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5 posts from December 2011

12/23/2011

A royal visit

FundacioPrince Philip of Spain speaks at the Fundacio del Principe de Girona in Barcelona, with Advanced Liberal Arts students in attendance. Source.

     Students from the ALA program had an unexpected surprise: they were invited to attend a meeting of the Foundation of the Prince of Girona held in Barcelona. The meeting was conducted by the Prince and future King of Spain, Don Felipe de Borbón!

La foto 1La foto 2     The event took place in the Palacio National de Montjuïc, now the location of the National Museum of Art of Catalonia. In addition to the speech given by Prince Felipe (Philip in English), there were presentations by the mayor of the city of Barcelona, Xavier Trias, the president of Catalonia, Arthur Mas, and the Minister of Education in Spain, Ángel Gabilondo.

     Students particularly enjoyed the keynote Address given by the president of the University of Luxembourg and international education specialist, Dr. Rolf Tarrach, who spoke about some of the fundamental differences between the European university system and that of the US.

La foto 3     But the real surprise came a little later when, at the end of the event, the ALA students had the opportunity to personally meet the Princess Letizia and Prince Felipe! The prince spoke to them about his time as a student at Georgetown University where he spent two years. During the conversation, Don Felipe thanked our students for their important contribution to the internationalization of Spanish university and congratulated them for their excellent knowledge of Spanish.   La foto 5

12/22/2011

I wish I could do it all over again

Name: Reid
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. 

Reid

With my Guardian Angel, Arantxa.

12/20/2011

it's all what you make if it

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

I have been reflecting a lot on my semester abroad as my time in Barcelona is coming to an end. There are certain activities, locations, experience and meals that have stuck out to me and I know that I will cherish these memories forever. For any student studying abroad I think it's all what you make if it. I came to Barcelona wanting to improve my Spanish and broaden my knowledge of Spanish and Catalan culture. I didn’t know what to expect when coming to Barcelona because everyone told me how they all spoke Catalan and that worried me. However, after being in Barcelona for 10 minutes I realized how easy it was to still use Spanish.

My mother had studied abroad in Madrid her Junior year in college and to this day she is still fluent. I have had two Spanish exchange students live with me (each for a year) so understandably the Spanish language and culture has been apart of my life, without me ever having stepped foot in Spain. I boarded the plane in JFK ready to make my own abroad stories and ready to improve my skills.

From waiters to taxi drivers, academic teachers and my choir teacher, everyday I have noticed my Spanish getting better. I have lived in a homestay and my señora has done everything possible to make me feel at home and comfortable. She has taken me Sevillana dancing with her friends and introduced me to many family members. Without having her to speak Spanish to everyday I know my skills would not be as strong as they are today. I also joined the choir at UPF. This allowed me to practice my Spanish skills with 18 local students once a week. UPF truly felt my university when I was able to walk around campus and say hi to familiar faces of the local students. For me, my true test of how much Spanish I had learned came in early November. I went to Mallaga where my two Spanish exchange students live.

Keagan and her sisters

Keagan in Malaga with the two Spanish exchange
students that lived with her in the states.

For 72 hours I didn’t speak one ounce of English if for no other reason then most of the people I met only spoke Spanish. I felt so confident because everyone could understand me and I no longer had to think about what I was saying when I spoke, I could just speak. I am thankful for my time abroad and I know that if I hadn’t made the most of my time here I would not be as confident in Spanish or know as much about their culture.

See Keagan's last post (about her homestay) here.

12/19/2011

Bones Festes from CIEE Barcelona

Originally posted dec 2010:

We made this video to send as a holiday card to our colleagues, students and friends around the world.

Warm wishes and happy holidays from CIEE Barcelona!!!

12/01/2011

Dwindling

AvaniName: Avani
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language and Culture
Semester: Fall 2011
Home School: Tufts University

Each day I freak out a little more about leaving this place I've learned to call home. I was stressed about this feeling the minute I booked my ticket to Spain, and I (as I always do) tried to run away from it for as long as I could. But now, as the countdown hits the low 30's, I have to snarl at my departure with gritted teeth.

But. What lets me stop the fight I put up with my eyelids each night (not wanting to miss another minute of this city), is thinking back on all that I've seen. What's interesting though, is that I am more smitten by the spontaneity of each little day-to-day pleasure, than by the grandeur and touristy attractions.

I hadn't realized that until today. After what felt like a wasted Saturday followed by amplified antsy-ness of not having many more nights to waste, I was taken back to my first few weeks in Barcelona. I stumbled on a plaza I hadn't yet seen, talked to an old couple that made my heart as warm as the Starbucks holiday drink in my hand, made perfect time to sit in on a mass, somehow found a SICK break-dancing show, ran into a friend on the streets, and stuffed my face with arguably the best waffle I've ever had.

It's things like this, that they don't show you in the pamphlets and the guided tours and the websites, that make Spain what it is. An open-armed hidden gem with a funky air that's just a little bit lighter than what you breathe back home.

Please, don't make me cut the umbilical cord.

Avani1

Avani2

Avani3

*Check out Avani's blog and her last post.