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48 posts categorized "Advanced Liberal Arts"

09/20/2017

Advanced Liberal Arts, Fall 2017, Newsletter I

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Fall term

Mercury is falling. Autumn finally stirs awake, and this week, the sticky humidity of summer in the city paves a path for a mild, fresh, and very welcome autumn breeze that wafts us all out of our houses and onto the streets of Barcelona. The students from the Advanced Liberal Arts Program are saying farewell to these last days of the beach and are already making their way each morning from their new homes to the different departments of the Universidad de Barcelona and the CIEE Study Center. They are attending classes that represent all areas of knowledge, and which will contribute, more than anything else, to their personal growth that which only the academic experience can attribute to young university students. “Artificial Vision”, “Cellular Biology”, “Comparative Political Systems”, “Psychopathology”, “Game Theory for Business”, “Aesthetics and Ideology of the Spanish Romanticism”, “The History of Economic Though”, “Latin American Literature until Modernism”, “Gender and History”, “Neuropsychology”, “International Economic Organization”, “Literature & Cinema in Spain”, “Philosophy of Law”, and “Phonetics and Phonology of Spanish” are only a few examples of the courses that our students will be taking in the CIEE ALA Program during this fall term.

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(ALA students visiting the mountain and the Benedictine abbey of Montserrat)

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(Students in the University of Barcelona Old Main)

Orientation, rules of navigation, and doors to open 

For any person, the first days in a new city are always special. When our students arrived in Barcelona, only a few days ago, the city was both a familiar and unfamiliar place at the same time: Familiar because they had previously researched the city, looking for literary, artistic, and cinematographic references, or because they simply had conversations with other students from their universities that had been to Barcelona before and who shared their personal experiences, inundating them with incessant advice and recommendations that, shortly after arriving, the current students began to realize were impossible to follow or reproduce. But as mentioned before, it was also an unfamiliar space because none of those conversations, nor the different screens they viewed in search of images and information before traveling, nor even the simple black and white of the page of a book could compare to the multisensory experience that invades us when we walk through the streets for the first time.

BCN old IDuring the first week of their stay, CIEE organized a series of orientation sessions focused on facilitating this marvelous experience of being “new” in a new place: Advice on how to get around the city, how to find this place or that, detailed information about their classes would be, the Spanish education system, health & security, house rules for residences, homestays, and shared apartments… What to visit, what to try, what to see, what to taste… Different rules of navigation, new coordinates and lines to follow – all with the goal of converting that which was unfamiliar to familiar.

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The saturation of information during orientation is inevitable. We know that… but in the end, what CIEE gives during these first days is a key that opens a door yet to be discovered. Or better yet, a key capable of opening a million and one doors, all of them different. And it will be these students who, during the rest of the term and from their personal and unique experiences, will go opening and closing doors until they find the right combination that unlocks “their” Barcelona.

 

06/08/2017

Advanced Liberal Arts, Spring 2017, Newsletter III

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There and back

Far behind lay the days in January when the students of the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program arrived in Barcelona with a mix of nervousness and excitement. They arrived at a brand-new city and with hundreds of intentions and expectations, both individual and shared. During one of the orientation sessions that CIEE organizes during the first week of the students’ stay, we did an exercise with them to verbalize the reasons (and objectives) for deciding to study a semester abroad in another country. Of these reasons, two stood out: improving their level of Spanish and to have the opportunity to get to know well, not only the city (Barcelona) and the country (Spain), but also the continent (Europe).

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(ALA students in San Sebastian)

Last week, months after their arrival and during the farewell event, we did a pause to search for a moment of reflection and balance of the term where we could check that these two main goals have been met. The students of the program have had the opportunity to discover for themselves (and on many occasions hand in hand with CIEE) many corners of the city, the country and the continent, which has permitted them to expand their geographic, but more importantly, their mental horizons; on the other hand, it was truly moving to hear them speaking with an absolute dominion of the Spanish language. They themselves must have been just as impressed as we were with how much they have improved.

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(Guitarist and composer Joan Furió during his recital in the farewell event)

 

Seeing the students realize that they have achieved some of their goals is one the greatest gifts that all of us working at CIEE could receive. Because the achievements of our students are also those of the hundreds of the CIEE team, from Portland to many other places in the world. In CIEE, we believe that we can change the lives of our students. But after all these years, I have learnt something that twelve years ago, when I joined the CIEE family, I could not even imagine: that our students have also changed my own life. It took a while for me to understand that the transforming experience that we try hard to deliver to our students goes at the end in two directions… As our colleague, Dr. Kathleen Sidelli, Associate Vice President for Overseas Study at IU, and one of the CIEE Board of Directors members, said a few days ago in Madrid, “I [also] have the best job in the world.”

