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5 posts from October 2011


Walking in Barcelona

KatiecropName: Katie
CIEE Barcelona Program: Economics and Culture
Semester: Fall 2011
Home School: Fordham University

When you look at a map of Barcelona, it is easy to be overwhelmed by what appears to be a rather expansive city. Conveniently, there is a metro system that can drop you off practically anywhere that you desire. Initially, I found this to be a major advantage to living here, and as a college student of a University in New York City, it honestly offered a bit of comfort in an unfamiliar atmosphere. I was content in taking the metro everywhere I needed to go, but I wasn’t too fond of the stuffy hallways during the seemingly never-ending Barcelona summer (not that I’m complaining). After a certain point, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and try travelling by foot.

Blog6Casa Batlló

Because my homestay is only about a 20 minute walk from CIEE, I have always walked there to avoid paying for only one stop on the metro. On this walk down Passeig de Gracia, I am able to see two of Gaudí’s masterpieces: Casa Battló and La Pedrera. Seeing these works of art every morning gives me an instant, daily reminder that I am experiencing a potentially once in a lifetime opportunity living in Barcelona.

Blog4Carrer del Porto Nou, La Ribera/El Born

Carrer de la Princesa, La Ribera/El Born

From CIEE I have to commute to classes at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra which is located by the beach, a decent (but reasonable) distance from “La Casa”, the CIEE study center. Because I have enough time in between classes, I decided to take a leisurely walk from La Casa to UPF. This walk takes me through the barrio La Ribera/El Born which is a maze of tiny streets with charming little café’s and stores that I try to stop in when I have the time.

After I pass through El Born, I walk by el parque de la Ciutadella and Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, both of which are beautiful sights, and great places to sit, relax, and enjoy the scenery.  By the time I am out of class, I can walk home just as the sun is going down.

Blog3Arc de Triomf

After dinner, my friends and I sometimes meet up near my homestay, in el barrio Gracia, where a lot of young people in Barcelona hang out in the evenings. The neighborhood exudes a youthful energy that I can feel as I walk to Placa Del Sol, a common meeting place.

Blog2Barrio Gracia

Placa Del Sol, Barrio Gracia

Something about Barcelona makes it enjoyable to simply be here. I find myself walking all over the city, which has gotten smaller and smaller as I’ve explored more and more. I am able to get enough exercise to allow me to indulge in all the Catalan cuisine my heart desires, while at the same time experiencing the city of Barcelona first hand. As for my use of the metro, it is continuing to decrease, because I just can’t imagine missing everything above ground.


UPF Lip Dub

The University of Pompeu Fabra is the host institution for the Language & Culture, Liberal Arts, Economics & Culture and some of the Business students. In 2010 they made this great lip dub video. The first minute is a bit slow but jump to 1:15 - it is really impressive!


Music is an international language

KeaganName: Keagan
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language and Culture
Semester: Fall 2011
Home School: Elon University

I have been singing my whole life and since 4th grade I have had some sort of, if not more than one, singing group that I have been involved in.  Living in a homestay and in an apartment was very different for me especially not being able to sing all the time (for the sheer act of having neighbors surrounding me everywhere).  Therefore, I knew that I needed to find some singing outlet. 

When I was walking around UPF I saw a flyer with a picture of the chorus and then I emailed Elena and asked her if there was a UPF choir and how I would go about getting involved in it. She was so helpful and gave me a link to get more information.  After I went to the “SACU” office at UPF and they helped me out. Practices are Tuesdays 7pm-10pm so a pretty big chunk of time, but I like to be singing again. 

There are about 26 people in the choir and two other Americans beside myself. Though the teacher speaks Catalan I have no problem understanding her because that’s the beauty of music – it’s an international language that no matter where you are in the world you can understand. 

We are signing “White Christmas” in English, which is one of my favorite songs, so I’m excited to share/perform a little piece of home with Spain. The teacher had the other Americans and I teach the rest of the choir the proper way to pronounce all the words which is a reverse of what happens on every other song!  I enjoy being able to practice my Spanish with the students that sit near me and they enjoy getting to practice their English as well. It’s like my own intercambio with 26 people. 

We have a welcome to UPF performance on Thursday the 27th at 2:30pm for all UPF students this year. I’m excited to be performing in another country, it’s something I never thought I’d get the chance to do. 

UPF Choir

Check here for upcoming events where you can see Keagan sing at the UPF!


La merce en resumen

5cda9224c2ce59deae6271a6ba67285b Name: Kristen
CIEE Barcelona Program: Advanced Liberal Arts
Semester: Fall 2011
Home School: Gordon College

Cómo resumir un fin de semana entero, lleno de actividades increíbles, en solo una entrada de blog, está fuera de mi capacidad; por eso perdonadme esta súper simplificación de lo que hice este fin de semana para la Mercè.

