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5 posts from March 2016




Bilbao trip + Valldaura visit


In early March we headed over to the Basque country in the West of Spain to visit Bilbao, including the iconic architecture of the Guggenheim Museum. Desktop2

Then a few weeks back we had an exciting visit to Valldaura, the Green Campus of IaaC (Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia), where Jonathan Minchin gave us a tour of the facilities as well as organizing a mini 3D Scanning workshop. We finished the day at a local Catalan restaurant eating calçots, a time-honored springtime tradition involving barbecued leeks and meats.

Classes at IaaC + Midterm Presentations 


The most exciting part of this month was a combination of the trips, visits and all the activities organized by CIEE Barcelona with intensive classes at IaaC - the host Institution. The array of seminars, workshops and design studio classes are giving out tons of new knowledge every week, while in practical terms the additional sessions of rendering and structural analysis are helping a lot for the development of the studio projects. Lastly, all the trips and visits are reminding us what we’re studying for and refreshing the students’ enthusiasm and motivation. As a result, the midterm presentations were outstanding! The invited jury gave us a lot of positive feedback, as well as some constructive comments for developing the projects.

Berlin Summit


The Berlin trip was another highlight of this month. It was a great way to discover the city by sharing the experience with the students from GAD Berlin and Prague. We started the Summit with an inspiring lecture by Maria Aiolova, an educator, architect and urban designer in New York City. Next morning we had an amazing opportunity to present our Design Studio projects to the GAD teams from Prague, Berlin and an external jury,  and then to compare our own work with that of our peers from Czech and Germany.  The evening included a talk by Tobias Wallisser and Leonie Woidt Wallisser from LAVA, discussing the intersections of architecture and environmental design. 


We spent Friday and Saturday wandering around Berlin, visiting the Jewish museum by Liebeskind, the memorial by Eisenman, the East Side Gallery (the former Berlin Wall), and had a boat tour on the Spree river. These were very informative and inspiring days in Berlin, but weather-wise we were happy to come back to sunny and warm Barcelona!


Architecture + Design, Spring 2016, newsletter II


As weeks go by, students are discovering the variety and diversity of Spain. In contrast to what one may think before arriving in Spain, this is a very diverse country. Our students have been able to feel the differences by travelling to two very diverse geographic areas within Spain: North and South, Bilbao and San Sebastian, and Seville and Cordoba. Whereas in the North, the students could enjoy and experience the newest renovation of Bilbao around the Guggenheim Museum, which has turned the city from the old industry to a contemporary city of services, in the South, they experienced the most traditional image of Spain by visiting the historical cities of Seville and Cordoba.


Emily, from Princeton, in the Reales Alcázares in Seville. The extremely detailed geometric decoration in stucco and ceramics and the calm of the open spaces impressed the students


At the main entrance of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, students felt the deep renovations along the two banks of the river.

IMG_0307IMG_0299Richard Serra’s Time and Space is probably the most interesting installation at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The long corten steel walls create interesting spaces in which one’s perception of space and time might change.

IMG_0467Gabriella, from Kansas University, taking a picture of the beautiful light coming from a stained glass window in the Mosque of Cordoba


The combination of Muslim and Christian styles in the Mosque of Cordoba bears good witness to the mix of cultures that has always characterized Spain.



On a  different note, our students had the opportunity to meet a few local practitioners and discuss local practices of design in contemporary Barcelona. Álvaro (from Outline Studio), and Mar and Carla (from Xurris&co) were invited to a CIEE round table, where the meaning, challenges and opportunities of being a designer in Barcelona were addressed. Issues such as the relationship with the clients, the freedom to do what one really wants, or how to get new clients were some of the main points of the round table.The local designers also presented their projects and explained their creative processes, all in all creating a very stimulating atmosphere for our students.


Liberal Arts, Spring 2016, Newsletter II


We are already passed mid-semester! Liberal Arts students have been very busy with classes, cultural activities, meeting locals or volunteering. Find here some details.

“We couldn´t have asked for a better flatmate”


Taylor, Sara, Zoe and Riley from Vanderbilt University share their apartment with Berta, a Spanish flatmate.  Spanish roommates are a great opportunity for our students to get more immersed in the culture, practice their Spanish and get to live with a local.

This is what Taylor said about her flatmate: “We adore Berta. She has been such a wonderful addition to our apartment. When something goes wrong, she is there to help at a moment notice. She has been extremely accommodating and flexible and has always made sure we feel comfortable. Aside from playing the role of our quasi-mother while we are in Spain, she has become a great friend and someone to look for advice in. She's is very trustworthy and relaxed, and gives us our space but is also involved in our daily lives.  We couldn't have asked for a better flatmate! 

Volunteering in a local school: “This experience has been the most immersive way for me to understand Spain and Barcelona”


IMG_6526Isabel from Cornell University volunteering at Escola Montseny

LA1Lauren from  University of Iowa volunteering at Escola Montseny

Liberal Arts students have the opportunity to volunteer as English Teacher Assistants at a local school, Centre d’estudis Montseny, for two hours every week. This is what they say about their experience.