As always, at the end of the semester, I like to share with all my colleagues in the States the voices of the students from the CIEE ALA program in the Univesity of Barcelona. In this occasion, Ben (Amherst College) explains to us about his doubts regarding his decision to live with a host family and how this experience ended up being one of the most gratifying aspects of his stay in Barcelona; and finally, Claudia (Brandeis University) shares with us her experiences during the internship at the Vall d’Hebron Hospital at the Transcultural Psychiatry Program.

¡Buen regreso a casa a todos los estudiantes y hasta muy pronto!

 

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Ben (Amherst College)

Choosing to study abroad through CIEE Barcelona’s Advanced Liberals Arts Program was one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout my college experience. Barcelona is an incredibly lively city with a unique cultural history. ALA ensures that each student is given the support and access to take full advantage of all that Barcelona has to offer.

Through ALA’s academic program, I was able to take classes at both CIEE’s La Casa and the University of Barcelona. The set-up was ideal; I had the confidence and support from my professors at CIEE to challenge myself and succeed at the UB, one of the top universities in Spain.

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(Phillip –Tufts University– and Ben –Amherst College– with the Feliu family)

Electing to live in a homestay was maybe the hardest decision I had to make but also the most rewarding. I was afraid that living with a family would mean some sort of curtailment of my independence or personal freedom. However, my homestay family was the highlight of my abroad experience – I was treated like another son, exposed to exciting family dinner conversations and able to make meaningful relationships that far exceeded my expectation. I know that when I return to Barcelona, I’ll get a hot meal and a place to stay.

Barcelona is the apex of the European experience. You live next to some of the most famous architectural buildings in the world, you witness firsthand the vigor of the Catalan independence movement and you get to experience a gastronomical culture like no other. There’s no better place in the world to study, grow and live.

Barcelona has become my second home and the Catalan people my second family. It has been a semester I will never forget. I can’t wait to come back.

Fins aviat!

Internship
Claudia (Brandeis University)

I’ve done a lot of internships in the past in a wide range of areas from local NGOs helping women to internationally recognized organizations like the American Red Cross, but few have been as gratifying as my one in Barcelona at the Transcultural Psychiatric Program at Vall d’Hebron Barcelona University Hospital.

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Claudia –Brandeis University– with her UB fellow interns.

The main reason is that as a research assistant to the senior researchers, I am given work that feels important. We have been working on refugee mental health, specifically women’s and girl’s mental health status, to try and understand what they might be going through and find/design programs and interventions that can take their needs into account. Given that the refugee crisis is so present and important, I feel like I am contributing my grain of sand into a great cause.

Another reason why I’ve enjoyed my internship so much is the work environment at the Hospital. Not only are the senior researchers, psychologists, and psychiatrists super accessible, helpful and inspiring, the other interns care about these issues as much as I do. To be part of such a passionate environment with my peers and mentors has been gratifying and has made my internship at the hospital feel like it’s not work at all, but something I thoroughly enjoy.

03/24/2017

Advanced Liberal Arts, Spring 2017, Newsletter II

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Our Faculty

This week the students from the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program at the University of Barcelona (UB) are taking their midterm exams. These are days of a certain general nervousness given that, for the first time since our students have arrived, preparing for exams has completely eclipsed the rest of their activities in Barcelona. It is a time for studying –long hours reading in the different libraries of the UB or in the “Sala de Lectura” of the CIEE Study Center, searching through class notes, dictionaries, reference books, and online resources, and meeting with classmates or professors to resolve their last remaining doubts before the exam.

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(One of the reading rooms of the University of Barcelona's main library)

A study abroad experience with CIEE is many things all at once: the perfecting of the Spanish language, the direct contact with new realities, landscapes and ways of thinking, and the inevitable realization of that which differentiates us, but also which unifies people from different places. To live and study in another country is, in short, to open your eyes to the world and to yourself. And this can all be achieved through our various cultural activities, contact with host families and locals, organized excursions and trips within and outside the city, linguistic exchanges with local students, etc.

