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Our group was the guest of John Moores University at the Annual Grand National horse race at Aintree. It is a week of horse races, charity events and high fashion. It is a combination of the Kentucky Derby and a high school prom. Average citizens put on their best clothes and parade around the grounds usually with a pint of beer or glass of wine in hand. The races are exciting to watch and we did win a few quid on the races. But the greatest entertainment is watching the slow erosion of the crowd after a day of drinking in the afternoon sun. The local train authority actually hands out free flip flops to the women so that they can free themselves from their four inch stiletto heels in order to safely make it back to town on the trains.

As always, the faculty from LJMU were very wonderful hosts and provided us with a unique look at social life in Liverpool.

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Betting takes place on everything – not just the horses!
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A Soucer reading the race form and planning the bets!
The races are followed on the huge video screens.
The races are followed on the huge video screens.

We have been fortunate to spend two days touring the various museums that have contributed to Liverpool‘s status as a Culture Capital on Europe back in 2008. Most of the museums that we visited are open seven days a week and are free to residents and visitors.

We visited the Slavery Museum which helped us to understand the economic realities that lead to the 150 years of trade between Liverpool, West Africa, the Caribbean and the North American Colonies in the deplorable slave trade.

The Tate Museum of Modern Art challenged us to expand our understanding of what constitutes art.

The Liverpool Museum is the largest and most interactive of the museums in the city. From pre-historic times to our modern era, the development, growth and impact of Liverpool on the UK and the rest of the world is presented in a variety of interesting exhibits. Museums are the best way to learn the most about a city like Liverpool in a modern (and dry) setting.

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The Liverpool Museum is a perfect example of how contemporary buildings have been added to the 17-18th century dockside scene.

 

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A view of the transportation section of the Liverpool Museum.

After a few hours of museum hopping our reward was a trip on the Liverpool EYE. Many european cities have added a ferris wheel to their center city attractions. Despite the fear of heights that a few admitted to, we all took a spin on the wheel, getting a great panoramic view of the city.

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The Liverpool Wheel – a great view of the city from a dizzying height!

We started our week with a workshop at John Moores University with a group of event management students. Our task was to create a cultural event to take place as students traveled together by ship across the Atlantic from Liverpool to New Haven. The event needed to include elements of each culture that we would like to share during the voyage. We learned of each others favorite foods, music and recreational preferences. What occurred was an hour and a half of learning about each other, finding common interests and learning new things from each other. It was time well spent that resulted in us making plans to meet later that evening for a night out in Liverpool. We had a great, late night out and made some new friends that we are sure to stay in touch with over the year. Many of the LJMU students are hoping to come to Southern for the fall semester!

 

 

Southern students stand in front of the John Moores statue on the streets of Liverpool.
SCSU meets John Moores on the streets of Liverpool

After a Hard Days Night, we landed in London not really knowing if it was 3 am (our time) or 8 am (Scouser time). We managed to get through customs without incident and made our way to the “Tube” to catch a train out of Euston Station, London.   A very pleasant two hour train ride brought us to Lime Street Station in Liverpool where we were met by our host, Drew Li, a faculty member at Liverpool John Moores University.

We arrived at Hatties Hostel on Mount Pleasant St. Our first experience of culture shock was the spartan environment of the hostel. The accommodations are minimal as we had to rent towels and the rooms are cramped at best. There were no mints on the pillows but we did find a zucchini wedged behind the door.

What we are sacrificing in creature comforts is more than compensated by the excellent central location of the hostel,close to all the major attractions and only a block from the Redmond Building of LJMU.

We are looking forward to a great week of new friendships and experiences here in Liverpool.

Women's Soccer

This entry was written by Christine Allard and Hannah Bodner.

Spain blog pic[5]Today was our last full day in Barcelona. Around 11 o’clock we ate breakfast and headed out to spend the day at the beach. Although it was a little cloudy when we first arrived, a few hours into the trip the sun came out and it was very nice. There were about 10 different beach volleyball courts set up and our team took full advantage of them. We were challenged by several different teams of Spaniards and had a blast while doing so. The water was extremely clear and there were lots of people walking around enjoying the beautiful day. We all ate lunch at a restaurant on the beach and left around 4 p.m to head back to the hotel.

