Maika: Finding value in the tangible experience

During a recent trip to Amsterdam with a group of sport management students, I had the unique opportunity to experience sport in another country. Thanks to our gracious hosts at our partner institution, Johan Cruyff University, we were exposed to high-performance sport in the Netherlands in a variety of areas.

Visiting the 1928 Olympic Stadium, a historic rowing club and watching a professional field hockey game helped build an understanding of the Dutch sporting culture. Being billeted with students who are currently national level athletes in synchronized swimming, golf, soccer, field hockey and dressage riding gave me an appreciation for the dedication these individuals have to their sport and academics in order to prepare themselves for the future.

I was also thrilled to experience being among a crowd of 50,000 spectators at a UEFA championship qualifying match between the Dutch national soccer team and Moldova. Sitting through 90 minutes of play in the pouring rain in a stadium packed with fans, I saw national pride and dedication to one’s team that is rare among North American spectators outside of exceptional circumstances such as the Olympic Games. It was interesting to see how history and geography have shaped a very different sport culture in this European country than we are a part of here in Canada.

I am tremendously grateful the Western graduate program in kinesiology gives students the opportunity to internationalize their studies – be it by welcoming exchange students, bringing in guest lecturers or giving students the chance to experience study-abroad trips. It is always exciting to meet new people and learn about a new culture.

But what I really liked about our trip to Amsterdam was, while we did spend time with typical tourist activities with a canal cruise, a visit to the windmills and a citywide scavenger hunt, the program was centered on my interests.

As with most anything we learn, there is value in gaining tangible experience.

Yes, we can read about the culture of European soccer; we can research it; or we can watch it on television. But being at a game provides a whole new level of understanding. Getting to meet our online ‘classmates’ is also meaningful. Rather than just seeing others in the course discussions as online usernames, we now have acquaintances and friends to learn along with. As students who hope to enter the professional field of sport, we are building an international network of other sport-minded individuals.

I hope this trip will continue to be offered in the future and Western students will extend an open invitation to host students from our partner institutions who may be interested in coming to Canada for a reciprocal exchange experience.