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Garnet Athletic Teams Combine Competition and Cultural Experience

Before arriving at the College for the fall semester and start of the 2017 season, three of the College's varsity sports teams traveled the globe for preseason training, combining athletic preparation with cultural enhancement.

​In total, Garnet teams visited three countries: the volleyball team traveled to China; the men’s soccer team visited Barcelona, Spain; and the women’s soccer team journeyed to Costa Rica. All three trips were funded by the individual teams through a combination of fundraising and support from parents and alumni.

During its 14-day visit to China, the volleyball team honed its skills against world-class competition and immersed itself in the Chinese culture.

The team visited the cities of Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, Beijing, and also made a stop at the iconic Great Wall of China. In addition to sightseeing, the Garnet taught volleyball clinics to local children, met the Chinese Olympic gold-medal winning volleyball team, and dined with Swarthmore alumni Michael Xu '12 and Wu Ti '13.

It was an especially impactful trip for Alice Liu ‘18, a biology major from Cupertino. Calif., whose relatives were able to see the team play in Suzhou. Among her relatives was Liu's 84-year-old grandmother, who had never seen her play volleyball live.

“I was grateful that I could share one of my passions with her,” says Liu.

Watch below as members of the volleyball team share their favorite moments of the trip and read more about the team’s journey.

​For the men's soccer team, the trip to Barcelona from Aug. 2 to 14 offered a challenging soccer environment with plenty of opportunities for exploration.

The team toured La Sagrada Familia, Montserrat, the historic town of Girona, and F.C. Barcelona's famous Camp Nou Stadium, among others. The Garnet also performed a community service project with the Ronald McDonald House of Barcelona.

On the pitch, the Garnet played friendly matches with several Catalan football clubs, visited a professional training session, and attended an El Clásico match between F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“One of the most important experiences someone can undertake is the opportunity to travel,” says head coach Eric Wagner. “Traveling with your brothers on the team takes that experience to another level. Sharing amazing sites in and around Barcelona, playing Spanish teams in their own environments, and performing a service project in the community in which we were immersed is something we will never forget." Read more about the men’s soccer team’s trip.

The women’s soccer team got to experience “pura vida," as Costa Ricans like to say, when it traveled to the Central American country from Aug. 8 to Aug. 16.

Along with playing against some of the top professional clubs in Costa Rica, the team discovered the natural beauty of the country’s tropical rain forest and participated in several action-sports activities such as zip-lining, white-water rafting, and swimming at the base of a waterfall.

“We thoroughly enjoyed getting to learn a little bit about the culture, the foods, and the history,” says head coach Todd Anckaitis. "The activities that we did were tremendous team-building opportunties and combined to make this the adventure of a lifetime - pura vida!” Read more about the women’s soccer team’s trip.

The women's soccer team at the Rio Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.

Ronald McDonald House Barcelona

The men's soccer team following a volunteer project at the Ronald McDonald House of Barcelona, Spain.

Great Wall of China

The volleyball team at the Great Wall of China.


The women's soccer team in front of the Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

Men's soccer in Barcelona

Members of the men's soccer team go sightseeing on the streets of Girona.

Emma Morgan-Bennett '20

Emma Morgan-Bennett '20 in action against a local club.

Women's soccer match in Costa Rica

The women's soccer team following its second match of the trip.

Men's soccer at El Clásico

Members of the men's soccer team at the El Clásico match between F.C. Barcelona and Real Madrid.

Volleyball team with members of China's Olympic gold medal team

The volleyball team with members of China's Olympic gold medal team in Nanjing.

match against CE Llerona.

The men's soccer team prior to its match against CE Llerona.

The women's soccer team at the Rio Fortuna Waterfall in Costa Rica.

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