Wednesday, 11 April, 2012 - 12:10

Sport in a foreign country

by Jade Braithwaite

As sport played such an active role in my lifestyle at university, I thought this would remain the same when I arrived in Austria, where I expected to meet new people & make new friends quickly by playing with the locals. Once I arrived however, I realised that this would not be the case. I soon discovered that not only did the badminton ‘league’ consist of only six people (including myself & the American assistant), but also that nobody had even heard of the sport of netball (my favourite sport), let alone played it! Nevertheless attending badminton once a week for 2 hours was enough for me, the only female in the ‘league’, to make some friends- even if they were middle aged men & not quite what I had in mind. Here in Austria,  I have learned that you have to take every opportunity you can to a) have a social life and b) speak the language, because once people learn that you are a native speaker of English, they either want to talk to you all the time, in English, or not talk to you at all.
The netball situation really got me down with the fast realisation that I would not be able to play my favourite sport for a whole year! Until I had a brainwave - I could teach the girls (& boys if they were interested) how to play! With this I thought I could kill two birds with one stone: offer extra-curricular help with their English, as well as encourage my German! This however to my dismay did not materialise, due to the sports-hall costing an absolute fortune to rent out for a short period of time, and the fact that not many of the students seemed interested, certainly not enough to form two teams in order for us to engage in a match.
What I did discover instead was a volleyball teacher/student league which is held every Friday night - a competitive night for all. This was where I found all the kids had an interest! A competition against the teachers! I had my reservations about playing, as I assumed that everyone would have some sort of skill & I would definitely be an embarrassment to my team(the teachers) as I hadn’t so much thought of volleyball since I was 16 and playing in GCSE PE.  Thankfully, however, I was wrong! The skills and talent varied between both teams, but nobody was ashamed or let down by any errors made. This was a sport played in the name of fun! I remembered then how much I used to enjoy volleyball!

I have since been introduced to Fistball , a European sport which is similar to Volleyball, except you hit the ball with either a fist or forearm over a net into the opponent’s side. I didn’t particularly enjoy this sport as I was nervous of the ball hurting me because I wasn’t able to use the support of both arms to get enough power behind the ball. Despite the fact that Fistball wasn’t for me, it appears to be quite popular here in Austria and across four other countries: Germany, Switzerland, Brazil & Chile;  with Germany having won the competition 10 times out of the 13 world championships held!

Which brings me on to the sport of skiing!  On arrival in Austria, having no knowledge of skiing, I just assumed that it would be possible to ski all the time. I had no idea that ‘Ski Seasons’ existed. Much to my disappointment, the ski season here doesn’t start until late November-early December as there is no snow in sight!

With my favourite sports either not being on offer or not being popular, I knew I had to try other sports in order to fulfil my wishes to keep up my sporting hobbies and maintain my fitness. In trying new sports I learned not to stick to what I know, but to branch out and experience both cultural differences and new ways to have fun!

Even though I have tried these new sports and enjoyed them, I look forward to returning to my usual sports in the new term next year, with the possible addition of volleyball team membership.


Would you like to play a sport in a foreign country?

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