was a sports bar with billiards and ping-pong.
"Everyone there loves the sport and everyone was very into it, but it was a massive eye-opener when there was booing when I was watching one of Spain's games in the Catalonian section of Barcelona," he added.
Johnson also enjoyed the opportunity to play the game he loves on the streets.
"I wanted to make sure I was getting touches (on the ball)," Johnson said. "I was involved in an app where I paid six euro to meet up with people to play soccer. I was on the app every morning looking for a game. I'm energetic. I wanted to go play right then.
"I joined a German session, a Spanish session and I was the only American in both of them," he added.
At the end, Johnson was pleased to have conquered his trip and he recommends a study abroad experience to everyone.
"My dad told me to be independent, to learn what it's like to move into a new place and to be alone and figure it out for myself," Johnson said. "It felt good to leave there knowing I was able to do this. I could find a way home. I could get in a taxi and know I was going to be all right.
"One of the best outcomes of the experience is I have friends for life," he added. "It's another good connection to have around the country."
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