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9 posts from April 2015





For our students, being in Barcelona means being in Europe. For many of them, it is the first time that they visit the old continent, and living in Spain is a unique opportunity –it is the unrepeatable combination of youth and the desire to explore new territories– to walk the streets of Berlin, London, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin… And the desire is so great to see Europe that sometimes our students forget that it is not necessary to cross the invisible European borders to encounter diverse landscapes, accents, customs, climate... Sometimes they forget that they can discover all of this right here in Spain.

In CIEE we are conscious of the importance of this, and it is for this reason that, amongst other cultural activities and field trips, we organize a weekend trip in one of the many corners of Spain that, in other circumstances, is not a priority destination for our students. Last week, we took a plane from Barcelona and, in less than an hour, we arrived in the Basque Country. It was fantastic to see our student’s reactions when they realized that at such a short distance –Far away but so close!– they can find such an important contrast in landscape, in customs, in language, and gastronomy. It was an unexpected discovery for them: sometimes, to travel far, it is not necessary to leave home…

Danielle, from Vanderbilt University, and Steven, from George Washington University, wanted to share with us in this Newsletter their impressions of last week’s trip.


Danielle Serphos, Vanderbilt University

The opportunity to travel throughout Europe during my time abroad is something that I will never take for granted. Upon arriving in Barcelona, I was beyond excited to find out that our Advanced Liberal Arts group would be traveling to Bilbao and San Sabastián towards the end of our program. I was looking forward to this trip from day one, and now that it is over, the Basque Country (País Vasco) certainly did not disappoint. Spending time with our intimate, small and close-knit CIEE program was filled with new experiences, food and culture.

We were accompanied by three separate tour guides as we were educated about Bilbao, San Sabastián and the ever so famous Guggenheim Museum. Without a doubt we managed to fit in the famous “pintxos” the typical regional food taking over restaurants in the Basque Country. Additionally, there was a well planned balance of structure and free time on the trip as I was simultaneously educated about all that Bilbao and San Sabastián had to offer and was given the time to explore and relax with friends. Whether it was the grey and cultural town of Bilbao or the blue beach town of San Sabastián, the weekend away from Barcelona was all I could have expected and more.

Ala1Stephen Conley, George Washington University

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with my Advanced Liberal Arts Program to Bilbao and San Sebastian with the CIEE staff. I found the trip to be very interesting and engaging and everything from plane tickets, to the hotel, to our schedule was extremely organized. I particularly enjoyed this trip because of the opportunity to see parts of the Basque Region of Spain that I would not normally be able to visit independently. We stayed in Bilbao and got a walking tour, which was extremely informative and intriguing due to the industrial past of the city.

That night, our directors took us out to a great pintxos restaurant about a half a block from our hotel to watch a soccer game. The food was delicious and the restaurant was very cool! The next day we took a bus to San Sebastian where we had a walking tour of the city and had about five hours to both explore the beautiful coastline of San Sebastian and to try the local food. The final day we toured the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and learned about the relation between modernist museum and Bilbao. I enjoyed this trip and am grateful for the opportunity to experience Bilbao and San Sebastian! 




Marcos was one of the Guardian Angels for the Economics and Culture program this semester and it was his first time participating in our Guardian Angel program.  Not only did he do an outstanding job in his role as a local guide and leader, he made close friends with all of the students in his group.  Kyle (Fordham University) and Ned (Elon University) were sad to say goodbye to their good friend and Guardian Angel, Marcos.  Below are pictures of the three of them enjoying a trip to Manresa, just outside Barcelona for the annual Festival of Lights.



After featuring his picture in the previous newsletter, Kyle (Fordham University) ended up bringing home the big prize for winner of Our Best Experience category in the Spring15 photo contest.  His photo captures the carnival festivities perfectly! Well done Kyle!

Kyle Cournoyer_¡Carnival!


Last week we enjoyed a lovely re-entry brunch, a delicious farewell lunch and a teary eyed goodbye at our rooftop send off.  The Economics and Culture students were such a great group of well rounded, flexible and intelligent students that we were very sad to say goodbye to.  Here’s just a glimpse at all the fun times we had together.




Abby (University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) took home the big win for her lovely photo in the Host Family Ties Category.  The winning photo features Abby and her roommate enjoying some Barcelona sunshine with their host mother. Love the hats ladies!  Also cleaning up in the contest, Austin (Babson College) came in a clear first in the Most Creative category with his hilarious recreation of the Star Wars scene taken on our CIEE weekend trip to Sevilla. 

