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6 posts from February 2014


Business & Culture, Spring 2014, Issue II


Chocolate with Churros Goes International

While on their weekend trip to Madrid, students got the chance to satisfy their chocolate cravings during their walking tour around the city.  Students had a pit stop in the famous chocolatería, San Gines.  Chocolate con churros have become a staple snack in Spain packing enough calories to get you through a cold winter’s day (or two). 

Edited bc1mad-002Not only has this specialty food picked up followers in Spain, Japanese entrepreneur, Hideto Maeda, has opened a franchise of San Gines in downtown Tokyo. Closer to home, Comaxurros company in Barcelona has started a new trend on the classic churro, by offering churro-tapa fusion foods.

The rest of the weekend in Madrid included local company business with the chance to try other local products as well, such as Jamon Iberico and the traditional marzipan in Toledo.

IMG_2370Juliana from Babson College, with a plate of Jamon Iberico.

  Edited bc1mad-001
 Students jump for joy (and to burn off all the food-tasting calories) in Toledo

Barcelona Is Our Classroom:

Learning Spanish isn't just something we do inside a classroom.

You can memorize verbs and conjugations and vocabulary until your head aches, but the real way to learn the language is by using it. We are so fortunate to have an entire cosmopolitan city at our fingertips - a playground in which to practice the language.

Whether in an intercambio night, where CIEE students meet local students and spend one hour speaking in English and one hour in Spanish (we often send them with assignments from Spanish class to complete with the help of their partner), exploring local markets to figure out new food vocabulary, or going on tours of local sites in Spanish - students get to put their new skills to use, and really develop their abilities to use the language!


Students ask local vendors questions during a Spanish class outting to the market.

All students in the Advanced level Spanish classes recently visited the Centro Civico de Sant Agostin in the Born neighborhood.  Professor Pedro Gras says “we wanted to focus on vocabulary based on cultural heritage, while students had the opportunity to learn about the cultural activities and events available to them only a block away from their host institution, ESCI.”


Advanced Spanish students visiting the Centro Civico de Sant Agostin

Guardian Angels, Local Student Guides

One of the unique features of the Barcelona program is our wonderful team of local Spanish student guides who are each assigned a small group of CIEE students.  They do everything from picking them up at the airport the first day to giving city tours and taking them to local events and festivals.  At a minimum this helps our students integrate with local students and culture, but often leads to lifelong friendships and extraordinary experiences.  For example this Spring, one of our Guardian Angels took a group of students to her home town in Mallorca.  Looks like they had a fabulous time!


Students with their Guardian Angel in Mallorca

Santa Eulalia Festival: Castellers

Name: Bodie
CIEE Barcelona Program: Global Architecture & Design
Semester: Spring 2014
Home School: University of Colorado Boulder

Time has flown by! With a month under my belt I still feel like I have barely scratched the surface of this amazing place. The past few weekends I stayed in the city and really tried to get to know it better.

Last weekend was a holiday celebrating Santa Eulalia, the patron saint of the city. To celebrate the city had a festival in the old district. There were a number of events, but the most notable was the Castellers, which is the Catalan sport of making human towers. It was amazing; citizens crowded tightly into the main square to try to get a good view of the event. Looking around at the people, however, I couldn't see anyone that looked like they were part of the sport. Then I noticed everyone was turning their heads to look at the back of the square. Sure enough, people in matching red shirts and white pants slowly started to make a single tower. As they began to climb another group from their team ran through the crowd to clear a path. Once the tower was completed with a large group as the trunk and three more people standing on top of each other, the group walked together towards the front.

After all of the teams entered in the same manner, the competition began. Each team presented a different formation of a tower, with different heights and different numbers of people in each 'level'. The scoring system is based on the difficulty of the formations. It was truly an incredible sight. We were just at the base of one of the teams. I could see the faces of the competitors, their eyes focused hard as the weight sank in with each additional person.

Every attempt was a success, but there were times when the towers were shaking and swaying under the weight. The most amazing part is that the tallest level is done by small children. Once the tower is constructed, mostly of young adults, children of 6-10 years old start climbing on the backs of their teammates, ascending to the top. To signify the completion of the tower, the children wave to the mayor of the city, who is watching from his 2nd story balcony.




Check out more of Bodie's incredible photos here:



Language & Culture, Spring 2014, Issue II


IMG_2358Intercultural Learning though languages and cultures…

“What sets worlds in motion is the interplay of differences, their attractions and repulsions. Life is plurality, death is uniformity. By suppressing differences and peculiarities, by eliminating different civilizations and cultures, progress weakens life and favors death”: these words by Mexican poet Octavio Paz truly reflect the role of difference and otherness as keys for developing intercultural learning and intercultural competence. LC students are enjoying a unique opportunity of discovering and interpreting cultural specifications through volunteering: this semester seven students are volunteering as English Teaching Assistants at a prestigious high school, Escola Pia Nostra Senyora, which is located very close to our study center.

