The University of Minnesota soccer program is set to take a trip to Italy from March 10-18. The program aims to do an international trip every four years, giving student-athletes an opportunity to see the world.
GopherSports.com revisted with the last group of student-athletes to travel with the soccer program. Katie Thyken, a 2014 graduate, traveled with the team to Spain while she was with the Gophers. She shares some of her experiences on the trip, and what the current team, and anyone, can expect when they travel across the Atlantic.
You can follow the Gophers 2018 trip to Italy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The team will have opportunities to play against Italian teams along with visiting some of the biggest landmarks the country has to offer and it will all be captured on either our social platform or GopherSports.com.
GopherSports.com: Tell us about what you remember most from the trip to Spain.
Katie Thyken: What I remember most about the trip was spending time with my teammates and getting to know them all better. We spent so much time together while traveling, touring sites, eating together, and playing soccer that I got to know them all better. We knew each other as we traveled a lot in the United States for college games, but there is something about seeing a new country and getting new experiences with someone that lets you get to learn more about them.
GS: What can something like an overseas trip do for a team?
KT: An overseas trip can bring a team much closer together. It brings people closer experiencing different people, cultures, foods together. Plus there is lots of downtime traveling overseas to play card games with teammates in the airports and play trivia on planes with them.
GS: What can something like an overseas trip do for an individual?
KT: The overseas trip gives an individual the chance to experience new cultures and people. Plus, some people have never traveled outside the country, which is a great experience that I would recommend to everyone. Other countries are great to experience as they are all different and have lots of history.
GS: Did you play any soccer teams while you were over there? How did those go for you and the team? What are some of the differences in how soccer is played there?
KT: We played three teams when we were in Barcelona. Each game was close and the Spanish teams played a very different style of soccer then the teams in the BIG 10. The teams played a very fast pasted possession oriented style, which was great to help us learn how to defend that type of team and be able to learn to adjust ourselves as the game continued.
GS: Outside of soccer, what did the team spend the most time on?
KT: We also got to see a Barcelona soccer game which Messi scored four goals. It was incredible atmosphere to be able to experience. There is so much energy in the fans and players. The Spanish fans love their soccer.
GS: What were some of the more memorable spots/sights?
KT: I loved visiting the Sagrada Familia. It is a beautiful Roman Catholic church in the heart of Barcelona. The stain glass windows made the inside of the church shine in different colors and the outside has some great architecture. There was also some great architecture at the Park Guell. We also got to tour Barcelona's stadium, Camp Nou, which is a huge stadium that seats almost 100,000 people.
GS: Do you have any specific memories/stories from there?
KT: One of my best memories from Barcelona was that when we were done for the day and before we had to be back at the hotel, we would all go walk around the streets to find a restaurant which had churros. They were so delicious and even better when you would dip them in the hot chocolate. I think we figured this out on night three, and ended up doing it whenever we could the other nights.
GS: What was the best dish you had while overseas? Is the food in Europe as good as everyone claims it to be?
KT: My favorite thing that we got to eat in Spain was paella. It is a rice dish with vegetables and meat mixed in a large pan to share. The seafood paella was delicious as it came with fish, shrimp, scallops, mussels and more. It was also great to share with others.
GS: For some of the kids going on the trip in 2018, it will be their first trip outside of the United States, what do you suggest to them? Do you have any pointers?
KT: I would say don't be afraid. I think people are scared to travel because of the stories they have heard. You learn so much and get the best experiences when you travel, and having your team there will make it a blast and less scary.
Be sure to come back to GopherSports.com to find the Spring schedule release later this week along with other entries from past Gopher soccer student-athletes.
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