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8 posts from March 2011


ABC, 123, Baby you and me girl!

Amy Name: Amy
CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Spring 2011
Home School: Whitman College

In addition to tromping around Barcelona and the rest of the Iberian peninsula, I just so happen to study. Contrary to popular opinion, I study a lot. More than you would expect. This week, I'm focused on midterms but my normal schedule looks a little like this:

Three days a week I trek over to ESCI, a business school near Ciutat Vella, for my Advanced Grammar and Composition Spanish class. The commute takes a disgusting 40 minutes of walking and metro hopping, but I like to think it's worth it. Don't believe me? Here's the building just outside our classroom:

Gorgeous, right? (Photo borrowed from "ramonfrombcn") The class itself isn't so bad either. Our professor, Rocio, smiles constantly, rarely focuses on the lesson plan and is probably one of the most naturally beautiful people I've ever met. Most of our classes turn into conversations about Spanish slang, American TV shows, and Rocio's childhood in Dos Hermanas, a teeny tiny village in Andalucia. We listen to songs, watch videos and read short stories and articles from an exercise book. It's adorable.

Rocio also just so happens to be good friends with another professor of mine everybody calls Nando:

That's him during a field trip to Plaza Espanya. He teaches a CIEE class called the City in Visual Culture. On Mondays we tour the city and on Thursdays Nando lectures, in Spanish, about the art and architecture of Barcelona. Our big project is a mega-huge research paper. Mine is about the use of architecture as a political tool during the 1980's after the fall of Franco.

My next class, Composition Four, is at the architecture school affiliated with the International University of Catalunya. It's pretty wild. Half a dozen of us CIEE kids tromp up to Sarria, a neighborhood way up in the mountains, twice a week to get a little taste of a real deal Catalan classroom. We usually start about 20 minutes late, students wander in and out throughout class, and we don't have any assignments until the final project, which counts for LITERALLY 80% of our grade.

Said project is a model, exposition panel and presentation about a mixed use housing development designed by Coll Leclerc Architects. I'm working with three Catalans and a French exchange student named Lucille. We generally rely on Spanish to communicate but throw in English, French, doodles and interpretative dance when necessary.

My final class is an architecture studio at CIEE. We're currently designing a live/work space for a single mom with two teenage children. The site:
Is currently occupied by a wonky building that doesn't really fit in with the rest of the street:
Amy4 Our goal is to design something with better street presence that satisfies the needs of a mama and her two children. I'm nearly ecstatic because the site is smack dab in one of the very few enclaves of green in the city of Barcelona:

Amy5 Tot bé!

*Amy's previous post to the blog can be seen here.
**Her personal blog, with lots of funny stories, is here.


Student Video

Ruthanne, a Fall 2010 Language & Culture Student, just sent us this great video she made of her time in Barcelona. We love it!

Thanks for sharing, Ruthanne! Come visit us soon!

BARCELONA from i2uthanne on Vimeo.


I love Barcelona Culture

Lauramora Name: Laura
Position at CIEE Barcelona: Registration & Grades

En esta maravillosa ciudad como es Barcelona se pueden hacer muchas actividades y me gustaría animaros a visitar tanto las Bibliotecas públicas como los Centros Cívicos que seguro que tenéis cerca del barrio dónde estáis viviendo.

Biblioteca Las Bibliotecas públicas os ofrecen no sólo un espacio dónde poder estudiar tranquilamente, leer o coger libros prestados. Puedes conseguir el carnet simplemente con tu pasaporte o carnet de identidad y además es gratuito. En muchas de ellas se ofrecen talleres, cursos o incluso charlas con escritores o críticos literarios. También puedes tomar prestadas películas de DVD y ¡también cd’s de música!
Link de interés

Photo: Biblioteca Joan Miró (L1 Plaza España)

Centre civic Casa Golferichs Los Centros Cívicos son centros culturales que hay casi en cada barrio, seguro que tenéis alguno cerca de casa o residencia. Ofrecen muchas actividades culturales, así como exposiciones de fotografía o pintura, espectáculos de danza, conciertos,  música en directo, voluntariado, cursos de baile y muchas otras actividades. ¡Os animo a que descubráis qué centro cívico tenéis cerca de vuestra casa y qué actividades podéis realizar allí!