Abbey Eliason, A weekend in our Mama de Espana's hometown- host family ties


Austin Zurn_Star Wars Amigos_Most creative

After seeing Austin’s photo, I’m sure you’re trying to remember where that scene was.  Well scenes from both the 1999 and 2001 Star Wars movies were shot in Plaza España in Sevilla.  Check out the video to see where Austin got his motivation for his winning shot:


Students got together for the last time to practice their Spanish with the locals.  Many said they could really see how much they had improved when they were able to really maintain a conversation and were even able to crack a few jokes.



Please take a moment to enjoy a glimpse at all the good times we had here with the Business and Culture students this Spring:




Our spring semester has come to its end. Students have learned and enjoyed their stay in Barcelona and we hope they have gained intercultural knowledge after four months of living in a different culture. We wish them a good and safe return home!  Here you have some of the last activities they did. 

Students get inspiration through Service Learning


At the re-entry workshop students were asked to share their best memory of their study abroad experience. Several students assured it was their service learning/community engagement activity they did as part of their CIEE Advanced Grammar, Composition and Conversation II class.

Kata from Vanderbilt University brought her guitar and sang songs with the 3rd and 5th graders; Kyle from University of Wisconsin-Madison did an oral presentation about Prom for 4th graders (children enjoyed it a lot!); Bianca from Rice University and Tian from Barnard College read and sang “The Wheels of the Bus” with 4-5 years old kindergarten; Joseph from Vanderbilt did an oral presentation about American Football with 5th graders, among others. Children were thrilled and they were very interested in asking questions about the American society.

After their volunteering students interviewed the school principal and the Academic Committee to learn about the educational system and compare it to the American one.

Chocolate Easter Traditions

La3One of our delicious traditions in Catalonia is the “mona”, a cake with some chocolate eggs to decorate that godfathers give to their godsons and goddaughters for Easter. Nowadays, that cake has turned into any kind of chocolate figure, from SpongeBob, all Disney characters to Barça football players. Our students participated in a Chocolate Workshop at the Chocolate Museum of Barcelona where they made all kind of different lollipops. They demonstrated their high creativity and had all the chocolate they wanted!!! After that, they visited the museum and were able to admire all the big chocolate statues such as a representation of Guernica by Picasso, or la Sagrada Familia.

Blogging in Spanish

Several students of the Quijotes Club wrote an entry for our blog in Spanish! They shared their study abroad experience such as their weekend trip to Sevilla and Córdoba, day trip to Girona or a volunteer experience serving food in a Raval’s neighbourhood soup kitchen or in the Barcelona Marathon. Find their posts here




I am who I am because of who we all are

By volunteering at a local high school as English Teacher Assistants, LC students had the opportunity of understanding local culture, while reflecting on their own cultural assumptions and values from a new perspective. Whitney (from Rutgers University) and Frances (from Fordham University) are active members of a non-profit U.S. based student organization, Them Cloud Kids (TCK) whose mission is to Unite, Uplift and Empower through Ubuntu, a South African ideology based on human kindness. TCK aims to advocate anti-bullying, conflict resolution, and self-esteem, to embody Ubuntu into our everyday lives in order to create a positive and open-minded society and to integrate people from various racial, cultural and religious backgrounds to come together as one community. As part of their volunteering work, Whitney and Frances proposed, organized and hosted an event – Cloud Out Loud – at the CIEE Barcelona Study Center on March, 13th in order to share the Ubuntu philosophy and open a space for CIEE students to reflect on the importance of volunteering. The event was a success: 15 students from all of our program attended and showcased their talents through live performances and donations of books and school supplies for local high schools. Artworks by high school students decorated the wall of the room where the event was held. We are greatly thankful for the joy, commitment and generosity LC students dedicated to our community.


A video of the Cloud Out Loud event

Students enrolled in our Catalonia and Spain through the Arts class participated in a three sessions workshop on Art Collection, Art Exhibition and Art Criticism with enthusiasm, creativity and intellectual curiosity, working in groups and learning together. As a result, each group submitted a series of articles on the workshop topics.

Carolyn from Fordham University and Aryanna from Northeastern University practiced art criticism through the exhibition Sophie Calle. Modus Vivendi at La Virreina Art Center:

«The artist was sent a letter by her boyfriend at the time who intended to break up with her. Calle used the letter and asked 107 female artists to create their own representation. With videos, cooking lessons, dance, photographs, poems, we see the displacement of memory and perception come to life. Calle explores how our current perceptions are colored by our experiences and our selective memories from those experiences. Our memories illustrate not only what we remember, but how we remember it».