Puedo resumirlo en 3 categorías:

  • Actividades específicamente españolas/catalanas, incluyendo los “gegants”, un desfile, los “castellers”, y, por supuesto, el “correfoc”.
  • Conciertos
  • Diversión con mis amigos

Empecemos con los eventos específicamente españoles y catalanes:

Ya mencioné los gigantes en mi entrada previa, pero lo chulo es que esta vez pudimos verlos en exposición (sin gente dentro) más tarde, y esto fue muy guay. Mi cámara ha muerto, así que robé esta foto de una amiga de facebook.

Kristen1 Mi amiga, la tortuga enojada.

Además del baile de los “gegants” que vi la noche de jueves, también tuvimos la oportunidad de ver un desfile de estos, con tambores, fuego y confeti, y otras cosas maravillosas.

Kristen2 Si crees que esta criatura encendida parece peligrosa,
¡espera a que te hable del “correfoc”!

Pero creo que mi parte favorita del fin de semana fue los “castellers”, las torres humanas. No puedo expresar lo increíble que fue verlos. Básicamente, la gente trepa y se paran encima de los hombros unos de otros. ¡Se hacen torres de hasta nueve niveles! Es inexplicable. Y yo estaba muy cerca de la acción, después de pasar con dificultad en medio de un montón de gente que estaba allí. Estábamos todos atestados en la Plaza de Sant Jaume, pero valía la pena, porque era algo maravilloso de ver.

Kristen3 Kristen4 En serio, no se puede expresar con palabras qué chulo es.

Pero lo que está en segunda posición para mi evento cultural favorito de la Mercè es el “correfoc”. Significa algo así como “fuego que corre” en catalán, y es básicamente un grupo de gente loca vestida como demonios que corren por una calle principal en Barcelona, llevando tridentes de fuegos artificiales que tiran chispas a la gente que mira. Además, los gigantes participaron en el “correfoc”—la mayoría eran gigantes asquerosos, pero había unos que no lo eran. Equiparon a los gigantes con fuegos artificiales para lanzar chispas al público. Las fotos de este evento fallan en mostrar lo que pasó; por eso incluiré un vídeo que hice, incluyendo los gritos de socorro cuando las chispas me tocaron. ¡¡Muy divertido!! (el vídeo)

Sin embargo, debo incluir también unas fotos de la noche, para vuestro entretenimiento. Recuerda que puedes hacer clic en algunas para verlas mejor:

Kristen5 Esta bestia monstruosa da mucho terror.

El cerdo gigantesco.

Kristen 7
¡Me encanta esta vaca!

Todas estas cosas que he contado me hacen súper feliz de estar en España y, más específicamente, de estar en Barcelona. No puedo imaginar estar en otro lugar. ¡Me encanta estar aquí!

Quiero escribir sobre el resto de lo que hice este fin de semana para la Mercè, pero como no tengo tiempo, voy a resumirlo muy rápidamente. Vi: merengue, jazz, swing, rock, “Man Man” (La única banda americana en la Mercè), electrónica, y muchos otros tipos de música, en vivo, ¡gratis! También pasé mucho tiempo conociendo mejor a mis amigos, escuchando música de los años noventa, yendo a un circo (que fue un poco una decepción), y caminando por la ciudad—a veces perdiéndome. Fue muy divertido. ¡Ojalá pudiera hacer esto cada fin de semana!


Catalan Folklorico: Castellers

Teka Name: Teka
CIEE Barcelona Program: Architecture & Design
Semester: Fall 2011
Home School: University of Colorado Bolder

I joined the Castellers through an interest group offered here at CIEE. The group Catalan Folklorico sounded interesting, so I joined. Turns out, this group focused on Castellers. If you don’t know what this is, do not be alarmed. It is just human tower building. It has been part of Catalan culture for over 200 years. The record is ten stories/people high. And at the very top are the kids. And we were going to practice this… Mostly this involved faking it by practicing climbing up a person (yes, there is a special technique to this… specially developed during two centuries). A big part of Castellers practice is helping support the base. We were helpful enough that we got t-shirts!

We were supposed to participate in the competition the next morning, but the rain cancelled it. However, there was still practice…. at the next practice I was the only one from the group that showed up. This actually was a blessing because I was forced to mingle. Everyone from Gracia is very nice! (Gracia is the barrio that these Castellers represent). I spoke with many different people, of all different ages. This activity is definitely unique in that aspect. The strongest (young adults and older kids) make up the core of the towers. The littlest kids are at the top of the tower. And everyone else—young and old—help support the base. I met young adults my age as well and had a wonderful time practicing my Spanish/Castelleno. One of the guys also said that a group of kids my age went out Fridays after practice for dinner. The other amazing aspect of this activity is that it’s regular. This means that I have the opportunity to not only make friends, but keep them! I’m excited to go back, and we have a competition in November as well. Until then I’ll be practicing my climbing!

IMG_0666IMG_0679*For more about the castellers (and some impressive videos) click here!