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Aug. 1, 2011

Alicante, Spain – South Carolina left-handed pitcher Michael Roth is having a busy summer. Fresh off the second consecutive national championship for the Gamecocks and an All-American season, the Carolina southpaw headed across the Atlantic Ocean for a study abroad program in Alicante, Spain. Roth, an international business major at South Carolina, earned first-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors and won the NCAA Elite 88 Award as the student-athlete with the highest GPA at the 2011 College World Series. Here is a Q&A with Roth on his experience this summer.

How are things in Spain? How has your experience been so far? Are you enjoying it? Where are you living and what are you doing each day? Do things change?

Spain is incredible. I’ve had such a blast here and have learned so much about Spanish culture and myself. Upon arrival, there definitely was a culture shock, especially when having to deal with changing flights and being forced to speak Spanish on your very first day! Since the first night in Alicante, I have been staying in a homestay. I live with a Spanish woman, Ana, and she is known as “Mi Madre” (ha ha). She is an elderly woman and cooks all three meals for me almost everyday. I have two other roommates who are also students. One of the students is from Canada and is in the same program as me. My first roommate was an Italian girl, Lulu, who was studying Spanish at another school in Alicante. A guy from Japan, whose name I still can’t quite understand because he doesn’t speak English and very little Spanish, replaced her. As far as the normal day goes around here, there isn’t really one. The only thing that remains constant is that I go to class from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. I am taking a three-hour Spanish grammar course and then immediately following I take an hour-long conversation course. After class, I return to “mi casa” and eat lunch, check out the Internet a bit and head out to the beach, shop, or hang out with friends. For six days, I had a three-hour windsurfing course that was really fun. I struggled early on with it but my best day was my last day. I like going out on top I guess. I love going to the beach and that is pretty much a mainstay in my day whether it is for an hour or two. Normally I won’t go back home until about 8:30 p.m. or so because I’m just hanging out with my friends here and relaxing. Dinner here is really late especially in my house. We normally don’t eat until 10 p.m.! It sounds crazy and I’ve definitely had to adjust my eating habits accordingly. After dinner I will either do some homework, take a nap in order to prepare for the night, or head to bed early. Most nights we all meet back up to hang out for a few more hours whether it’s enjoying the beach at night or enjoying the nightlife in Alicante, or just grabbing ice cream and sharing stories. It really has been awesome to meet so many cool people. I will definitely miss them and the city very much.

How does your Study Abroad program work? Can you describe how this was arranged and what you were looking for in the trip?

All the hard work was done through our Study Abroad office at South Carolina. I knew I wanted to study Spanish in Spain and I had a limited amount of time in which I could do it. I worked with the office and we found the programs that fit my dates (July only obviously because of the CWS) and then it came down to what was the best bang for my buck. I had many options of places to go in Spain but the reason I chose Alicante was because it was known for its beautiful beaches, nightlife, and Spanish speakers. Some places like Barcelona and Valencia speak more Catalan than Spanish. Alicante was the best place for me to practice my Spanish.

What are some of the differences between Spain and the United States? What have you noticed that surprised you? What didn’t you expect?

There are plenty of differences with the most obvious being I was forced to speak Spanish from the second I arrived in Madrid with my flight. My first day in Spain was horrible because I missed my flight but it was a wonderful learning experience. I learned a ton about Spanish culture in that one day. For example, Spanish people are very relaxed and are never in a rush. Not even when there are ridiculously long lines. I noticed that many people who were late for their flight just cut to the front and were able to check in. Had I known this I would not have missed my flight! Culture shock was definitely part of this trip but not in a bad way. One thing I can’t wait to get home to is my car. Riding the bus everyday gets old and gives you so much time. Normally it takes me 30 minutes to ride to school on the bus but it is only seven miles away. Also the amount of walking I do is immense. After the first week, my feet were killing me because if you want to go somewhere you have to walk or ride the bus. And usually walking is the quickest! I probably walk over five miles a day here, but it has been good for me since I have not had daily workouts.

How is your Spanish coming along?

My Spanish is coming along great but it is definitely a lot different when you are immersed in the language. My first week was a little difficult to understand what was being said for many reasons. They pronounce some stuff differently. Also, they speak fast and don’t slow down much. I can understand almost all of which is being spoken to me but if I come across two Spanish people talking to each other, I can barely pick up what is going on in their conversation. Four weeks of only Spanish was wonderful and very helpful but I need another five months of so before I am fully confident in my speaking and comprehension abilities.

How much baseball have you discussed with the people you have met there? Do they know who you are and where you are from?

Before I had even left for Spain, one of the guys that was in my program messaged me via Facebook because he plays baseball at the University of Tampa. Thus, we automatically had something in common. I didn’t talk much about baseball but when you are getting to know people and vice versa things that are important to them in life come up. I of course mentioned I played, since it plays such a vital role in my life but as far as the notoriety I had received in the past year and half I don’t think they know about. Which is just as well. In my four weeks here, I realized many things but one thing for certain is without the group of people I met and became great friends with, my time here would not have been as much fun as it was. I met a wide variety of people who all come from different backgrounds. One of my good friends here worked in a factory for 40 hours a week to be able to pay for her two-month study abroad in Alicante. Hearing people’s stories and journeys through life is always inspiring and what made this trip what it was.

What do you still have left to do on your trip? When do you plan to return home? Are you ready for another season with the Garnet & Black?

I am currently writing this during my last day in Alicante (Saturday, July 30). All of my friends through the program had flights out today to head home or travel Europe. (Sunday morning), I board a train headed to Barcelona in which I will be meeting my sister there. We will be in Barcelona until Wednesday. Wednesday we are flying to Paris and will be there until Saturday. My sister is heading home that Sunday August 7th and I then have one more day in Barcelona alone. My flight home is August 8th. Being over here has been a great break from baseball for me mentally and physically, however, I am ready to begin workouts and get back out on the field. I’ve had a long enough break from competing and now it’s time to get back to work and get ready for my final season as a Gamecock!