As educators, in CIEE we know that the learning process always goes beyond the four walls of a classroom: it is also a question answered in the halls after class, a long conversation about a lateral subject that has come up after asking a concrete academic question in the professor’s office, or a serendipitous meeting in any corner of the city between any of our students. All of this complements and strengthens that which is already included in an always limited syllabus program.
If there is anything that defines the educative experience of any student during their stay abroad it is, without a doubt, the experiential learning where observation, the interaction with new elements and personal reflection are key in the process of learning. Last Friday, we ended the Semana Cultural (Cultural Week) of the ALA program, a week that supports this idea of experiential learning. That week, the standard CIEE cultural courses changed their format and hours, and were opened to all the students of the ALA program.
La Semana Cultural was kicked off with a very special inauguration: Dr. Mariano Lambea (musicologist from CSIC) and Dra. Lola Josa (UB professor of Spanish Golden Age Literature) offered a lecture titled “Entre aventuras y encantamientos: música para Don Quijote” (Amongst Adventures and Spells: Music for Don Quixote). In this lecture, Mariano and Lola composed a poetic itinerary with music to illustrate certain landscapes of the novel “Don Quijote de La Mancha.” The students could listen to the sounds of some pieces that were recorded by La Gran Chapelle, a vocal-instrumental group specialized in the interpretation of historical music with original instruments. La Semana Cultural continued with various visits to temporary exhibitions, museums, walks through Roman Barcelona, and the viewing of a recently premiered Spanish movie in the cinemas of the country.
But this Cultural Week started with the previous weekend trip to Seville and Cordoba, two cities of Andalusia with a unique artistic legacy. The trip was preceded by special sessions from different CIEE courses dedicated to contextualize what the students were going to see. For example, the professor of the course “Masterworks of Catalonian Art” dedicated a class to explain the characteristics of Islamic art in Spain; the professor of the “Contemporary Spain” course dedicated a session to explain the “Reconquista,” the period of history of the Iberian Peninsula spanning approximately 770 years between the Islamic conquest of Hispania in 710 and the fall of the last Islamic state in Iberia at Granada; the professors of the CIEE mandatory course “Advanced Writing and Stylistics” explained to the students the varieties of Spanish in Andalusia. We are convinced that these academic sessions served as a theoretical base to enjoy, in its entirety dimension, the trip to the south of Spain.
In addition, the students had a surprise: it was a meet-up with the students from the ALA program of the CIEE Seville Study Center, where they could share conversations about the city. It was really touching to see them speaking, from the first moments onwards, only in Spanish. And what better guides to discover Seville’s nightlife at night than from the first-hand experiences of the current students living there!
TESTIMONIAL. Learning Outside of the Classroom, by Jared (Colorado College)
I went abroad to learn, but the essence of proper education is that it transcends the classroom. The proper education does not manifest until it is practically applied, or, better yet, unpractically considered by the student. John Keats, the famous English poet, once said that “nothing becomes real ‘til it is experienced.” I have to experience Barcelona, Spain in order to learn about Barcelona, Spain. This experience was made available by CIEE in the inaugural Semana Cultural.
During this week, I was provided with several opportunities to apply what I have learned and then other opportunities to absorb raw culture. The first activity I attended was a lecture on the music that was tactically coupled with Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I had no prior knowledge of music, music theory, or even the omnipresence of Cervantes’ canonical novel. The entire room was engaged and provoked to consider the thematic and syntactical implications of the Quixote musical-poem experience.
The next cultural experience was at the Museu Nacional D’Art de Catalunya. A group of us were given a tour by Professor Anna Vallfugera. She thoughtfully guided us through the art of Ramon Casas, the furniture of Antoni Gaudí, and finally the medieval collection of frescos that are delicately removed from their original sites throughout Catalunya. The experience that began with exiting the Espanya metro stop on the green line, and then led to an ascension to the palace that holds the Catalan art collection, manifested in a newfound respect for the artists of this region from hundreds of years back to the Catalan artists of present day.
I then attended a screening of Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s Que Dios Nos Perdone. The film itself revealed the distinction between Spanish, and perhaps European, cinema and that of the United States. The consensus following the movie was that several scenes from the film would not have been allowed in a general cinema in the United States. The lack of limits imposed on an artist within a more progressive society was explored among my classmates and me.
To finish the week, I went on a tour of the Museu D’Historia de Barcelona. The focus of the tour was on the Roman influence in the Barrio Gótico that exists to this day, both culturally and architecturally. At the end of the week I had covered all aspect of the arts, both written and visual, as well as tapped in to the history of one of the most dynamic cities I’ve explored. The Semana Cultural took me out of the classroom and into the museums, cinemas, and streets of Barcelona—and I came out a more enriched abroad student.