CIEE Barcelona Program: Business and Culture
Semester: Fall 2011
Home School: Georgetown University
I initially did not want to come to Barcelona, but it wasn’t because I was scared of living in a completely different country thousands of miles away from home. I wasn’t worried about losing the familiarity of my school, family, and friends. What I was worried about was whether or not I would actually have a good time. I love the United States of America and everything about it. I love the food, my friends, driving wherever and whenever I want, and being able to speak the national language fluently. With a beginner level in Spanish where I only knew the present tense, I thought I would be struggling throughout the whole semester. What did studying in Barcelona have that America didn’t? They don’t put ice in their water, and they don’t have fast food open past 12. I have probably never been more wrong about something in my entire life.
Thanks to CIEE I was put in the perfect home stay. My Senora, Marcella, is the sweetest woman in the world. She is always so patient whenever we have any misunderstandings, which happen quite frequently. But we always found a way to get around it even if it required a little help from Google translate. Thanks to her, my Spanish has improved dramatically and I have grown to love it. She’s perfect about privacy, makes amazing meals, helps me learn about Spanish culture, Argentinean (she was born in Buenos Aires), Italian (her father was Italian and she speaks fluent Italian as well), and of course Catalan culture. And she was always so interested in where I came from and learning about America since she has never been.
One of the best things that CIEE offered that made my experience and life in Barcelona incredible were our Guardian Angles or as we call them our GAs. CIEE split us into groups with 1 GA in charge of each group. The GAs are Spanish students that we actually take classes with. It was because of them that I was able to learn the city of Barcelona so quickly. They helped us to understand the cultural differences, show and take us to great local restaurants and bars, and show us the nightlife. It was so much easier to meet other Spanish students and make friends through them as well. I was even invited over to one of my Spanish friends houses to have lunch and meet her family. They made a pretty authentic Catalan lunch that lasted 3 about hours.
The amazing thing about studying abroad in Barcelona is the central location it has in Europe. I still can’t believe I got the opportunity to travel around Europe on any random weekend. Never in my life did I believe I would travel to Switzerland to snowboard in the Swiss Alps or venture over to Morocco. I actually went to Africa and all before I have even turned 21. Studying abroad in Barcelona provided me with the opportunity to travel around Europe with my friends on a whim. If I wanted to see Germany, Prague, or even Amsterdam, I could. It wasn’t a matter of “if,” but “when could I find the cheapest flight.”
CIEE provided us with trips to Madrid, cities close to Barcelona, and even a hike up the base of Tibidabo where we got to experience a traditional Catalan mountain and drink wine out some sort of vase. And even then, Barcelona is a city with so much history it is impossible to soak it all in in one lifetime. In the U.S. we have history and pride, but in Barcelona I realized they have a different sense of history and pride as well. You can feel the Catalonian dynamism in any restaurant or café; wherever you hear people speaking Catalan. And in the midst of presidential elections this past semester as well as the crippling vigor the people of Barcelona have for their FC Barcelona soccer team; it’s impossible not to fall in love with this city. The city itself is alive; it has a certain dynamism to it that for the first time in my life made me actually feel alive. I intend to return here as soon possible, even potentially live here for a couple of years.
I’m from Southern California in Los Angeles County and even then I’d say that Barcelona is the greatest city in the world. The beautiful beaches, the beautiful girls ;), the beautiful Spanish and Catalan they speak here, and the pride and love for the city that you can feel each day made my experience here unreal. Especially the way CIEE structures our classes, I never felt lost in this city. We all made friends on the first day we were here, and our small classes with each other really helps us get to know each other quickly whereas compared to other programs that have their students scattered across the city. I have made friends here that I’ve already planned on visiting next semester.
Choosing to study abroad with CIEE in Barcelona was single-handedly the greatest decision I have ever made in my entire life. As I write this on my 3rd to last night in Barcelona, I wish I had the ability to convey how this experience thoroughly changed my life. It has been the happiest 4 months of my entire life and I sincerely suggest/ensure when you step into my shoes, you will finally understand. I can still remember stepping off that plane. It’s crushing me to see my semester come to an end, and I wish I could do it all over again.
With my Guardian Angel, Arantxa.