También son sitios dónde podéis conocer a mucha gente.
Link de interés

Photo: Centro Cívico Casa Golferichs (L1 Rocafort)

Por último, una actividad con la que disfruto mucho y me gustaría compartir con vosotros es una propuesta que se ofrece en el Cine URGELL, (L1 Urgell), que se llama “Phenomena, The Ultimate Cinematic Experience”.  Proyectan películas de los años 70, 80 y 90 en una doble sesión donde el público aplaude y silba durante la proyección de la película, incluso hay gente que se disfraza de alguno de los personajes de las películas (las últimas que vi fueron Rambo y Close Encounters of the Third Kind!!) y ¡¡la experiencia es muy divertida!! Las películas por lo general son en V.O.S. (versión original con subtítulos en español). El próximo jueves 31 de marzo doble sesión de Desafío Total (Total Recall) y Aliens. Hay que coger las entradas con antelación. Link de interés.
Cine urgell


Lluís Domènech i Montaner

Do you know who Lluís Domènech i Montaner is? The New York Times just published a great article about Barcelona's often overlooked architect:

Barcelona’s Other Architect, Domènech


One of his most famous works is the Palau de la Música Catalana (above). Tours of the Palau are available at 12€ (they do offer a student discount), but you can often get tickets to a concert for around the same price. Check out their concert listings online.

Hospital sant pau If you're looking for a good afternoon walk, check out the Hospital Santa Creu i Sant Pau, a beautiful multi-acre hospital complex designed by Domènech. A diagonal semi-pedestrian street links the hospital to the Sagrada Familia. This is a great place to take an afternoon stroll and take pictures. Click here for more information.


Architecture Student in the City

Abby Eras Name: Abby
CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Spring 2011
Home School: Arizona State University

One of my favorite parts of being an architecture student in Spain is learning the history behind buildings and then getting to see them in person!

A building really close to the CIEE Study Center, with a great story is Casa Batllo. Designed by Antonio Gaudi as an apartment building, it was inspired by the story of St. George and the dragon. Legend has it a town was terrorized by a dragon demanding daily sacrifices of young girls. So in an effort to save the last girl in town, the king’s daughter, St. George slayed the dragon with his lance. Now when I walk by Casa Batllo on my way to class I get to see the balconies that look like skulls of the sacrificed, the roof, which has an appearance of dragon scales, and the tallest part of the building made to look like St. George’s lance.

Aecasa batllo Casa Batlló designed by Gaudí

AeSagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia designed by Gaudí

Also, our study of architecture hasn’t been limited to Barcelona. The first week in February the design program visited Valencia and had tours of the Valencian architect Calatrava’s City of Arts and Sciences, a group of buildings based around entertainment. Calatrava was influenced by Gaudi and liked organic forms and nature. On the L'Umbracle building are tree like columns that were inspired by the columns inside Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. Also, one can see the many different ways Calatrava played the human scale and reflections in the water by creating a giant eye on the L'Hemisfèric building. My favorite part of this building is that you can whisper into one end of the eye and someone on the other side can hear you.   

AeL'HemisfèricCalatrava's L'Umbricle in Valencia

AeCalatrava! In Valencia on an Architecture & Design trip

AeInside the Opera There is no doubt that both Gaudi and Calatrava created breathtaking buildings but some might be surprised to learn they are not always the most practical. For example, in Calatrava’s Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, the opera house, there is a big foyer for intermission but places to sit, and no built in bar to sell refreshments. While in Casa Batillo most of the walls are curved so it is difficult when you are setting up a room. Where can a piano or bookshelf be put? However, that being said, these buildings are breathtaking in person. So when visiting Spain don’t forget to see them!  

**Check out Abby's last post here.


la fiesta de Sant Medir


Name: Mar
Receptionist at CIEE Barcelona

Hoy han empezado algunos de los Festejos de Carnaval en Barcelona.

