Study-abroad trips ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ for UM players

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — The laughs ensue. They always do.

When Michigan linebacker Jared Wangler reveals that after the team’s trip to Rome concludes, he will be heading to Iceland to study fairy tales in Iceland as part of a three-week study-abroad program through the university, it’s hard not to giggle.

“Everyone gets a kick out of it,” Wangler said Tuesday after practice. “And we even got a kick out of it at first, but when we went into the orientation for it, it’s all about creative writing.”

The program is offered through Michigan’s Center for Global and Intercultural Study (CGIS), and Wangler will be joined by teammates Henry Poggi and freshman Will Hart along with other Michigan students as they earn three credits studying Norse fables and contemporary fairy tales and the art of creative writing.

Michigan’s football team is leaving for Rome on Saturday, part of a master plan by coach Jim Harbaugh to, as he says, “put the college back in college football.” The team will practice three times in Italy, but will also sightsee, attend an opera and a cooking class and have a papal visit at the Vatican, among many other activities.

Once the trip concludes after a practice on April 29, many of the players — most never have traveled overseas — have decided to stay and do a bit of traveling on their own for a few days before heading to various parts of the world to participate in three-week study-abroad programs.

“Honestly, I didn’t know much of it,” Wangler said when asked what he knew about Iceland. “I actually thought it was a big glacier. I thought it was so far north. I learned vikings named it Iceland so that everyone wouldn’t go to it because it’s so pretty. The culture looks amazing. I’m excited. Get a cool learning experience.”

Garrett Moores is a political science major at Michigan, but many know him as the Mortell Holder of the Year winner last season. His celebrity might be too much while he studies the European Union in Belgium.

“I don’t think that will be a problem,” Moores said, laughing.

His study will not involve classroom work, but he will attend meetings with security councils and ambassadors, among others.

“It will be very fun to get a hands-on feel for politics,” Moores said.

Keith Washington, a cornerback, will return to Detroit after the Rome trip, and a day later will leave for Buenos Aires, Argentina, for a CGIS program.

“Why not go to Buenos Aires, Argentina? That’s what I figured,” Washington said. “They’re big soccer fans down there. I love soccer, so I wanted to go down there and try out a new environment, a new experience.”

He will be the only student who plays football on this study-abroad trip.

“I’m going by myself, but with a couple other classmates from school,” said Washington, who is a general studies major with a focus on business. “Michigan has got a lot of nice students, nice people that make you feel right at home, so it’s no biggie for me.”

Ben Bredeson and a few of his offensive linemen teammates will visit Florence for a few days after leaving Rome, and then he will head to Barcelona to study “sports in society.” He will be in class two to three hours a day and then will have time to explore the city.

“You learn how sports affect different institutions and structures and how people react to it,” he said, having just taken a similar course at Michigan. “I thought it was really interesting, and when I heard about the opportunity to study it abroad I jumped right on it.”

The players said if they were currently being recruited by Michigan and saw that the program was traveling to Rome this year, and that Harbaugh has said he plans to take the Wolverines to South Africa next year, and then Japan and Israel, this would weigh heavily in their decisions.

“Absolutely,” Bredeson said. “You don’t see anybody else in the country doing this, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If a school and a football program can offer that to you, I think that’s an incredible bonus over other schools.”

Washington, who is from Prattville, Alabama, said it definitely could affect a recruit’s decision-making.

“I feel like Michigan is real hot right now, signing with Jordan and Coach Harbaugh, a big name in the media,” Washington said. “Why would a kid not want to come here and play football? You’ve got a chance to go overseas and do it with your teammates, the people you strap up with and love.”