Spanish American Institute of International Education - SAIIE - Josh´s testimonial

josh3I’m from Baltimore, MD, and I play soccer at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA.  We have a high-level team, reaching the Elite Eight in Division III last year.  My goal for the semester abroad was to improve while playing with the semi-pro team, and I did just that.  I played with a team called Triana CF, a team in the fourth level of professional soccer in Spain, technically a semi-professional level.  The team was sort of a “stepping stone;” young players on the team were expected to get noticed by more advanced teams and move into a higher level, while older players on the team had been in the higher leagues while in their prime and had come back down to this team as they got older and started to settle down.  As such, the team was a mix of skillful competitive players close to my age and of older, more experienced and smarter players around the age of 30-34.  There was at least one player, Diego, who had played in the second division, La Liga Adelante.
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The atmosphere was quite competitive.  These players take soccer very seriously, and have been playing their entire lives.  The team was in the middle of their season, so it was difficult to get into real matches as I was to only be there for 4 months. However, the program with SAIIE allowed me to play the entirety of two friendly matches, and because the coach liked how I played, I got selected to play in another one.  In addition, we practiced three times every week.  (If that wasn’t enough, I was able to find four other pickup games throughout the week in the city.  In Sevilla there is always soccer to be played).  The players themselves were very skillful, especially in small spaces.  A technical error was extremely rare, and the players were simply smarter than the American players that I’ve played with.  What they lacked a little was physical presence, such as speed and strength.  I know for a fact that playing in the semi-professional Spanish atmosphere greatly helped my technical ability, my vision, and my mental game in general.  I learned how to think ahead, to be aware of everyone around me, to be composed on the ball, and to keep possession of the ball in very small spaces.  Not to mention how much Spanish lingo I learned from talking with the coaches and players – soccer terms and local dialect.

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The staff at SAIIE was incredible.  Although I have something positive to say about every staff member of the school, Sean Chipres, Stuart Chipres and Curro Aleman helped me the most with the soccer team.  Sean is in charge of the soccer program.  He grew up in Sevilla, but his parents are from the U.S. and England, so he is natively fluent in both Spanish and English. He would come with us to the practices to make sure we got there safely and knew where to go.  He also made sure the coaches and players were treating us well and that we were adjusting well to the new team.  He managed to get an article about us into the biggest newspaper in Sevilla, El Diario de Sevilla.  Additionally, he hooked us up with a few weekly pickup game options, even inviting us to play with him and his friends.  Sean’s accomodation went even farther than the soccer playing.  He helped us with any issues we had at our Spanish home, and was keen to hang out with us on the weekends and show us the local scene. 

He was very welcoming to my parents when they came and sat and talked with them during a practice and a friendly game.  Stuart is Sean’s older brother and the director of SAIIE.  Interestingly, Stuart played high-level semi-pro soccer in England about ten years ago, and he continues playing with a semi-pro team in Sevilla.  He acted as a mentor to me as a player.  He would also play pickup games with Sean and me, and would talk to me about my development and what he saw in me as a player.  Stuart is a very kind, classy individual who was able to keep the school organized as a whole.  Curro is another guy who helps out with the athletic programs.  He, too, was very kind and helpful with the program and as a friend.  He would come to our practices and check on us in the same way Sean did, and hang out with us.  Stuart and Curro came with the whole program when we travelled to Morocco.

Josh Kufera, Christopher Newport University (Spring 2015)