Economics & Culture, Spring 2014, Issue I
A STURDY START
I can already tell that the EC Spring group will get along just fine! Though having spent only two days together, albeit very intensively in terms of activities and time during the Orientation period, it seems that these new students have known each other from the very beginning. At the start of our first lunch as a group, EC students were asking each other many questions and by the time the desserts and coffee had come around, they had begun to poke fun at each other´s idiosyncrasies and exchanged jokes about each other´s home schools. Another sign that indicated to me that they were becoming a well-bonded group was their decision to make their first week-end trip together: 11 out of the 12 students (the remaining one could not join as he had previously set plans to travel to another city with other CIEE students in the Business and Culture Program) flew to Madrid and all survived and many had explained that they had “an amazing time”.
I have little doubt that the rest of the semester will progress as harmoniously for our Spring EC students.
FINDING OUR WAY
One way in which we encourage our students to venture out and to start conversing with local Catalan and Spanish people is via a scavenger hunt that is organized in one of Barcelona's most festive and authentic barrios called “Gracia”. Rachel from Tufts University found the scavenger hunt in Gracia to be “a great way to get to know the neighborhood and explore the area” and “felt accomplished that I could make my way around using a map and asking locals for help!” Another EC participant, Zachary from Texas Christian University had commented that “spending the late morning in Gracia was an enlightening experience as it revealed a historical and lively side of Barcelona.” He added that “while I had seen the main sights already, I felt truly immersed in the Catalan capital during my exploration of Gracia.” We anticipate that these students will apply their newly gained skills and confidence the next time they find themselves in an unfamiliar area of Barcelona.
We have seen in recent semesters an increasing interest from our students to do volunteer work during their study abroad semester. The option to do a one-time volunteering “stint”, from activities such as distributing donated food, handing out water during a fund-raising marathon, etc. is particularly popular. Laura, CIEE´s staff member who organizes volunteering opportunities, cites that these activities “immensely enrich the overall study abroad experience for our students by getting them involved in Barcelona in ways that they normal would not do on their own.” At the beginning of every semester Laura holds a volunteering presentation to inform all students the organizations with whom we collaborate and how they can participate. She stresses to them that “volunteering is an ideal way to practice their Spanish and to interact with people in the local communities while at the same time lending a hand to children, schools and/or different immigrant groups in the city.”