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(Elizabeth and Alexandra –Columbia University–, Bailey and Alexandra –Vanderbilt University– taking the CIEE “Advanced Writing & Stylistic” midterm exam)

But these many elements that make up our programs and which our students experience through CIEE, pivot around the same axis: the academic component. One example of this is the linguistic exchange meetings that we organize for the ALA program during the term. For these meetings, we only invite students from the University of Barcelona because we want our students to not only practice Spanish with them, but also so that they have “point of reference” in the day-to-day life on campus. These are new friends that, in the end, will ease the adaptation process into the new university and are people that our students can share their classes with, or prepare for their exams with, like they have been doing during this week. One of these students from the UB, specifically from the Hispanic Philology Department, is Marta, who is doing her academic internship at CIEE. Marta spends four hours a day at CIEE doing different academic and administrative tasks. Thanks to Marta, our students can count on a UB graduate student to conduct language or content tutoring sessions, or they can join one of the different study groups that we organize weekly in our Study Center that she leads.

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(Risa –Tufts University–, Sara –Vanderbilt University–, and Sally –Washington University– surrounded by UB local students in the second linguistic exchange)

And, like we mentioned before, since the academic component is the center of all our activities, the professors of the ALA program are an essential part in order for everything to work smoothly. Our faculty are a bridge between two academic cultures (Spanish and American) –so different and occasionally contrasting. They not only help our students grow intellectually, but also contribute enormously to the adaptation process to the new academic atmosphere. This spring term, we have had the privilege of incorporating two new professors to our ALA program team: Dr. Mar Forment and Dr. Paolo Roseano, professors in the Philology Department at the University of Barcelona, the host institution of our program.

I would like to end this newsletter by sharing their profiles with all of you which, in my opinion, embody the excellence of our program:

Mar Forment, Ph.D.
CIEE Course Taught: Advanced Spanish Writing and Stylistics

Dr. Mar Forment Fernández is a professor of Spanish Language in the Spanish Philology Department at the University of Barcelona, where she earned her Ph.D. in 1999. She has taught courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels, as well as Spanish as a Foreign Language classes at different higher education institutions. Her research area covers Spanish semantics and phraseology, on which she has authored numerous articles, books and reviews. Since 2001 she has been directing the academic activities related to Spanish as a Foreign Language at the Menendez Pelayo International University (UIMP) Barcelona campus. She is also an accredited examiner for DELE exams at the Instituto Cervantes. Currently, she is involved in a research project that aims to clarify Spanish legal language.

Paolo Roseano, Ph.D.
CIEE Course Taught: Spanish for Heritage Learners

Paolo Roseano earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Trieste (Italy) in 2004 and a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Barcelona (UB) in 2012. His expertise includes prosody of Romance languages, forensic phonetics, language contact, phonology and morphology. He works in the Phonetics Laboratory at the University of Barcelon and is a professor in the Department of Spanish Philology at the same institution, where he has taught several subjects (Sociolinguistics, Historical linguistics, Syntax and Spanish Grammar for foreign students). Paolo also teaches acoustic phonetics in the MA program in Phonetics at the CSIC (Madrid, Spain) and Learning Difficulties and Language Disorders at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain. Previously, he was a professor of Sociology of Ethnic Relations at the University of Trieste and worked as a researcher at the International Sociology Institute of Gorizia (Italy).



02/16/2017

Advanced Liberal Arts, Spring 2017, Newsletter i

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New classes

Three weeks ago, the students from the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program at the Universitat de Barcelona arrived in their new city with a vague idea as to which courses they wanted to take during their study abroad in Barcelona. Two weeks before their arrival, they received an email from us with the “Guía de asignaturas” (a course listing) that has over 300 available courses in the various departments of the UB such as Biology, Mathematics, International Relations, History, Spanish Language and Literature, and Psychology, just to name a few. Together with this guide, they also received all the syllabi of these courses. The idea was that the students would be able to discuss which courses were the most compliant with the requirements of their Majors and Minors from their home schools with their study abroad and academic advisors. Once in Barcelona, during the orientation period before the start of the courses, the students went through personal advising sessions with the Resident Director to discuss the appropriateness, or not, of their pre-selections. The purpose of this process is two-fold: on the one hand, for CIEE it assures us that the total number of credits that our students will receive will be validated by their home universities and that, at the end of the term, it will be another piece in this grand puzzle of necessary courses to complete the students’ academic requirements at home; and on the other hand, we also want assurance that this academic selection will be the most appropriate, not only from a purely academic interest but also so that it will fulfill the students’ personal expectations when they experience the Spanish university system, which is so different from the one that they are accustomed to.