Sophie CalleInstallation Take Care of Yourself by Sophie Calle

 Erik and Chris from Vanderbilt University interpreted Rambla Catalunya as an art collection itself:

«Rambla Catalunya is an excellent place to witness and learn about the Modernisme art movement that is unique to Catalonia.  Many buildings in the Rambla Catalunya area, while not quite as recognizable and historic as Modernisme masterpieces such as Sagrada Familia or Hospital de Sant Pau, feature elements that are very typical of this historic movement. The curve is very typical of the Modernisme movement because it is a shape that appears in life so frequently as opposed to perfect squares and rectangles that are found in many other buildings».


Lastly, Nicole and Alayna from University of Colorado Boulder explored art exhibition formats through Sebal Variations at the Barcelona Center for Contemporary Culture:

«The experience begins when you initially walk in to the vast hall. The observer is greeted by 30,000 black butterflies, each one cutout of construction paper by Carlos Amorales and his team of craftsmen. It is ironic that the exhibition begins with the overwhelming morbid display of butterflies, flying around the walls, swelling and twisting together, due to their terminate symbolic meaning. The focus of the exhibition, the many works inspired by Sebald’s written pieces, emphasize the incredibly varying nature of art. One work in particular that encompassed this notion of infinite interpretation was the unique autobiography displayed on silk cloth by Jeremy Wood. Inspired by Sebald’s ideas about reflection of the self, Wood tracked himself through London over a 15 year period using a GPS. He then displayed this maze of steps on a black piece of silk».

Sebald 1Carlos Amorales’ butterflies

Sebald 2Jeremy Wood’s The Ghost

 This Spring 2015 semester has been a wonderful journey, through encounters and experiences, learning opportunities and special moments. A semester of Spanish language(s) and culture(s).





One of the highlights of the program is the Global AD Summit. Students participating in any of the CIEE Global AD programs met in Berlin for three days to experiment together and share projects and ideas. Mashael (University of California, Berkeley) shares her  experience: 

"It’s 10 am on a Thursday morning and I am sitting on a surprisingly comfortable airport bench. Next to me, Sam and Eli are doodling away in their sketchbooks, Jose and Addison are zoning off into their music, and Isabel, Rob, Jared and Maria are shuffling through their luggage trying to satisfy Easy Jet’s cruel carry-on policy. We’re all on our way to Berlin, and the thought of it gives me chills. I had always been infatuated with the Berlin aesthetic and art culture, and now I would be able to not only visit it but also participate in an architectural workshop there. 

The Global Architecture and Design Workshop taking place in Berlin is made to unite the students of the CIEE GAD programs for a weekend to collaborate together to create a site-specific proposal. Our site, the Spree River, was situated right by the Berlin GAD studio. We were welcomed there right after our flight by Lucas, the Berlin Program Director. Lucas gave a quick presentation introducing the goals of the workshop and then acquainted us with the site. I was inspired by the DIY Culture of the city, it had surpassed my expectations. We were able to walk around an area right by the spree called Tee Pee Land. While some people may view this living situation as anarchist and chaotic, the Berliners saw it as an opportunity for public reclamation and innovation. I shared that sentiment; walking through Tee Pee land I saw an effort from the residents to make the land their own; doormats, twinkle lights, and even ornamental easter eggs. 

Back at the studio, we got down to business. The Barcelona and Berlin GAD students were broken up into groups each tackling a separate area on the site. Once with a group, we discussed opportunities ideas for the site. We were even able to get feedback from local professors, community members, and architects about our proposals. After the intense 4-hour session, each group presented their proposal at the lecture room. Many community members attended the presentation and gave valuable feedback. At the end of the day, I was both exhausted and exhilarated. Never had I been more inspired about a place nor a community’s interest in their neighborhood".



Name: Elisa
CIEE Barcelona Program: Liberal Arts
Semester: Spring 2015
Home School: Carnegie Mellon University
11086060_10152874107596925_1131645265_n copy

Uno de los mejores fines de semana que he tenido aquí en España ha sido uno lleno de aventura, servicio, inspiración y por supuesto un poco de cava. No esperaba tener una experiencia tan increíble durante mi semestre estudiando en Barcelona.