As Emma, from the University of Iowa, wrote on our blog: “Every Wednesday I get to act as a student teaching assistant at Escola Pia. There, for an hour, I get to help ten Spanish students learn and practice their English. After one session, I can already tell that it will be my most rewarding experience here. My teaching partner, Vivian and I were impressed with the students’ English speaking abilities and intrigued by their impressions of American culture. We had interesting discussions about the differences in our two countries’ education and health systems; a small conversation about American slang, of which we will expand on next week; and the Greek system in American universities. I’m incredibly glad that I chose to take part in this wonderful volunteering opportunity and am excited for the rest of the semester to unfold!

Volunteering is indeed a powerful resource for intercultural learning: through teaching their own language, our students are reflecting on its peculiarities and comparing it with Spanish language. And, while sharing facts, traditions and habits of their own culture, students are understanding from a new perspective specific aspects of Spanish culture, experiencing life in its plurality.

 …through the arts…

The last weekend of January, LC students enjoyed a fantastic opportunity of appreciating cultural differences in Madrid. A walking tour of the city center opened the doors of history, introducing the glorious past and the birth of the Spanish monarchy. But it was through the arts that students could discover historical facts (wars, adventures, the relationship between Church and State) and contemporary events and attitudes. In the Prado Museum, students were able to see firsthand masterpieces by El Greco, Velázquez and Goya. Las Meninas and Goya’s Black Paintings provoked several questions from our students on the relationship between painting and illusion, the artists’ intention and the critics’ interpretations. The discussion continued at the Reina Sofía Museum, where we analyzed and interpreted the famous Guernica by Picasso. Finally, in Toledo we visited the magnificent Gothic Cathedral, the Synagogue Santa María la Blanca and the Church of Santo Tomé, where El Greco’s The Burial of the Count of Orgaz is displayed.



And the history of the city.

This journey through cultural differences continues every day in Barcelona: language exchanges with local students, art, history and political science classes. For instance, we recently had a field-trip to the Ciutadella Park, which was renovated for the 1888 International Exhibition, which allowed our students to explore the relationship between sculpture (the beautiful waterfall fountain), urban landscape (the structure of the park), history (the pavilions built for the exhibition) and politics (the Parliament of Catalonia).


Moreover, looking at the map printed on the ground outside the main entrance to the park, we compared Barcelona as it was in 1714 with the current distribution of the city. And the Arc de Triomf, the entrance to the 1888 Exhibition, was the starting point for a discussion on the symbolic value of this area of the city.


From our Students

Check out these great posts from our students:

This is just a taste: we will keep you informed with more updates! 


Advanced Liberal Arts Newsletter, Spring 2014, Issue I


Ala 2014-01-24 11.56.35 2Moment#1

Before Max (Tufts University) and Alex (Portland State University) opened the door to my office for the academic advising session, they already knew that they wanted to take the CIEE’s Cervantes’ Don Quixote course. “I cannot think of a better place to read and study this book than during my time in Spain,” Max said; Alex had started to read the book in the States (a version translated into English), but had stopped reading it once he found out that he was accepted into the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program in Barcelona because he was determined to read the novel in the original XVII century Spanish. He knew perfectly that the last adventure of Don Quixote –his last and saddest defeat– takes place in the city’s beach. For Alex, Barcelona is the perfect destination for the unique experience to read such an important and life-changing book.


Bon dia, Alberto!” is what Emily (Iowa University) said to me in a perfect Catalan accent the day before regular classes started. She had decided to continue her Catalan Language classes and enroll in level II after successfully completing the beginning course. This is her second term in the city and she has discovered how easy it is to learn Catalan once you speak Spanish, and how helpful it is when making local friends that are delighted to listen to an American student speaking Catalan like a native.


Sara (George Washington University) came to my office a bit nervous to ask me what the etiquette is for her new internship position in the University of Barcelona’s International Relations and Mobility Office that she was going to start in three days. She wanted to know if she should go to a Zara store and buy a business suit. Since we are fortunately having sales in Barcelona, it would not be an extraordinary investment for a student’s budget... but she smiled when I explained to her that she could wear the same clothes that she normally wears for attending her classes. And she smiled even more when I told her that what the Director of this Office valued most, when we talked about the possibility of having her internship there, was that she is a major in International Relations and the fact that Sara speaks English, Spanish, Polish and some Russian is so much more important for the job than wearing a nice business suit. Even from Zara...


This week the CIEE and University of Barcelona classes have started and it is always a wonderful experience to see the mix of excitement and nervousness that our students have once the real adventure in Barcelona starts… Good luck to all in your first week of classes!