The students from spring term can count on an exceptional advantage: the all-year program peers that have already lived these first days at the University of Barcelona back in September. It was for this reason that Josie from Barnard College and Nina from the University of Tulsa not only participated in the academic orientation session, but they also attended many of the activities organized by CIEE during the new students’ first days in Barcelona. Their voices, advice and recommendations were the best way to comfort our incoming students who felt, logically, a little bit scared before the start of this new academic and personal adventure.

IMG-20170129-WA0020Nina wanted to share her memories with us of that last September, in the fall term, when everything was so new for her.

Nina, University of Tulsa.

My name is Nina and I am in my second semester of the ALA program at CIEE. Although the past four months had their challenges, they ended up being truly rewarding and educational for me. Throughout the semester, classes at CIEE were engaging and manageable; the UB classes, however, did not always feel this way. When I and the other American students arrived in our UB class the first day, we noticed a few things that were very different from the way they were our American universities. We realized that it is not uncommon for a Spanish professor to be fifteen minutes late to class, or that we would be given no assignments, and most importantly that reading schedules would not be laid out for us. These differences, along with the language barrier, made our UB classes seem a little overwhelming in the beginning. Thankfully we had the help of a local UB graduate and one of our professors giving us study sessions for our midterms and finals. After the midterm, we had a better idea of what to expect and how we needed to manage our time. By the end of the semester, I saw the language barrier disappear almost completely and my reading comprehension greatly increase. My advice to incoming students would be to go to class, do a little reading every day, and just have patience with yourself because you will see improvements.IMG-20170129-WA0014IMG_3178

01/05/2017

ADVANCED LIBERAL ARTS, FALL 2016, NEWSLETTER III

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Study Abroad: difficulties and challenges

In the first Newsletter, of this past fall term, we wrote about how the first days in any study abroad experience is a necessary mix of happy emotions, worry, nerves, and frustration. For some students, these first weeks might seem traumatic because they need to adapt to a new cultural, academic and linguistic reality, but it is not an identical process for everyone, nor is it calculable. Each person needs to face –and to overcome– the difficulties in their own diverse and unique way. While for some students, the integration into a new city and a new University (The University of Barcelona in this case) passes in only a few days and at a great velocity, other students find serious difficulties to find their place in their new surroundings and to understand the expectations of their new professors, who may have a teaching style that might be radically different to those in their home campus.

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In CIEE, we try to anticipate these potential difficulties and we take the time to instruct and inform about them during the orientation, and to solve them with concrete actions during the first days and weeks. But we are also conscious and know the indisputable truth: studying and living in a different country is an individual, unique and unrepeatable experience. And that which presents itself as complicated, frustrating or discouraging in a first phase, transforms into something magical at the end of the journey. Like in other aspects in life –and the Study Abroad experience is not an exception– the balances and the conclusions cannot be found at the beginning of a project. It is necessary to wait for its conclusion so that, with the necessary perspective, you can see how far you have come, and more importantly, how different you are today after the journey faced.

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Abby, from Villanova University, has learned this lesson well after her experience in the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program in the University of Barcelona. Her testimonial is the perfect example to illustrate what I am trying to say:

TESTIMONIAL. Just three short months ago, by Abby (Villanova University)

Just three short months ago I arrived in Spain ready to take on my semester abroad. I landed in Barcelona and the only thing running through my head was why did I sign up for this program? Why am I taking all of my classes in Spanish? What was I thinking? I felt apprehensive about my decision and decided to see Alberto, the program director. I was frustrated and doubtful and I actually started to cry in front of a man I had only met a few days before. Alberto assured me that I just needed to relax, take each day at a time and believe in myself.

The changes did not happen overnight and I had to work hard every single day, but with the help of my tutor, Mar, and all of the people at CIEE I began to feel better about my abilities. While my achievements can be seen through scores and numbers, I think the most rewarding part of it has been feeling comfortable with myself. I started to participate more and ask questions in class and I even approached professors at the University of Barcelona if I needed clarification. My confidence and progression with Spanish have been improved so much in such a short amount of time.

Looking back on this semester, I cannot believe that it is already over. It has been everything I had hoped to get out of my study abroad experience and more. I have grown personally as well as academically and I could not have achieved all that I have this semester without the help of the amazing staff at CIEE. My experience abroad has meant so much to me and I will be forever grateful for my semester with CIEE ALA program and all that it has taught me.