Mar blog1
Yo vivo en el barrio de Gracia, que entre otras cosas podría caracterizarse por tener aun muchas fiestas tradicionales que se siguen celebrando año tras año, y es que es un barrio dentro de Barcelona que por sus calles estrechas parece un pueblo.Mar blog 2
Así que hoy se está celebrando la fiesta de Sant Medir,  es una fiesta que empieza de buena mañana, hacia las ocho me he despertado por el ruido de la “traca”(  son unos petardos), que inaugura la fiesta y hacia las diez ya estaban pasando por debajo del balcón de mi casa,  carros tirados por caballos y las personas que van en estos carros lanzan caramelos, la gente sale con paraguas y los ponen al revés para poder recoger los caramelos(es la forma más efectiva).  Así que durante todo el día las calles están llenas de niños y adultos recogiendo caramelos y viendo como los carros, los caballos y la música que sigue a los carros inundan el barrio.Mar blog 3


Flip flops in February

Chris3 Name: Chris
CIEE Barcelona Program: Liberal Arts
Semester: Fall 2010 & Spring 2011
Home School: University of Colorado at Boulder

Apparently there are seven cardinal sins, I wouldn’t know what they are because I’m not religious nor enough of a Brad Pitt fan to have seen Seven. Regardless, I can guess what would make the list. However, in Barcelona there seems to be an eighth: wearing flip-flops in winter (I’ll wager it didn’t make the first seven). When described in magazines, newspapers, and travel guides Barcelona is usually preceded by adjectives like young, stylish, diverse, and open-minded. No doubt, Barcelona has an exciting flavor and all of those adjectives apply, but flip-flops seem to be the point where style and open-mindedness collide. Style comes out on top, but at least the collision provides some great entertainment.

On the first day of orientation, a short six months ago, our group of salmon-polo, khaki shorts, flip-flops wearing students received a short presentation about how to blend in, and clearly we needed it. We were recommended to look around and see how Spanish students dressed, and it was noted that in general Spanish students tend to dress up a bit more for school.

While walking around Universitat Pompeu Fabra it’s easy to see what is fashionableBcnmullet2 these days. Despite numerous students bringing brightly colored “Spain clothing” the trend is definitely in the darker colors, particularly shades of grey and black. Up top Spain has some very distinct hairstyles. Generally guys sport shorter hair and use a good amount of gel, and for the ladies bangs abound. However, the most noteworthy hairstyle is undoubtedly the dreaded mullet.  A dreaded mullet? Think military cut up front, Lil Wayne in the back. Actually it’s not really fair to generalize the dreaded mullet, after all within the genre there are several sub-styles. Always business up front, but the party in the back varies. Some go for a single long dread, some for a few long dreads, some keep their dreads short, resembling tarantula legs, and, in the most extreme cases, some ornament their single dread with jewelry, key chains, and other jingly-janglies. Looking down you’ll find clogs, sneakers, slippers, heels, and boots. All of these fall within the realm of being stylish. No flip-flops.

During the fall semester, when hot temperatures made between-class beach stops a necessity, flip-flops were tolerated. Wintertime is a different story and, despite the incredible weather, it’s clear that my California born philosophy of “sun’s-out-toes-out” is not shared in Barcelona. So, around late October when the beach visits stopped, I started with the grey sneakers and brought out my darker jeans. Being blonde and pale skinned makes looking like a local a near-impossibility, but I made an effort to adopt the style. However, despite my best efforts, sometimes wearing flip-flops cannot be avoided. In my case, wearing flip-flops usually results from the combination of general laziness and nice weather. Lately there has been an abundance of the latter, and honestly there is never a shortage of the former (which explains why you’re reading a February blog post in March). Luckily, in comparison to the US, Spain’s laundry machine rates are significantly higher, so I can claim that my lack of clean socks and apparent laziness toward simple chores is instead an example of my frugal nature. Regardless, I’ve been wearing flip-flops in February.

I got used to the strange looks after a couple days. A couple people shook their heads. Even the nice weather didn’t deter some people from asking, rhetorically, “aren’t you cold?” Bcndreads
The standout moment came as I was walking from the metro to class at the Casa. A fellow pedestrian, himself rocking a dreaded mullet (a few long dreads, nearly hip-length, in case you were wondering), casually approached until he suddenly caught sight of my flip-flops and stopped dead in his tracks. He shot me a horrified look, threw his hands up, and yelled “estás loco?!?!” Despite the stinging irony of having my style be called crazy by guy with a dreaded mullet, I quickly responded “no estoy loco. soy loco!” Feeling witty thinking I had just said, “I’m not crazy today, I’m crazy all the time!” I later realized that instead I said something along the lines of “I’m not crazy, I’m actually mentally insane!” Joke’s on me I guess.

