Ann Arbor — Michigan tight end Ian Bunting has always been in tune with modern music, so during his study-abroad program in Vienna, Austria, after the Wolverines’ week in Rome, he branched out.
Bunting studied classical music and was the only Michigan student in the program who also plays football. He and several dozen of his teammates studied abroad and worked internships and returned to campus recently after having May off to begin summer workouts.
“I gained an appreciation for something that I really didn’t have much of an appreciation for at all before that,” Bunting said of the classical music program. “I was the only football player who did that one, so I didn’t know anyone there. I wanted to do that. Made new friends, got out of my comfort zone a little bit.”
Eight players went to Barcelona to study sports and society.
“It was fun,” offensive lineman Ben Bredeson said. “You’re around the guys all the time, but you’re always seeing them in a football context, and it was cool to be out doing something different with the same people.”
In Brussels, holder Garrett Moores, a political science major, and several teammates — Alex Malzone, Joe Hewlett, Alex Kaminski and Stephen Spanellis — were part of a study abroad program that did not require class attendance but instead had them observing the inner workings of the European Union.
“As a political science major it was cool to get a view of how other governments operate and to see how they match up to the United States. It was a cool opportunity,” Moores said. “It was all meetings with foreign government missions and going to EU meetings and kind of learning the ins and outs of how governments operate in the European governmental spectrum.”
Moores said he would not have pursued that program if Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh had not presented the study-abroad option after the team spent a week in Rome, where they did team-building excursions, toured and held three spring practices.
“The thing about being an athlete here, you don’t really know about some of these opportunities,” Moores said. “That’s why I think it was so great coach Harbaugh kind of opened it up for us and even showed us what it was and then giving us the opportunity to do something like that, I’m very thankful to have him for a head coach to be able to do that.”
While Keith Washington is a football player in the U.S., he gained an even greater appreciate for futbol/soccer while studying sports and society in Buenos Aires, Aregentina.
“I’m a huge soccer fan now,” Washington said. “I bought FIFA (Soccer, the video game) when I touched back down and been playing it ever since.”
Like Bunting, Washington was the only football player in his study-abroad program.
“I became friends with them. I bonded with them, they’re nice people,” Washington said of his fellow Michigan students in the program. “They showed me around. They helped a lot on the trip knowing that my Spanish wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. They were great people and I enjoyed it.
“It was a new experience for me. Got to see a different culture. People over there love their soccer. It was a new thing for me in my life. It gives different students a chance to go to different countries and learn about their backgrounds and historical things and things like that and also just gives you a chance to see the world.”
Bredeson said he and his teammates, mostly offensive linemen, who were in Spain, often would feel like curiosities in a foreign land.
“There were a lot of looks throughout Europe, but you learn to just keep walking,” Bredeson said, laughing.
He said the trip abroad made him realize how easy it can be to travel overseas and also how rewarding it is to interact with different cultures. Bredeson was especially fond of London.
“It was just a very eye-opening month just to be able to go out to Europe and see everything and see how different people lived and how different cultures and how everyone interacts,” Bredeson said. “It was really cool to see the European sense of family and how everybody is always together. It was a really eye-opening experience the whole time.
“After you see everything and you travel on your own, you’re just so much more aware how the world operates and how people operate. I think it’s something everybody needs to do, is travel on your own and not have any restrictions and you’ve got to make your own decisions.”
Bunting loved the food in Vienna, the sausages and schnitzels especially. He took quick side trips to Florence, Italy, Prague, Budapest and Munich.
“It was a blast getting to meet people from all over the world and interacting with people that I didn’t share a language with and had to figure out how to communicate with them,” Bunting said.
After Rome, Moores was part of a group of players who headed north to Florence and then Venice. He also spent time in Munich and took day trips to Amsterdam and Paris.
“So got a good feel for all of Europe,” Moores said. “It’s definitely different reading about a culture and then kind of jumping in. I think the guys that were there, myself included, I think we did well with the culture shock and being open to talking to people and learning new things about a culture, but it definitely gave you respect for the country you live in and the government you operate under.”