ISA Study Abroad Student Blog

The “Ultimate” Sport in Valencia

Michelle Hawkins is a student at Mount Mary University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently interning abroad with ISA Internships in Valencia, Spain.

Do you play a sport or have a hobby? Why not bring it with you on your study abroad experience? That’s exactly what I did when I came to Valencia for my summer internship. For me, playing Ultimate was a quick and easy way to meet locals who shared my interests.

I’ve been playing Ultimate (frisbee) for about six years, and have played at the college level and on club teams, but have mostly stuck to recreational play the last few  years in leagues back home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. When I packed my bags for Spain, I made sure to throw in some discs and my cleats just in case I had an opportunity to use them. All it took to find a local team was a Google search and a quick Facebook message (where better to practice your Spanish than a local Facebook group?) to find out where and when the team meets to play.

Friday evening game with Murciélagos Ultimate Valencia team.

While it may be growing in popularity exponentially in the U.S. with professional leagues occasionally making the SportsCenter Top 10, Ultimate is still working to find footholds in Europe, but most major European cities and bigger university towns will have teams. I previously studied abroad in Germany and was able to play with a team in Bonn. There are also some great European tournaments like Windmill Windup in Amsterdam in June and Valencia’s own XeQueBo! Beach Tournament in October.

Teammate and I (right) at Women’s Indoor Nationals Qualifying Tournament. Osnabrück, Germany, 2012.

While it can be daunting to walk into a group that has played together for years and has great team chemistry, Ultimate is all about creating a welcoming environment, no matter your skill level. I think this comes directly from a key rule built into the creation of the sport, Spirit of the Game. Spirit of the Game is akin to sportsmanship within Ultimate, and is what sets the completely self-officiated sport apart from others. To quote the World Flying Disc Federation: “Highly competitive play is encouraged, but should never sacrifice the mutual respect between players, adherence to the agreed-upon rules of the game, or the basic joy of play.”

Playing a sport with native speakers is also a great opportunity for learning area-specific vocabulary. With Ultimate, when you’re on the line, the first question you are usually asked is ¿Te manejas? (Do you handle?) Which way is your team forcing? ¿A la calle o a mar? (street or ocean) With drills, are you ¿ataques o defendes? (attacking or defending)

Handler looking for the open player downfield at a Murciélagos Ultimate pick up game.

Ultimate is all about having fun and enjoying an active sport with others from around the world. Here in Valencia, I play with people from all over Spain and Europe, and even with other students from the U.S. We meet twice a week at the beach so stretch your calves if you’re used to playing on grass!

The world awaits…discover it.