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11/22/2016

ADVANCED LIBERAL ARTS, FALL 2016, NEWSLETTER II

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

09/20/2016

ADVANCED LIBERAL ARTS, FALL 2016, NEWSLETTER I

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First weeks

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These are the first days in a new city, of a new country, and a new continent. These are the first days using the Spanish language at all times, which in reality isn’t that new to the students, but becomes something quite different from the Spanish that they have learned within the classrooms of their universities. These are the first days in a new university, the University of Barcelona (UB), with new classmates, new professors, new classes, and above all, new ways of learning.

Those that think this is easy are quite wrong. The first days in any study abroad experience is a necessary mix of emotions, worry, nerves, frustration, happiness and incalculable curiosity.  All that is new becomes a challenge, a discovery, but it also becomes an accumulation of small surprises (happy at times; strange and uncomfortable in many other occasions) that will determine the rest of the stay in this new destination.

In CIEE, we know quite well that these first days are crucial in the global experience of our students. That is why we are especially careful in the organization of the first week of orientation and in the planning of cultural, social and linguistic activities that we organize in parallel to the sessions about security, health, practical matters, academics, etc.

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And between all of the activities, sessions, and experiences that our students live during these first days, the beginning of the direct enrollment courses in the UB represents a point of inflection because the students visualize and feel that one of their expectations that they had in the United States is about to take place. Fear and excitement are inevitably mixed together and it is very common that the students gather in the office door of the Resident Director to show their concern in regards to the difficulty of the first day in a particular class.

This year is no different as all other years, and a group of students came very worried to my door because they did not know if they would be prepared for the “La narrativa española del Siglo XX” course in the Philology Department in the University of Barcelona. It was very interesting to see how they were calmed immediately when I showed them the answer that I had from the professor of this course when I informed her that my students would be in her course once again. And I would also like to share this with all of you, which, in my opinion, perfectly explains the profile of the students of the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program in the UB:

Dear Alberto,

You cannot imagine the joy that your email has given me.

For me, it is always a pleasure to have your students. They are very hard workers and they always show great involvement with my material.

Un abrazo fuerte y hasta pronto,

Dra. Blanca Ripoll

Dearest students, the first days have passed. Your adventure has only just begun.

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.

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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.

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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!

05/05/2016

ADVANCED LIBERAL ARTS, SPRING 2016, NEWSLETTER I

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SEMANA CULTURAL (CULTURAL WEEK) 

This term, we have incorporated a new initiative for the Advanced Liberal Arts program that has opened up an interesting and unique interaction between the students and the professors of the program: la Semana Cultural. During these days, the CIEE cultural courses changed their format and hours, and were open to all of the students of the ALA program. The classes were unleashed from the confines of the classrooms of our Study Center, to explore different corners of the city.

For example, the professor of the course “El Quijote, de Cervantes” did a walking tour called “La Barcelona del Quijote” which allowed all students (not only those that are enrolled in the course, but all students who were interested) to walk through some locations and buildings of Barcelona in which Cervantes imagined Don Quijote, considering that many of these places still exist in the city. The students not only enjoyed this extraordinary opportunity to walk into one of the most important books in the history of universal literature, but they also commemorated the 400th year of the death of Cervantes (the 22nd of April, 1616) and the 400th year anniversary of the publication of the second part of Don Quijote de La Mancha.

La Semana Cultural was kicked off with a very beautiful inauguration: the conference/concert of the guitarist, composer and professor from the Music Conservatory of Barcelona, Joan Furió. This extraordinary musician titled his concert “España y la guitarra” (Spain and the guitar"), and while he explained to all those present the evolution of this instrument through the centuries, he played pieces of music by well known composers live.

Dr. Enrique Campomanes, professor of the “Contemporary Spain” course, had a lecture about the origin of the feeling of sovereignty in Catalunya, and on another day, he brought the students to the Parliament of Catalunya, an institution whose origin can be traced back to the 11th century; Dr. Laura Casal, professor of the “Masterworks of Catalonian Art” course guided our students through the Real Academia Catalana de Bellas Arts, one of the most emblematic buildings of the history of Catalan art of which have passed many important artists like Pablo Picasso; a visit to the Air Raid shelter from the Spanish Civil War, a tour through the Roman Barcelona, watching the movie “Julieta” (the latest movie by the Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar) completes the list of the activities of this Semana Cultural which had, as a grand finale, a wine tasting in the terraces of our Study Center on a beautiful spring day in the city.

