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06/01/2016

ADVANCED LIBERAL ARTS, SPRING 2016, NEWSLETTER, END OF TERM

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Higher Education and Public Diplomacy

A new course has ended, and the students of the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts in the University of Barcelona program are returning to the United States with their suitcases full of new books, unique experiences, long standing friendships and unforgettable memories. But they are not only bringing things back home; they have also left in our country and in our memories, many aspects from their country, their culture and their vision of the world. Study abroad is, in its essence, a mutual understanding and a solid form of public diplomacy.

Public Diplomacy

The use of the university as a diplomatic front is a spontaneous practice that has emerged from its own birth. Since the 12th century' short European Renaissance, with the founding of the first universities, the exchange of students between one country to another was already an advanced and involuntary form of diplomacy. Higher education already supposed a way for a country’s expansion. We are talking about the diplomacy of the classrooms, strengthened by countries that were convinced of the transcendence of the academic world. All of the States can agree that a strong and competitive university is an open door to a certain type of individual, to a society, that will mark the future of our countries.

Public Diplomacy III

The CIEE students move through the world with the objective to learn, but they also bring with them the necessity (and will) for integration, to accumulate experiences, to discover, to broaden their vision of the world. It is the type of student that, after a few months, will know first-hand the country that has received them, they have overcome possible prejudices, and would have a complete idea of the reality, and most importantly, they would take all of this cultural knowledge with them for the rest of their lives. The student, a citizen for a time period in a country that is not theirs, will be a non-premediated ambassador; an involuntary messenger that will bring the idea of this country to the rest of the world.

We are talking about an international educational exchange, of a shared interest by institutions and by people, on knowledge transfer. It is a way to get to know each other and to establish bonds. It is, perhaps, an informal, but the closest strategy to public diplomacy, and also the most private and efficient. Here in CIEE, we strongly believe in this form of public diplomacy through higher education. We change lives; our alumni change the world.

Public Diplomacy II

Two voices, two examples of this: Darío, one of the local flatmates wrote abour his experience sharing an apartment with three students of the ALA program; Charlie, a student from Vanderbilt University, responded Darío.

Dario, Spanish local student and CIEE flatmate:

My experience with Clark, Charlie and Connor, has been one of the best living arrangements that I have had in these last years. I have been sharing apartments with many different students these past three years, and although it might sound hard to believe, this was the best experience out of all of them. But it wasn't just living with really great roommates that I got out of this experience, but own my personal growth. It is what this experience generated in my way of thinking and seeing the world that was the most poignant. Living with these guys changed me. I'm not the same Darío that walked through that door some months ago.

Starting with the simplest, they changed the way I see Barcelona, and now I see it through different eyes. I visited places that I have always had close, but have never taken the time to appreciate.

I learned about the American culture, its utilitarianism, but also its honor and respect. I learned to care and to let myself be cared for.

Testimonio Darío

I was there for them and saw how they were also there for me, without wanting anything in return. They invited me on trips with them and invited me to be a part of their lives. They taught me to understand details of their country that I had never paid any attention to at all, and that no one of my same culture could have taught me.

I had new possibilities open to me, new adventures shared with them, new celebrations and new gastronomy. But above all, I gained new friends. I had the genuine and sincere opportunity to forge a friendship, a real friendship. All I can do is thank them for coming and thank CIEE for the opportunity. You don't do exchange programs, you change the way of understanding the world and of people.

Charlie, Vanderbilt University

Entering study abroad, I felt most anxious about my living situation. Not only would I be moving to a new city, but I would also be living with strangers. Additionally, one of these roommates would be a local Spanish student, and I was unsure if we'd even be able to communicate.

However, my worries were completely unfounded. On January 28th, the entire program met for the first time in the Gran Hotel Havana to begin orientation. After a quick meet and greet, the program director put us in taxis so we that we could move into our apartments. The entire twenty-minute ride back to Sarrià, there was never once a break in conversation or lull in laughter. Through a choppy mix of Spanish and English, we had no problems communicating. During this car ride, my worries about the upcoming semester washed away. Since that day, I have not looked back.

Although I have learned a lot in my classes this semester, the most valuable lessons these last few months have occurred outside of the classroom.  While I agree with the cliché phrase, "Study abroad taught me about myself," I would say that the relationships I have formed here to be even more meaningful and insightful. Through exchanges organized by CIEE and my enrollment in the University of Barcelona, I have been able to intimately interact with students from all over the world. I have heard war stories from a Korean student over coffee, discussed the Castro regime with a Cuban student in a pool hall and swapped ski stories with a girl from Switzerland. 

Testimonio Charlie

Testimonio Charlie 2

This certainly is the most valuable part of study abroad: exposure to new people, ideas and cultures. For this reason, I am especially grateful to my Spanish roommate and the CIEE Guardian Angels for always introducing me to new aspects of local Spanish culture. 

Thank you to my friends, roommates, Guardian Angels and the CIEE program director and staff for an incredible semester. 

 

Barcelona (and Pablo Neruda)

And we want to finish this Newsletter with a special video: a personal tour through the streets of Barcelona made by Eva (Barnard College) and Amelia (Yale University), by the hand of the poet Pablo Neruda. Thanks Eva and Amelia!

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