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6 posts from April 2012


Intermediate Spanish short film contest Spring 2012

This semester the CIEE Intermediate Spanish courses competed in a short film contest. Which do you think should win?

1. Siempre Sobre Los Hombres

2. Viaje a Barcelona

3. Más Que Un Amigo

4. Una Noche en La Vida

5. La Cena

6. Laia's Labyrinth

7. El Tresoro Secreto

8. Real World Barcelona

9. Alunas Cosas que Estudiantes Americanos Dicen en Barcelona

10. Estudiando en Barcelona: Lo que la gente piensa que hago

11. Els Quatre Gats y... Una Rata

12. Hambre de Sangre



Learning from Myself

Name: Sam
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2012
Home School:  Lewis & Clark College

I decided one day that I needed to get out of the city. Barcelona is a vibrant city but it still possesses the melancholy common to all cities. So I set out to Montserrat alone, determined to feel better. My hope was to make the pilgrimage to the monastery and find relief from the solitude that had been dogging me for some time.

I arrived in the early morning by train, excited to be doing something. Lately it had become so easy to not try, to give up on walking the streets in the hopes of meeting strangers so they wouldn’t be strangers anymore. Breaking out of the American bubble had been easy, but lack of any real success in finding another bubble had killed my motivation. Here, though, the air was clear and bright and the sky—reflected in the river— held the promise of something sweet.

Sam2But instead of finding the path that a kindly man described to me as “muy tranquilo,” I trudged up a steep side trail. Within the first half-hour, I was sweating, breathing heavily, and declaring the once-charming sun to be my worst enemy. Eventually I broke out onto the normal path and began wending my way through the mountains. It was nice to see green things for a change; I grew up with nature right outside my backyard and I didn’t realize how much I’d missed it.

When the monastery came into view, I decided not to approach and took a side-path. I wanted to keep walking. I came to a small chapel, but I didn’t stay long, instead following signs away from buildings and people and towards the caves of Salnitre. A small rise revealed a long curving trail snaking through the brush. It looked daunting. A gasping man and his two sweating, shirtless boys assured me it was worth it. I was skeptical but even though I knew would be submitting myself to several hours of hiking, curiosity and wanderlust pushed me onward. But I suddenly felt free of time’s constraints; it wasn’t even noon and I had the whole day to explore these mountains.

As I walked, my thoughts and observations drifted by, unfiltered and indiscriminate, careless and impermanent.The land slept beneath my feet, the infinite sky stretched out, the plants reminded me of home, the wind breathed coolly onto the honest sweat on my face. So when I found myself at the top of a valley, it seemed like the only thing to do was to shout “No me digas!” and listen to the echo. And it suddenly felt okay to be alone.


…but we just got here!

Name: Brittany
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2012
Home School:  Providence College

It’s nearly impossible to believe that in just a few short weeks I am going to be on a plane on my way back to the United States.  I can’t help but think, “Did I get the most out of my experience?” or, “Did I do all of the things that I wanted to do in this beautiful city?”  After looking through my pictures from the very beginning of my trip, the very obvious answer to these questions is YES.  I have never been in a place where I saw something new every day.  Having so many new experiences daily is the reason why it seems as though I have just arrived.  Saying that there was never a dull moment, is quite the understatement.

I am definitely going to miss walking around the city and discovering new hidden places that make my friends and I say “we have to come back here!” But if we went back to all of these places, we would have to be here for an additional semester.  Just when you think you’ve seen all of Barcelona, there is always something more.  I am so grateful for the all of the beautiful sights that I have been able to see and many of them, the most beautiful sights I’ve seen in my life.  These are just a few highlights:

  Brit1Breathtaking sunset at Tibidabo

  Brit2Port Vell Perfection

 Views from Montserrat   


Appreciating nature and parks

Name: Tatum
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2012
Home School:  University of Scranton

Coming from Long Island where there’s not much scenery to see besides miles and miles of flat land, Barcelona has made me appreciate the beauty of nature so much more. Ever since I got to Barcelona I noticed how people really enjoy sitting outside and walking around, just in general, they spend more of there time outside compared to people at home in the states.