Nowadays I have clean socks so I’m back to wearing stylish grey sneakers. I figure I have two weeks before I’m back to flip-flops, and hopefully by then spring will be in.

*For more on Chris' adventures, his blog is here. His last CIEE post is here.


Sevilla...The other side of Spain

Chriss1 Name: Chris
CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Spring 2011
Home School: University of California, Berkley (enrolled through Spellman College)

Last weekend, we had a chance to see a side of Spain that couldn't be mistaken for Barcelona. Sevilla is in the south of Spain, a region called Andalucia, and it's known for being the birthplace of Flamenco, the home of legal bullfights, and host to the world's third-largest cathedral. The most interesting aspect for me was the mix of Muslim and Christian cultures and history - you could see it in the buildings, hear it in the music, and taste it in the food. It definitely prepared me a bit for heading to Morocco this weekend!

A view of La Mezquita through the small, charming streets of Cordoba.
We arrived in Sevilla along with 50 other people from our program. The itinerary for Day 1 was to visit the Cathedral (seems to be a common pattern in these cities), tour the juderia (the historic Jewish neighborhood), and attend a Flamenco concert at night.

The Cathedral was massive - it was overwhelmingly tall, and the columns were like redwood trees going up to the vaulted ceilings. The highlights for me were the colorful stained glass windows (I know I sound like I'm much older than I am, but they were cool), the sarcophagus of Christopher Columbus (a handful of his actual remains are in there), and the top of the Giralda - the belltower attached to it. The Giralda was interesting because although it was hundreds of feet high, there were no stairs. There were 34 ramps that led to the top. Why? Because when the city was occupied by the Muslims, a man would ride a horse to the top 5 times a day to call the city to prayers. 

Look how high these ceilings are at the Cathedral in Sevilla!

We also toured the Juderia - the recently restored neighborhood that hosted the Jews before they were expelled from the city. Our tour guide told us that Jews used to hang pigs from their doors to show they had converted to Christianity and could remain in the city. It was fascinating seeing both the clash and somehow harmonious mix between Jewish, Muslim and Christian culture. That night, we went to a Flamenco show and to say the least, it was intense. I'd describe Flamenco as Arabic sounding music, spanish Van Halen guitar playing, and a high-horsepower tap dancer. It was awesome.
The intensity of Bruce Willis in Die Hard, combined with Rambo - in the form of tap dancing.

After a night's rest in a nice hotel, we headed for Cordoba - a smaller city 150 km outside Sevilla that is known for it's Mosque - wait... Cathedral? No one knows.

Here's the problem: It's a huge Mosque that can fit 30,000 muslims in prayer, but when the Christians took it back over, they decided it was a Cathedral now. Accordingly, they did a little extreme home makeover and removed the entire central section and made it a Sanctuary - a beautiful one at that. So basically, this building is a Jelly filled donut with Mesquita red brick arches on the outside, and a Cherub decorated, mahogany lined Sanctuary as the jelly filling. In Cordoba, I ate a great meal of Oxtail, fried eggplant, and fried sweetened milk - it was amazing and I won't forget it for a while to come.
The Roman (what?) bridge leading into the Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish city of Cordoba - ancient Euros didn't learn how to share.

The Arches inside la Mezquita of Cordoba. 

And more, and more, and more arches (800 columns inside)
Our tour group from Cordoba. Note our tour guide, Antonio, on the right. He was nice, but very touchy feely - he wasn't afraid to put his arm around anyone. Would it fly in the US?
Our last day in Sevilla, we spent visiting the Palace of Sevilla. It's not like all other palaces in Europe - it's got a TON of Muslim influence. The colorful tiles line the entire exterior and interior. You can't appreciate how intricate it is until you walk up close. What's more, the history of the Palace was mind-blowing - our Audio Guide told us which room had been occupied by centuries of kings, which room was the place where the government decided to allow the first voyage to America, and which room generals made decisions to go to war dating back to 1300. It felt strange to be standing in the exact same spot in the palace - only separated by time. 
Inside the Real Alcazar (Palace) of Sevilla.
The patio inside the Real Alcazar.
I would recommend Sevilla to anyone that wants to experience authentic Spain. The tapas, the colorful buildings, the orange trees lining every street and the traveling guitarists that walk from restaurant to restaurant to sing outside - It's a complete experience.
*For more of Chris' blog, click here.
**Chris' previous post is here.