As an avid sports fan and a lover of Spanish culture, I figured there was no better way to engage in Spanish society than through fútbol (soccer). During the second semester of my Fulbright year, I became a volunteer at Real Madrid Foundation. As a volunteer, I provided accommodation assistance and customer service for guests with disabilities and special needs at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
After volunteering at soccer games and assisting people with disabilities, this made me realize the influence of sports on human development and community engagement.
Aside from volunteering, I also took advantage of my time outside of Madrid to attend more games. For instance, after the end of the Fulbright Mid-Year Seminar in Valencia, a fellow Fulbrighter and I went to Mestalla Stadium (the oldest stadium in Spanish first division) to cheer the local team. Also, during a weekend-trip to A Coruña, I attended a match between second-division team Deportivo la Coruña and Rayo Majadahonda.
Experiencing the excitement of live soccer games was definitely a highlight of my year in Spain. I understood that culture isn’t limited to museums and language “intercambios”, but that sports have a huge impact on society. Most significantly, I realized that sports and culture are interrelated, and together, can lead to change in society.
My advice to future grantees is this: get involved in your communities by volunteering and participating in local sports. You’ll be surprised at how much you can learn about the culture of your host community.
Brenda Garcia Millan – Fulbright to Spain 2018