Park citudellaWith that being said this past weekend I took some time out and dedicated an entire day in Park Citudella. My friend and I walked in on the left entrance of the park and we found ourselves watching many Spanish people play ping-pong for fun but having a competitive aspect as well, of course. Then we walked up the fountain from behind and saw many birds bath themselves in the curiously green water of the gold fountain and tourists taking picture in front of the famous fountain.

We decided it was time for a beer in the hot weather and sat down at the little café right in front of the fountain. Not only was I appreciating the artwork of the fountain but the nature that was incorporated into it. There were so many trees in it and surrounding it giving some of the stairs shade from the sunlight and a variety of birds flew in and out perching themselves in various places on the fountain.

Afterwards we rented row boats on the tiny lake for 6 euro for half an hour (but they don’t keep track of the time your out there so you can stay a little longer if you like). It ended up being a beautiful relaxing day. I will definitely continue to spend more time outside because it’s the natural beauty of nature that is most breathtaking.



AmaeliaName: Emaelia
CIEE Barcelona Program: Business & Culture
Semester: Spring 2012
Home School: Portland State University

My eldest sister, Rana, did a study abroad in Spain almost 10 years ago. During her year in Cantabria, she met O, a friend of one of her Spanish roommates. It is my belief that they were setup to fall in love, but that is open to debate. Rana says that the roommates told her to watch after O for the day. O assumed that Rana could not speak very good Spanish, and so spoke to her very slowly. Rana assumed that O spoke slowly because he was mentally slow, and responded with equally slow Spanish. They spent an hour behaving this way before they got coffee. When Rana spoke to the waiter, O realized his error. After a laugh over the situation, a few weeks, and several more walks and coffees, they fell in love. Rana returned to the states to finish her degree, and a year later went back to live with and eventually marry O. Rana and O now live in Maliaño, a town outside of Santander.

So this weekend I took another trip to Cantabria to visit Rana and O. Friday I ate lunch with Rana's in-laws, a friendly and open bunch of people. They make me feel right at home, just like visiting my own aunts and uncles. O's parents, brother, and grandmother live together in a flat in Santander.

EM1 On Saturday, we drove up into a mountain in Cantabria. We enjoyed the sites of the winding road, speckled with tiny villages along the sides. It was cloudy on the way up, but the mountains are a site to behold all on their own. We drove mostly through a canyon, with nets placed on the cliff sides to keep falling rocks from landing on the road or anyone using it.

 In one town, we stopped to take a walk around. The small flows of water that come down from Spanish mountains are important for getting fresh water in the city. While in the US fresh water is hardly scarce, here in Spain it is a valuable and diminishing resource. Over the last few years, the country has suffered summer drought, and Cantabria, usually known for heavy rainfall, has also been quite dry.

O and Tiki's father, Doro, is a friendly fellow that enjoys his drink and making other people drink. Within three minutes of entering his home, I had a drink in my hand. He is trying to learn English in order to communicate with Rana and my parents. It is a bit like reading Dick and Jane books with a very heavy Spanish accent, but he gets the point across. It is also his self-proclaimed duty to ensure that everyone does everything correctly. Namely, he tried to teach me how to use a fork "the right way." I hold my fork the way I hold a pencil. Useful end down, handle between forefinger and thumb, and other end on top of hand. He wanted me to put the other end against my palm. Try writing or drawing like this, I dare you.

Doro's wife, Dori, is a cheerful and warm woman. She is the very example of a Spanish mother, always wanting to feed everyone. She is also the very example of a Spanish woman, always causing a fuss. While riding in O's car to visit sites on Saturday, she suddenly pulled out her perfume bottle and began spritzing it into the air. The remainder of the day, the two of them argued about it. But, she is a wonderful cook, patient when speaking to me (as my Spanish lacks almost as much as Doro's English), and means well with her actions.

EM7 We went to another village to enjoy some typical foods of the region. This noodle filled broth is made from the water used to cook garbanzo beans.

 Garbanzo beans, various sausages and meats, and boiled cabbage make up the regional food traditions in these mountain villages.
The Spanish love meat. They eat cow, pig, sheep, goat, and yes, horses. This pasture was filled with mares, all pregnant with fowls.
Before leaving the mountain, we made one final stop at a cafe. The cafe is owned and operated by a pastry factory. These flaky and delicious desserts are called Corbatas, which in Spanish means bow-ties. A sweet filo-dough topped with almonds and an almond based, hard, frosting.