El fin de semana comenzó en el barrio del Raval donde ayudé como una voluntaria en una iglesia organizando y preparando comida para gente pobre o desempleada. No sabía qué esperar y tengo que admitir que estaba un poco nerviosa. Entré en la iglesia y cada voluntario que conocí era un miembro de la comunidad apasionado y listo para llevar a cabo las comidas donadas. El proceso estuvo bien organizado y fue eficiente. Ayudé a clasificar panes y manzanas, preparar mesas y agua. No puedo expresar lo increíble que fue la experiencia. No sabía que hubiera empresas que donan tanta comida por estas causas y que podría ser tan eficientes. Verdaderamente me gustó y aprecié esta oportunidad.11084578_10152874344891925_1557005666_n copy

Al día siguiente tomé un autobús a la fábrica de cava Cordoniu. Aprendí todo el proceso para crear cava y la historia de la familia Cordoniu y sus negocios. No sólo estuve impresionada y sorprendida por el proceso complicado pero también los sótanos vastos llenos de miles y quizá millones de botellas. Además pude probar unos tipos de cava que nunca he probado. Los hermosos viñedos y la degustación exquisita de cava hizo la visita agradable.

El mismo día después de tomar sorbos de cava nos llevaron a Montserrat. Las vistas fueron diferente de todas las que he visto. Estaba asombrada de la hermosa Basílica y el monasterio que estaba ubicado entre dos grandes formaciones rocosas. Subimos a los miradores panorámicos y vi lo preciosa que era Cataluña.11079268_10152874340176925_1883436786_n copy

11081417_10152874344856925_786369651_n copyDespués de un largo día de senderismo y una buena noche de sueño, me levanté temprano para ser voluntaria durante la maratón de Barcelona. Después de recibir mi camiseta oficial de voluntaria de la maratón, chaqueta y bolsa con comida, ayudé a destapar alrededor de 100 o quizás más botellas de agua. Fue increíble ver a los primeros corredores volar enfrente de nosotros, delante de la manada de gente pero aún estuve más sorprendida de ver a cientos y cientos de corredores llegar a la meta. No sólo fue un espectáculo maravilloso, sino también una inspiración.

Con un gran comienzo y final este fin de semana largo, puedo decir con confianza, que ha sido uno de mis favoritos aquí en Barcelona. Espero recordar siempre estas experiencias y disfrutar el resto de mi tiempo aquí.


architecture and design spring 2015, newsletter issue III



Mi vida en Barcelona

Ibrahima Host family

I was very nervous as I sat down at the hotel waiting for my host mom to come and pick me up. I did not know what to expect neither did I know what to do or say to greet her. Few minutes later, my host mom came and met me. She greeted me with two kisses on each cheek and said “Hola Ibrahima, Soy Piti”. I wasn’t very used to greeting people with kisses but from the kisses I knew she is very caring, kind and awesome. We took a cab and talked all the way to her house. When we got home, I met my host brother, Oriol and my host sister, Eulàlia. My host mom gave me a tour of the house and later showed me my room. Few minutes later I felt like I was at my own house in New York. Living with my host family has been an awesome journey. During dinner, we talk about everything. We talk about politics, social issues, cultures, and most importantly we always joke around. We always have fun. The food bonds and unites us. We usually start by asking how everyone’s day went and later kept the conversation going. I always leave dinner feeling satisfied, happy and ready for the next day. My host mom also does laundry for me at least twice a week and cleans my room once a week. She takes care of me well, and I couldn’t be happier. I had never lived in someone’s home before and the thought of it had made me nervous despite the fact that I am a very outgoing individual. However living with my host family in Barcelona made me more confident about myself and taught me how to interact with others, and I think these skills that I have gained will be very useful in the near future when I enter the professional world.

Ibrahima voluntariado

I was also lucky to be provided with a once a week volunteering opportunity at a local school called INS Ernest Lluch. At this school, I work with students who are about 14 years old on average. I am very happy to have been given this opportunity because I learn so much from them. They are very intelligent students who have so much potential and are very respectful as well. The volunteering opportunity is very flexible, and I was asked to have a conversation with these students in English so that they could practice their English skills. It was up to me how I wanted to go about this process. So, I decided to teach them things about the American culture and asked them about their interest, hobbies, goals and just life and not textbook lessons or whatnot. Since the volunteering was every Monday, I would always start off the conversation by asking how their weekends went and then follow wherever the conversation lead us to. The students always make me laugh. We always have great times. And, I think this is a great way of learning.  The students never want to stop the conversations. They always want to share their thoughts and this makes me feel great. Whenever I go to the school, they run to me to give me a hug and are always excited to talk. This has been a great opportunity as I got to immerse myself to the Spanish culture by learning these students’ daily lives in Barcelona.