The Advanced Liberal Arts program is coming to its end this week. The students are in that strange moment when the nervousness and physical exhaustion from their exam preparations are mixing with this underlying sensation of saying goodbye precipitately to a city that has been their home these last months. All they know that, with each daily trip that has been repeated again and again, the same steps made day after day, they are saying goodbye to that one corner of their street where they live, and they become aware that they will not see it again tomorrow. And inevitably, they will feel nostalgia of the future since it is unclear how much time will pass until they come back to this space, this light, and these familiar faces that have accompanied them silently while in Barcelona.
In the goodbye luncheon, I reminded them that Barcelona is already, and will always be, their city. And that the CIEE Study Center, which we call La Casa, it will always be that: their home.
As a native Spanish speaker from Peru, I chose to study in Barcelona in search of a rather particular study abroad experience. My goal was not to learn a new language, nor was it really to improve any deficiencies in my Spanish writing or speaking, nor, even, was it to be exposed to a new and foreign culture. (We Peruvians have inherited much from the Spanish, and still share a rather wide variety of customs and modes of thinking and living.) My goal was to continue my studies in political philosophy at the same pace and level as I would have in my home institution, Yale University, and to benefit from developing political and philosophical thought in my native language. I did not want my exchange experience to constitute any form of parenthesis in my academic and intellectual development.
The CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program enabled me to achieve this goal, and more. The UB offered an incredibly wide array of courses that CIEE gave us freedom to choose from, and program administrators worked closely with each one of us to ensure that we placed into those that better suited our academic demands. Universitat de Barcelona courses were taught by academics at the top of their respective fields, and classes were interesting and easy to follow. Furthermore, in my area of study at least, classes offered exposure to a mode of thinking reality, politics and society quite different to the one taught and thought within the American academy, which, although challenging at times, I found illuminating and refreshingly complimentary for our attempts at thinking global issues within our increasingly globalized world. The urge to 'think things in a different way', to reflect on things under a different light, echoed through almost all my diversely constituted classes.
Finally, I would like to emphasize that the CIEE team is composed of remarkably caring, attentive and knowledgeable people. I got to know some of them personally, outside of our formal meetings, classes and events, and was taken aback by the level of genuine interest they took on our backgrounds, our plans, our study abroad experience and on our academic prospects and development.Tatiana Hill, Amherst College
When I arrived in Barcelona in late January, I was absolutely terrified about making a temporary home in an entirely unfamiliar place. A suburbanite who had never left the country, I failed to fully acknowledge the huge cultural experiment I had thrown myself into. However, as soon I became acquainted with the warm Residencia ONIX staff, ventured throughout the city, and interacted with locals I was aware of how privileged I was to live amongst stunning, eclectic architecture, palm trees, beaches, and a strong cultural tradition fueled by passion for the impressive history and resilience of the Catalan people.
As classes began, I found the Spanish style of instruction and grading to be vastly different from an American, liberal arts college education. Fortunately, the CIEE classes, the instructors and administrators of the program served as a bridge between the American style of education and that of the University of Barcelona. CIEE Professors were more receptive to questions and always available to elaborate on a topic in class. This compassion and support from the CIEE program was quite reassuring in the midst of encountering the challenges of a very large university and different cultural expectations at university.
While adjusting to the academic demands at UB and the generally foreign environment, I made huge strides in my ability to speak Spanish, explore Catalan culture, and maneuver novel situations independently. On a recent trip to Madrid, not only did I engage in an intriguing conversation about the beauty and politics of Catalonia, but I received multiple compliments on my ability to comfortably carry a full conversation in Spanish. Though seemingly minor, these are the sorts of poignant experiences that studying abroad in Barcelona with the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program allows for. Through this experience, I have rapidly germinated into a worldly adult.