Isabel from Cornell University said:  “The first few weeks in a new country are always nerve wracking and stressful as one must learn to adapt to a new culture, take in unfamiliar surroundings, and work in a foreign language. Volunteering at Centre d’estudis Montseny was one of the ways that I made those first weeks more comfortable and how I have made my whole experience in Barcelona unforgettable. Working with different students every week who ask questions about my life, give me insight into theirs, and genuinely want to play the games I have prepared has been wonderful. I look forward to my weekly journey to Selva del Mar because I not only meet and work with wonderful children, but also explore a new part of the city. 

This experience has been the most immersive way for me to understand Spain and Barcelona. We have workshops, Guardian Angels, and professors who gladly answer our questions, but no one is as honest as a child.”

Lauren from Universiy of Iowa assured: “My favorite part about volunteering here is the variety! I love the conversations I have with the older children. I also love that they teach me things as well. I even got to learn a few words in Catalan! I really feel like I am making a difference for the kids and they are making one for my experience too!

This experience has really immersed me in the culture since I get to see first hand day to day school life for these kids. They tell me stories of their families, weekends, travels, etc. and it really allows me to see how every day life is here in Spain. As a student abroad you often feel like a tourist, but this really lets me feel like a member of a school community.”

Intercambio Nights


Students have been participating in our “Intercambio Nights”, language exchange events where they meet local students to practice their Spanish. Students also had to interview the local as part of their language classes at CIEE.

Language + Culture, Spring 2016, Newsletter II


We have already passed the mid-semester! Language and Culture students have been very busy with classes, cultural activities, and doing sports. Find here some details.

A novel scenario visit: Spanish Civil War bomb shelter

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Students at the CIEE course Literary Images of Catalonia and Spain are reading the novel The Time of the Doves written by the Catalan writer Mercè Rodoreda. The novel is set in Barcelona before, during and after the Spanish Civil war and pictures a young woman's struggles in life. Students went to visit one of city’s bomb shelter build by locals during the wartime, to see in firsthand one of the novel scenarios. 

Carly form Cornell University commented on the visit: “I found it very interesting to learn about how Barcelona residents coped with wartime struggles firsthand”

Picasso´s Barcelona


As part of our study center activities, we offer a tour of the importance of Picasso´s Barcelona. This tour focused on his formative years in Spain - that is, his first artistic steps, his academic education, his inspirations and of course, the influences of Barcelona and its bohemian circles at the turn of the 20th century. A lesser known side of Picasso became visible, showing how the city left its mark in his work as well as how he left his mark in the Catalan capital. 

Christina from Elon University; Daniel from University of Colorado Boulder and Sydney Duettra from Texas Christian University participated in the tour and they even went to the famous restaurant 4 Gats where Picasso used to expose his paintings. 

Master Zumba Class!


To keep students moving we offered them to join a Master Zumba class in a local gym. Some of our students participated in this activity with one of our Spanish Guardian Angels. They had a lot of fun and it was a good activity for group bounding!


Business + Culture, Spring 2016, Newsletter II


What happens when two cultures from across the ocean meet and spend a few months in each other’s company?

As a way of offering a glimpse into life at a homestay in Spain, we asked our Business & Culture students to send us a short dinnertime video, with some unexpected and beautiful results!  Thanks to Alexandra (Minnesota), Aaron (Indiana), Cameron (Indiana), Tyson (Wisconsin), and Will (Wofford College) for your amazing contributions!



Cavas Codorniu is the oldest continuing business in Spain, with its roots going back to the 17th century, so it was an appropriate place for the Business&Culture group to begin a weekend trip into the Catalan countryside. The champagne region of France may have become a household name, but Catalans will proudly tell you that their cava sparkling wine is equally fine and has just as much heritage as its French sibling.  Founded in 1551 in the shadow of the mythical Montserrat hills, the winery now produces 60 million bottles a year of wine and is a prime example of how to make an old family business into an industrialized giant.

During the tour of the huge grounds, we learned each stage of the process from vine to finished product, and all the subtle changes along the way. James from Scranton University was impressed “It’s amazing how the skin from a red grape can change the color of a wine to make it rose, and how they have to make sure every single bottle is rotated each day for two months to get the right end result.”  The visit, of course, had to conclude with a customary wine-tasting and some shopping for the lucky folks back home.


L-R: Zach (Cornell), James (Scranton), Thales & Taylor (Brandeis)

We later moved onto Montserrat, a small nearby national park just a short journey but a world away from Barcelona. Named for its ‘serrated’ mountain tops, it’s full of bizarre rock formations (think a grey version of Utah’s national parks), but also home to a centuries’ old Benedictine monastery perched on the edge of the cliffs.  Tyler from Brandeis was impressed by this juxtaposition of nature and history:  “We don’t have anything remotely like this in the States – our country itself is just a few hundred years old.  We have the scenery, like in Utah or Arizona, but not with the centuries of culture and history that goes with it.”  Some chose to walk off the cava with a hike all the way up to the Sant Jeroni peak, catching some much needed Sunday fresh air before heading back to Barcelona refreshed and ready for mid-term week.


L-R: Eleanor (Wisconsin), Ashley (Indiana), Zach(Cornell), Tyler (Brandeis), James (Scranton), Robert (Wisconsin) and Thales (Brandeis)  taking in the views in Montserrat!