Back to SummaryRebecca Dru - Student Advisor Profile
As an international student studying in the US, originally it might seem strange for me to be going back to Europe for a quarter. But after hearing all the great stories from friends and teammates about their experiences, the Bing Overseas Study Program seemed like another opportunity to live and study abroad that I couldn’t refuse. Ever since being recruited as a prospective Cardinal, the thing that really stood out at Stanford was the opportunity that some student-athletes (especially those competing in the fall) have to study in a foreign country. In leaving campus for a quarter, each returner’s contribution to the team when they return is often enhanced, due to a new perspective on their sport – often one that is more mature, independent and resilient.
Without a doubt, I knew I couldn’t take a complete break from the sport I love, nor could I neglect the need to train while I was away from my team. Back in California, I was certain that my teammates would be conditioning early in the morning, running beyond what was thought possible, and honing their skills, every single day. Within a week of arriving in Madrid, I was on the lookout for any opportunity to play field hockey.
The staff at the International Centre helped me find a club so that I could begin training with a local team. Little did I know that the people there would become my closest Spanish friends and that they would be the part of Madrid that I would come to miss the most. They reminded me of the fun side of sport, of training just because you want to see your teammate improve week in week out, and they also gave me a platform from which I could step outside of my comfort zone, both physically and (of course) linguistically. I improved my Spanish and learned about the culture exponentially through playing hockey, and I would recommend to anyone living/working abroad to go out and seek a chance to play sport in that country. There is no better way to get to know the locals and to learn a new language than by competing side-by-side with, in my case, a Spaniard.
Not only did field hockey impact my time in Madrid, but the ‘el clásico’ (Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona in football) showed me even more about the true culture of a Madrileño. They showed me that a Spaniard didn’t have to be at the game to support his/her team raucously, that fans of both squads can mingle in the bar while watching the game without violence or personal attacks erupting from the emotional racket, and that you can’t possibly be a neutral watcher of the game! Passion is the name of the game, and I still find myself now defending Real Madrid to the hilt in debates with friends from both the US and abroad. Although I couldn’t quite afford to go to one of those matches, what with so much riding on them, I could attend a game vs Bilbao, and afterwards I came to realise what a small-town feel Madrid had about it. The streets were packed with people, you couldn’t move in the metro on the way home, and the victory (3-0 Real Madrid, of course!) led to a huge celebration in bars and cafes throughout downtown Madrid, which were just a walk away from the Estadio Bernabéu.
The only time I saw more people in Sol, the part of the city in which I lived, was during the many protests that took place in the Plaza del Sol, right in front of the government building. It seemed like there was a weekly march by a group of older people calling for dictator General Franco’s staff to be brought to trial for crimes committed during the dictator’s reign. Then there were student protests over educational cuts, airport workers’ demonstrations during their strike and general marches against austerity measures that were affecting every layer of the Spanish society. Every Madrileño cared and were willing to get up and do something about their situation. Again, passion is evident at every street corner, and I wouldn’t have wanted to live in a place with any less of a vibrant, spirited and dynamic population.