The rest of the afternoon/night was spent cleaning and getting ready for the next morning’s departure. However, we did get to have one last dinner all together at a local Spanish restaurant. We were able to each pick from a variety of Spanish appetizers, entrees, and desserts. It was a great way to end the trip and reminisce on how great of an experience we all had.

While our time in Spain was nothing short of amazing, one unfortunate experience that definitely stuck out to everyone was the terrorist attack in Brussels. Being abroad while something like this happened was quite scary and really put everything into perspective. We were able to see firsthand how international security was stepped up around train stations, airports, and other public places. It was very inspiring to see the support for Brussels in Barcelona and throughout the rest of the world for that matter.

We are all truly grateful and appreciative of this amazing experience. On behalf of the team we want to thank everyone who supported this trip in any way. It was an experience that none of us will ever forget. Not only did we have a great time, but we also learned a lot about the Spanish culture and were able to appreciate and respect the many differences and similarities between American and Spanish culture.

Women's Soccer

This entry was written by Taylor Moore, Deanna Ryan and Taylor Bilyak.

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We started the day off bright and early to breakfast where we were still amazed by the numerous selections offered. Shortly after, we got on the bus to start our day at Park Güell, which is named after Eusebi Güell. The architecture of this building is done by none other than Antoni Gaudí who was also responsible for the design and building of La Sagrada Familia, which we were able to tour yesterday. This construction was started in 1900 and was originally supposed to be land for estates of wealthy individuals, but the lack of transport because of the exclusive nature of the area made Güell halt the project in 1914. Then after his death, the city council bought the land and it was reopened as a park a couple years after. The view from the top was one unlike any other and it was almost as if you could see all of Barcelona from the top. It had a series of paths that seemed almost prehistoric in nature and it was all uphill to get to the highest points.

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After our tour of Park Gueill, we participated in community service with therapy dogs. We were able to play with the dogs as well as learn how to train them with clickers and take them through agility obstacles, such as cones and hoops. We did team building drills with the dogs and amongst the team learned communication skills and how to work together. We also learned how many dogs are mistreated, but fortunately this foundation rescues many and gives them a better home. These therapy dogs are trained to go to hospitals, jails, help kids and many other different locations. These dogs provide a comfort for these people and are often very helpful in the recovery process. It was a great experience to learn about what therapy dogs do and the tremendous comfort they provide for people.

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After our community service experience, we had a short break at the hotel before our tour of Barcelona’s stadium, Camp Nou. Personally, Camp Nou has been a place we have wanted to visit for so long and the fact it was finally here was something we couldn’t fathom or put into words. The view from the field to the box seats was something we can’t even describe knowing Messi, Neymar, Suarez and Piqué control each game on this pitch. It was also a very sad day and time for Barcelona because of the loss of its very own Johan Cruyff. He not only was the creator of the famous move, but a major influence to fútbollers around the world and it was a devastating loss for everyone.

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Following that, we went back to the hotel for some downtime before getting Tapas at The Room for dinner, along with local beverages. There was a toast to the success of this trip and how grateful we are for the coaches and our tour guides for making this such a memorable trip. Our tables started to turn into a dance floor, so we decided to leave and go to the dance club that was arranged for us. It was called Opium and it played almost all American music, which we were very surprised about. It’s hard to think that the trip is coming to an end, but all good trips must come to an end. We are ready to enjoy our last full day and make the best out of it.

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Women's Soccer

This entry was written by Maeghan Howard and Hannah Bodner

Day 6 – March 24, 2016

This morning the team woke up around 9:30am for breakfast at the hotel. The hotel breakfast, much like the last hotel in valencia, offers a wide selection of food and includes a chef who takes personal requests. After breakfast we had a team stretch, led by Coach Katie. Groans were heard all around as we were asked to reach to our toes. Everyone was visibly sore and tight from the tough and physical game we had played the night before.