Ala IMG_3240


I could not have been more wrong

Name: John
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2014
Home School: Providence College


I really wanted to live in a residencia when going abroad for a semester. I am a big fan of my alone time and I thought it would be an easy way to meet other Americans that were abroad. Luckily, my friend Alex convinced me to join a homestay with him and live with a family. I was reluctant at first because I thought it would be awkward living with strangers for a semester. When I received an email detailing my living assignment I had mixed feelings and even regretted my decision to live with a family. I could not have been more wrong.

From the moment I meet my host mother she has been much more than just a guardian. She is an actual mother to my roommate Alex and I. She immediately made us feel welcomed and comfortable in this very different world we now lived in. My host mom is an Argentine that moved to Spain several years ago with her two sons Alex and John (weird coincidence). She is an amazing cook. We have not had the same dish twice since arriving and it has been a little over a month. Every day she comes up with something new and exciting. For example, last night I ate rabbit for the first time in my life. I was not the biggest fan, but I love trying new foods. My host mother in the first few days I arrived in Barcelona dissipated all of my worries about living with strangers and has made my stay in Barcelona infinitely better.

My host mother is amazing and so is the neighborhood I live in. Our apartment is very very far from the average homestay in Barcelona. In fact, I believe we are the farthest away from the center of Barcelona. This may seem like an obstacle, but it is actually a blessing because I get to see things others do not.  My neighborhood is supposedly made of many different kinds of immigrants from Latin America and other places in Spain. I would not know because here they really do not speak English (unlike most places in Barcelona where you kind find many people that speak English). The markets here are not Americanized the way most other markets are closer to the center of the city. They sell assortments of fish, meat, and spices that I have neither seen nor heard of in my entire life. This may seem scary to some, but it is really a lot of fun.

Every day I wake up and am reminded to not waste any of my time abroad because whatever I am thinking of that day is replaced by the wonder of being somewhere completely foreign. Not to mention we live very close to a beautiful range of mountains and on a clear day can see the Mediterranean Sea from the terrace in my homestay!

My Commute
View from my terrace

Global Architecture & Design Newsletter, Spring 2014, Issue I

(1) Alternative, nontraditional form of learning & teaching

The 5 teams at Global AD BCN Design Studio just began building a first set of water property based prototypes. The lab involves working with new digital tools, CNC machines and data design scenarios. The students work week by week to build a shared dynamic and flexible syllabus, each week registering the current studio production and setting out the agreed tasks for the following week. This is how we are proceeding through a sequence of practices, attempts, trials and prototypes while discovering the architecture of future cities.001_fablab showcase

FabLab showcase from Global AD Studio
002_drilling besos river
Drilling Besos River. First prototypes.
003_Syllabus under construction
Syllabus under construction. Interactive presentation.

(2) Contemporary Architecture in Bilbao and San Sebastian

In the first weekend trip for the Global AD program, students visited Bilbao and San Sebastian, where some of the most interesting examples of the contemporary architecture in Spain are. Bodie, a student from the University of Colorado Boulder, explained how Bilbao "was like an architecture playground" and that "every turn, every street, had something new and intriguing paired with the traditional architecture of the city." Even though he thinks that the whole city of Bilbao is an amazing architectural spot, after our guided visits to Palacio Euskalduna and the Guggenheim, Bodie explained his thoughts about the inner and outer structures of these buildings.

"The Palacio Euskalduna was an intriguing place; stairs, ramps, paths, elevators all over the place, leading the user through the layers of the building. Each space was not only one, but could morph larger or smaller to accommodate any event. Not only was the program well thought out, but the materials spoke too."

And, surely, the Guggenheim Museum was one of the most exciting visits. For Bodie, the most significant was the "beautiful tin and stone panels form geometric shapes that curve and sway over the river. The exterior calls so much attention that is so well complimented and just as complex on the interior," where one of the highlights was the permanent exhibition of the walls by Richard Serra, that fits perfectly with the building.

Palacio Euskalduna, photo by Bodie

  006_Ernesto Neto hanging space

Ernesto Neto work’s are hanging in the Guggenheim main lobby space.

007_serra materiality

Models and sculptures of Richard Serra. Close to the art process.



Guggenheim Museum, picture by Bodie

 (3) Le Corbusier Exhibition in Barcelona

 The master architect of Modern Style is an infinite source of architectural knowledge. From January 30th to May 11th 2014 there is a wonderful exhibition of his work happening in Barcelona. The exposition is designed by MOMA and produced by Caixaforum and is a good opportunity to discover the personal universe of Le Corbusier, the artist and the architect.

012_Le Corbusier in Caixaforum
Opening party of the Le Cobusier exhibition in Barcelona.