Experiencing London and the Sporting Culture There
In London we got to see so many interesting sites and sporting venues. While we were only there for five days, I feel that we were able to experience the culture fully and had many beneficial interactions with locals and professionals in sport.
Coming into this month long study abroad program I was a little worried that I did not know any of the other students well and this would affect my experience. However, I can now look back and laugh at my worrying because I am now good friends with everyone on this trip. Immediately after arriving to the hotel in London, we all met up and decided to go tour Chelsea Football Club’s stadium and check out Big Ben and the Westminster area. Everyone was so friendly in the group and we all just wanted to have a fun experience. The first challenge that we faced while being very jet lagged was figuring out the underground, which is the metro system that London has to get around the whole city. From getting through the gates to figuring out the different metro lines to take, it was an interesting experience learning how to get around the city. The first night that we were in London, the whole group met up at a pub where we experienced traditional English food and beer. Almost every one of us ordered the fish and chips out of curiosity.
With soccer being the main sport in the UK, this was the sport that our program focused on a lot when visiting sporting venues. While visiting the major clubs like Chelsea and Manchester United was amazing, the experiences that immersed us most in the sporting culture there involved smaller organizations. One of the first nights that we were in London there was a tier three game on featuring two clubs that I had not heard of. We decided to go to the pub and watch the game and the atmosphere was really cool. There were supporters that were yelling and having a great time, so we decided to join in supporting their team. We learned how loyal the fans are to their clubs they support and how sport brings so many people together in a social setting in the UK.
Experiencing a match in person was an even better experience. The rivalry between teams in the UK is different from in the US. In the US, fans of both teams are mixed together in the stands. At the Wembley Stadium, where we attended the National League Promotion Final between two smaller clubs named AFC Flyde and Salford City, the fans were separated in the stadium. We sat in a neutral zone where we were not allowed to wear any gear supporting either team. Hearing the dominant London based AFC Flyde crowd sing songs mocking the other team was very funny and a loud atmosphere to be a part of. London was full of exciting days that involved both sport and experiencing the culture, and I will always remember that part of our study abroad experience among the other cities that we visited.