After the stretch we all headed back up to our rooms, expecting to quickly get our wallets and bags and leave for shopping in downtown Barcelona. It did not go this smoothly, however, 13 of us piled into the elevator and we noticed a red flashing sign that read 800 kilograms. We had gone over the weight limit and as the elevator doors began to close, 2 of us managed to slip out. Despite our last minute effort to go under the weight limit, the doors shut and the red light remained on. 11 of us were stuck, our lives flashing before our eyes. About 8 minutes passed and we managed to pry open the doors before the fire department needed to be called to come save us.

With this traumatic experience behind us, we left for downtown Barcelona. Here we were given 4 hours to walk around, shop, and eat. Most of us were loured into small tourist shops with trinkets, magnets and soccer jerseys that we had planned to get for family and friends. Our favorite store, however, had to have been Nike. We walked in with wide eyes, many of us wishing we had taken more money off of our debit cards, some of us wishing we hadn’t. It’s safe to say that Nike had a good sales day as most of us walked out with either jackets or shoes.

After the Nike store we headed to the market area for lunch. The market has pretty much any kind of food you can imagine, which is perfect for our team’s wide variety of preferred tastes and foods. After eating lunch, most of us went to get the juice that can be found everywhere in the market. This is fresh fruit juice and comes in many different flavors, definitely one of the teams favorite parts of the market.

After the market we headed back to our hotel and most of us took a quick nap before we got ready for our game against Sant Andreu. When we got to the field we were excited and impressed to find that it was surrounded by stadium seating. Naturally we all took out our phones and recorded videos and snapchats to show our families and friends.

During the game our team was able to connect well together and play as one unit which helped us to come up with the result we were hoping for. It was a competitive game, but we were able to come out on top, with a score of 2-1 (goals from Caroline and Keri). Playing against 2 Spanish teams gave our team an experience that we are all extremely grateful for. Both teams were very technical and had a style of play that we have never played against. Playing against them was not only fun, but also taught us many things about the game.

After our game we went to the train station below our hotel and quickly ate dinner. I’m sure tonight we will all sleep well and wake up ready for the eventful day ahead of us.

Maeghan Howard and Hannah Bodner

Women's Soccer Blog in Spain

This entry was written by Erica Ridella and Caroline Staudle

Day 5 – March 23, 2016

Today started out with a beautiful sun shining through our hotel window as our first day in Barcelona began. We all went downstairs to be greeted by a magnificent breakfast. This breakfast had fresh fruits, all different kinds of breads, pastries, cereals, fresh fruit juice, and even PANCAKES! While sitting down eating our breakfast we met a little boy from Florida playing in an international tournament here. He was very excited to meet us and wanted to take a picture with all of us. We all met outside following breakfast to load the bus and head towards the center of Barcelona. Our first stop was taking a tour of Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, which is one of the biggest attractions in Barcelona. Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is a Catholic Church built by artist Antoni Gaudi that has been under construction since 1882 and is expected to be finished by 2026. The architecture of this church was inspired by nature, which can be seen from the pillars inside the church which look like trees to show there are strong religious roots. On the outside of the church, several stories of the Bible are told through the architecture. The pictures we took at Basilica de la Sagrada Familia really do not exemplify how beautiful the church really is in person.

Following our visit to Basilica de la Sagrada Familia, we headed over to a local market in search for our lunch. This market ranged from fresh meats, to fresh fruits, and empanadas. Most girls on the team got fresh fruit cups and empanadas for their lunch prior to our game. Once we finished at the market, we headed back to the hotel to rest up and get ready for our first match in Barcelona. Our game was played against Sant Gabriel. As we were on the bus headed to the game, everyone was excited to get on the field and see what the Spanish style of play was like. Before the game started we mingled with one another and Sant Gabriel gave us a banner, similar to what you see in professional international games. Sant Gabriel was very technical and quick on and off the ball, which we realized very fast. Unfortunately after a hard fought game, we came up short. Following the match we had the chance to thank Sant Gabriel and their fans for giving us this opportunity to play against them and learn from this experience. With all of us taking something away from this game, we loaded the bus to head back to the hotel where some people grabbed a quick bite for dinner. We are looking forward to an exciting day tomorrow and the opportunity to play another game.