It is always enjoyable to visit my sister and her Spanish family. I am aware that most people do not even know where Santander is, let alone plan to visit it. But if you like folksy small towns it is lovely to visit. And the beach, while not as warm as Barcelona, is very beautiful.

Santander Travel Guide:

See Emaelia's last post here: and her blog here:


adventures with my host family

Matt4Name: Matt
CIEE Barcelona Program: Liberal Arts
Semester: Full year (Fall 2011 - Spring 2012)
Home School: Tulane University

The second weekend of February was my host mother’s birthday weekend. My host family is the best—sorry, this is not up for debate. Case and point: a new bar opens across the street from us. I stop in on a Monday night and grab a quick nightcap which leads to catching up with the neighborhood gang. Its 12h45 and who walks in? My host parents and the neighbors from below, to grab a few rounds and play some foosball. That’s quality. So this Saturday, we break out the cava, sing some songs, and eat more food than I can ever imagine while people constantly stream in all through the day. I thought that was pretty nice, but it turns out that was just celebration number one.

Matt 14Matt's Host Mother, Rosa

Matt 13My host family in Terraco, where they have another house and we often go with friends -of theirs and mine.  These photos come from october of last semester when I took another CIEE LC student who was in a homestay across the street from me.

Matt 1111Birthday. Round 1

The following weekend we skip town for Vilafranca for the most amazing calçots every tasted by man at Ca N'Ayxelà. When we first arrive, there are 10 of us, we make our way downstairs to a wine cellar where we get bottle after bottle of cava and eat the most amazing fuet and botifarra blanca. I should remember one small caveat here: I had been sick with a 40ºC fever for the past 4 days and taking the miracle drug Efferalgan like it was candy. The last thing I needed was to be drinking in a cave, but if Patch Adams taught me anything it is that the best thing I needed to be doing was to be laughing and in good company—and sure enough, by the end of it all, I didn’t feel so bad. But there was a long, long, long meal to go first. We drank red wine through a porrón (, a beautiful work of glass with a long spout to allow you to “shoot” the wine into your mouth at a long distance—preferably arm’s length. We drank cava as well, of course. We ate artichokes, more sausages, salads and, of course, pa amb tomàquet (!!!) by the plate full.

Matt 12
Matt 111
But the best part of a calçotada is the mountain of calçots. I was going for the record—250 in 45 minutes. I think I got about 30 in before I hit the wall. But these delicious, freakishly large onions were made impossibly better thanks to the best salsa romesco that I had never tasted. Praise Jesus it was even a little spicy (I’m looking at you, les patates braves) and it was so satisfyingly rich. We then had café, crema catalana, chupitos (hierba!) and more cava—but possibly not in that order.

Matt 11
The only thing to do after a meal like that was to play soccer. Wait, what? Yep, there was a makeshift soccer field out back and a ball was lying nearby so, well, do as the Romans. A 5-v-5 broke out, and later when the ball was shot over the goal into the nearby olive field, I jumped the fence to recover it. While I was down there, I saw something in the dirt. IT WAS A PORRON! FROM GOD! We took it back as our trophy, washed and cleaned it, and now I have yet another incredible souvenir from Barcelona: that porrón I pulled out of that olive field that one time I was playing soccer against my host family. Such, such were the joys.

Matt 1At Amics de la UNESCO

When I am not at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra, I am often working at my internship with Amics de la UNESCO. As I recently wrote for a CIEE newsletter: “Having the opportunity to work for Amics de la UNESCO is a rare experience. By day, you work with a dynamic and creative team from all over the world. By night, you participate in cultural expositions that introduce you to worlds you hadn't imagined. When you study abroad, you look to be taken out of your norms and challenged by the reality of living in a different culture. Nowhere else has that been more on display for me than through my work with Amics de la UNESCO.” And speaking of cultural expositions, for l’Any nou xinès UNESCO threw a huge celebration that included acupuncture workshops, Chinese calligraphy lessons, musical events, and most importantly, delicious Chinese food! For more info on the next event, visit You won’t regret it!