When Samantha “Sami” Foulk ’22 applied for a Student International Initiative Fund (SIIF) grant before beginning her study abroad experience in Spain, the occasional surfer knew she wanted to explore the culture and history of the sport on the coasts of Europe. The sociology major and Seattle, Wash.-native also wanted to expand her worldview through the sport’s fan base.
Through a SIIF grant, Foulk traveled seven hours to Peniche, Portugal where she received a global perspective attending the ninth stop on the World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour. “I was able to enjoy the surfing competition while focusing on language and cultural aspects, from getting to know people in my hostel to the overall environment of the competition.”
At her hostel, Foulk met travelers from Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and other international destinations who came to watch the competition. She spoke to fans and surfers throughout the weekend, switching from English to Spanish and even attempting Portuguese.
“Nearly everything about that weekend was priceless,” she says. “We spent the day watching the best surfing in the world with some of the most endearing and funny people I had ever been around, watching the reaction of the crowd and the champs, and then celebrating back at the hostel with stone-cooked pizza and endless conversation.”
In retrospect, Foulk believes that the competition provided an ideal environment for her questions. “Competitive surfing is the only sport I can think of that celebrates and respects surfers from any country that offers swells. The athletes may be fierce when competing, but out of the water they get along as if they were family,” she says.
Foulk says her experience helped her gain a deeper cultural understanding of the role of the sport in bringing together an increasingly global world. “The celebration of sports has always been a world-wide language,” she says. “The mutual love for surfing allowed me to befriend new people from many continents.”