Women's Soccer Blog in Spain

This entry was written by Aaliyah BusbyNicole Cronin and Mikaela Magee:

Today’s journey started with us getting together as a group for the last time in the Valencia Hotel at 11 a.m., to start our traveling day to Barcelona. We traveled for about 3.5 hours until we arrived at Sitges for lunch and sightseeing at the beach. We spent some time walking around looking at all the stores that were on the streets and looking for a good place we could stop and have lunch. We stopped at a local restaurant and sat outside where we took in the scenery of Sitges. Many girls stopped to get different souvenirs from street vendors. There were purses, and sunglasses but as typical soccer girls, we gravitated towards the Nike sneakers.

image4After, we headed to the beach and walked down towards the water to stick our feet in the ocean. Some girls went on the jetty to take pictures of the beautiful view that was in front of us. As we were walking around on the beach we met a group of English soccer players that were in Sitges for a school trip. As our conversation continued, they challenged us to a game of fútbol on the beach and we accepted. Once the coaches arrived we said goodbye to our new friends and headed towards the bus. We stopped for a quick snack and got gelato. We traveled for another hour until we finally arrived in the city of Barcelona.

 

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Anticipation grew as we entered the futuristic hotel. From the moment you walk in you feel as though you are in a space shuttle. There are screens and pictures in the lobby that show what life in space would be like. The theme is modeled after the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey which came out in 1968.

Once we checked in, we all headed to our new rooms and got ready for our Ethiopian themed dinner. We sat low to the ground and ate with our hands like a traditional Ethiopian meal. Unlike the the previous dinners with a variety of courses, this meal included just one large main course. After finishing the delicious meal, for dessert we had a homemade chocolate brownie. After dinner we walked the streets of Barcelona back to the hotel where we had a quick team meeting to discuss the itinerary for the following day. We ended the night in excitement for the next day and our first game in Spain.

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Women's Soccer Blog in Spain

This entry was written by Christine Allard, Kieran DeBiase and Gabrielle Arruda:

Today was our first full day in Valencia. We went downstairs for breakfast at the hotel and there is a distinct difference between the breakfast we had here versus a continental breakfast in America. The café con leche is to die for. It blows our minds how different even something as simple as coffee can taste. The variety of fresh fruits they had displayed beats the fruit served elsewhere. Fresh oranges, strawberries, pineapple and melons were laid out and displayed so beautifully under the breakfast bar lights. They did not have pans of the typical scrambled eggs and bacon because it is just uncommon here in Espana. What they did have was a variety of different meats, although they are not labeled, it appeared to be different types of ham and chorizo. The best part of the breakfast is the tortilla they serve here. It is omelet styled with potatoes inside and everyone on the team agrees it is by far the best part of the breakfast. It is extremely satisfying and starts you off on the right note for the day.

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We drove to a field a couple minutes from the hotel. The field is surrounded by apartment buildings and the atmosphere surrounding you is different than any other practice we have had. Locals stop and just sit and watch for the entire time or even watched from the balconies of their apartments. The sport of soccer, or futbol as they would call is, is so deeply loved by the community that it made us feel honored to be watched by such loving fans.

After a quick shower back at the hotel, we all departed for the greatly anticipated part of the trip, the match of FC Barcelona vs Villarreal. For those who do not know, FC Barcelona is one of the most popular European teams that the greatest players currently play for. You may or may not have heard of Lionel Messi but we were on our way to watch him play and everyone was excited. The stadium, even though it is not one of the bigger ones, is like no other. Our seats had a great view of the entire field and we felt so close to the field. The fans at the match are more dedicated and crazier than any other professional game in America in our opinion. Since soccer is like a religion to the culture, the fans get so deeply invested in the matches that the atmosphere makes the game a lot more fun to watch. The match ended in a 2-2 draw but watching these players on the field was nothing we have ever seen before.

