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Cultural Experiences of International Students in Spain

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Where Are the Real Sports? – The Downside of Erasmus in Spain

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Despite what many believe, erasmus in Spain isn’t all fun and games. In fact, the biggets downside to studying on an exchange program here is just the lack of a certain kind of game: North American sports. On the other side of the Atlantic, football is not king; depending on the region, people’s passion varies from baseball, to American football, basketball, hockey, or, in certain cases, all four. The love and passion we Canadians have for our national sport, hockey, surpasses that of Spaniards for football. We breathe hockey, we live hockey; our great sport is the focal point of many a conversation, and people are often introduced by name and favorite hockey team. While studying here in Spain, what I have missed most from home has not been my mother’s cooking, speaking English, or pasteurized milk; it’s been hockey.

It’s not that hockey is disliked in Spain; everyone loves the occasional fight they see either on youtube or TV. But game broadcasts are more difficult to find than fresh milk. Add the six-hour time difference to that, and watching a game is practically and expedition. Regular season games start at 7pm, Eastern Time. That means 1am Spanish time. That also means the game ends at 4am. Luckily my favorite team plays in the east; were it from the west, I would have to stay up until 6am to watch a game. 

But staying up to watch the games is the easy part. The actual watching part is the difficult task. For that, you need to find what they call a stream, which another internet user broadcasts. HockeyWebcasts is a great source for finding these often illegal stream. It compiles a list of regular broadcasts. The list is not always complete, however; that’s when the going gets difficult and the sports aficionado must do some deep digging. Atdhe is a similar site that provides a list of streams for hockey as well as other hard-to-find sports, as is MyP2P. Streaming sites like Justin.tv and Ustream have come to my rescue in the middle of a intense hockey craving night. In general, the above mentioned sites link to the two latter sites, which are sometimes difficult to search, hence the utility of lists said sites provide. 

So, with a good internet connection, few friends, fewer plans, and an intense desire to watch an event taking place thousands of miles away, it is possible to stay in touch with the North American sports scene. But that would be too easy; streaming is a popular option for many expats and thrifty penny-pinchers who opt for the blurriness of an online stream and therefore slow down the connection. Often while watching game, the stream will lag or stop altogether to buffer. The second problem is streaming’s questionable legality, which periodically leads streams being shut down by a company claiming some violation of some other copyright agreement or some legal blabber of the sort. 

Of course there’s other options out there, if one is willing to pay. The official website of the NHL offers NHL Center Ice, which allows users to watch live games in high quality. For about $150, the user could secure the service for an entire year. But, for those of us studying in Europe, that service is not available. Instead, if we insist on having the highest quality (and legality), we have to sign up Espn 360, an overpriced and unreliable service known for its rude customer service. In view of this, it’s understandable that many opt for a free stream, despite its blurriness. 

Not many people know of these websites; I didn’t when I first got here, and I suffered. Last week, I met someone in my situation from last year. I understood exactly why he spends sleepless nights thinking about hockey; I’d much rather spend those sleepless nights watching it. This great passion we share brought us together, and we now have someone to watch illegal, blurry, laggy streams of games with. Or we could just talk hockey for a few hours over a couple beers. Or over a glass of good, fresh, pasteurized milk, just to combine the two things we miss the most from home.

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Written by gstmaurice

October 7, 2009 at 6:44 PM