Later in the evening, we went to a restaurant for dinner called La Trucha. Here we ate the popular Spanish dish called paella. They brought out a variety of different tapas before the main course and I know a lot of us were full before even the paella was brought out. When they did bring out the paella, they brought four dishes, and it was enough food to serve about fifty people. It was huge. Paella is made of rice, peppers, chicken and rabbit in a saffron sauce. Many people did not eat the rabbit because it is very uncommon in America but those who did try it said it was very delicious. The paella alone would be an experience in Spain just because of the popularity of the dish in the culture.

Dinner finished around 11 o’clock and we headed back to the hotel to get ready to go out. The entire team headed to a salsa club called K-CHE. Unsure of what to expect, we went inside and were extremely surprised at the fast-paced dance moves. The local Spaniards loved trying to teach us how to salsa and were extremely nice—regardless of the language barrier. We are very excited to explore more of Valencia and continue learning about the amazing Spanish culture.

This entry was written by Dolci Wagner and Shannon Murphy:

Today our team took a trip to the Valencia futbol stadium for a tour. You could imagine our excitement on the bus ride there, as we imagined what we would be able to see. It was an incredible experience to be able to walk through the locker room, out of the tunnel and on to the field; we even got to sit on the same bench that many professional footballers have sat on. In addition, we had the opportunity to see the conference rooms used for the interviews of the coaches and players. Probably the most interesting of all was learning about the history behind the club. We learned that the team colors, orange, black, and white, all had a meaning. The orange represented the famous Valencia Orange (which we must say have tasted amazing), the white referred to the first jersey of the club, and the black bat, which referred to a legend.  In the story, our tour guide explained a battle in which the English were planning a night attack that Valencia was not prepared for.  In the legend a bat flew into the tent and awoke the soldiers to the attack and helped them defeat the English.

After the tour we spent the rest of the day in the center of the city.  The only thing that we were given was a map!  And with no cell phone service we were very limited.  With a map and with Hannah Bodner as our human GPS we were able to navigate through the city and take in the culture. We saw unique buildings, fun shops, and the city market, which was filled with vendors selling  all different types of fresh meats, spices, fruits, and other types of traditional Spanish foods!  Luckily the whole team was managed to find each other for a lunch, before we separated again to go shopping and head back tot the hotel.  The walk back to the hotel may not have gone as smooth. We attempted to navigate our way back to the hotel in groups of 5 with out coaches or Joey (our tour guide). After getting lost a few times and walking about an average of 10 miles we eventually found our way back.

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After a quick nap we were off to the lobby where coach Katie and Jackie Fede graced us with an amazing Spanish karaoke performance. On our walk there they even sang some Justin Bieber for us. After a half hour walk and almost getting locked in a park we made it to the restaurant. It was a  Moroccan style restaurant which we were all a little worried about at first. However, we pushed away our skepticism and tried everything that was served to us. The food was amazing and everyone had a great time trying things we never thought we would.  Many of us even thought that it was the best dinner of the trip so far.

By the end of dinner, we had once again reached the topic of our curfew.  Something that a lot of the players and coaches think is a sensitive topic.  As we have slowly adjusted to the Spanish clock it is clear that everything here happened a lot later than back home.  We were very happy with the 1:30 a.m. curfew the night before, but even that late was very early.  Therefore, the team asked coach what was the latest time that we could possibly stay out.  After taking the walk back to the hotel and a short speech we were given the curfew of 3 a.m.  When we first heard the news, we all smiled but understood that this was a lot of trust that coach was putting into us.

Of course with every plan to go out, we forgot to factor in that it was a Monday night and therefore the first few places we tried to go were not even open. We ended up taking taxi’s into the city. Let’s not forget the fact that about none of the taxi drivers spoke English, but between the 4 people in each taxi we managed to get there and back just fine.  Downtown we had a blast!  Everyone genuinely enjoyed being together and danced the night away!

We are looking forward very much to tomorrow’s adventures!