There is nothing better to understand a place than through its culture. Our students have the opportunity to experience this first hand. 

 

Cultural I

Guitarist and composer Joan Furió during his recital

 

Kate, Tufts University

Semana Cultural embodies the idea of “active education”. For one week, our CIEE professors organized field trips outside of the traditional classroom setting to  experience, to explore, to be engaged. For me, Semana Cultural reinforced the idea that learning does not only happen in the classroom; learning, especially in Barcelona, happens everywhere.  

Semana Cultural allowed us the opportunity to even further immerse ourselves in Spanish and Catalan culture and history and as study abroad students, it is important for us to not only be exposed to different cultures, but to absorb them as well. Because after all, we students are not tourists of Barcelona; Barcelona has become our home.

 

Cultural II

Zoë (Vanderbilt University), Eva (Barnard College), Deborah  (Kenyon College), Brandon (Vanderbilt University) and Maia  (Fordham University)

 

Cultural IIIAmanda (Yale University), Kate (Tufts University) and Charlie (Vanderbilt University)

 

 

02/05/2016

DISCOVERING COMMON GROUND

One of our students, Charlotte, from Carnegie Mellon University, explains in her personal blog the adventures of being abroad. In one of her posts she writes about how her experience abroad with CIEE changed her mind and gave her the possibility of understanding the world in a more open-minded way:

As I embarked on this study abroad experience, my worst fear was that my Spanish would let me down. I have pursued a degree in Hispanic Studies in part because in my generation, knowing Spanish is of global importance. Despite my commitment to this venture of studying in Spain, in the beginning I doubted my ability to become a fluent Spanish speaker.

Over the past three months I have confronted this fear head on. Initially I became easily frustrated because I struggled to converse with native speakers. As September passed, however, increasingly I could hear the distinction between words. Although I was unable to respond quickly, I recognized that I had experienced major improvement in comprehension.

In the weeks that followed, my spoken Spanish improved as well. November 3rd marked the day when everything changed. It was as though I had acquired so much vocabulary that suddenly I was able to speak more fluidly. While shopping or at a restaurant, I was better able to express myself. I began to initiate casual conversation while waiting for the bus. It seemed that everywhere I went native Spanish speakers complimented my Spanish.

Despite this improvement in my spoken Spanish, as a perfectionist I continued to feel discouraged at times.  

One day I confided in Andrés, one of my favorite professors. From the start, Andrés inspired me. It was evident that he strongly values his students’ success, and there is never a moment when he is not enthusiastic, so I felt comfortable talking with him. “I would like to speak to you about something that is bothering me,” I told him.

- “Come in.”

- “I often find myself feeling embarrassed by my accent because everyone responds to me in English, which makes me feel incapable of speaking Spanish.”

Andrés reassured me: “It is very common to feel like that, but if people respond to you in English, it is usually because they want to practice their English. Don’t worry about it – you can continue speaking Spanish while the other person speaks in English. Often, when someone hears from your accent that you are American, they think, ‘Ah, an American, straight out of the movies!”

I laughed. Andrés has a way of making light of a situation, and I felt much better.

I began to recognize how much I had accomplished. As our program director said last week at our goodbye lunch, in four months we had become capable of communicating in Spanish at an advanced, academic level.

On Saturday, I headed to the airport at the crack of dawn with my two (extremely heavy) bags. I felt a mix of emotions as I absorbed for the last time the sites of Barcelona’s distinct streets.

My first flight took off from Barcelona, Spain en route to Newark, New Jersey. After ten hours of travel and little sleep, I sat, bleary–eyed, at a café near the terminal waiting for my final flight. A lively girl who looked about my age sat down at the same table. “I love your hat,” I said.

A second girl sat down at the table.    

- “Thanks! I didn’t realize I was still wearing it,” she responded, as she removed the festive Santa hat.

- “Where are you headed?”

- “I’m going to Italy, and my friend is going to India. I’ve been living in the U.S. for the past year and a half, and I’m excited to see my family.”

- “That’s funny, because I’m returning from living abroad myself! It’s so weird to hear English everywhere.”

Laughing, she responded, “That’s exactly how I felt when I first came to America. I could barely speak English, and it was even more difficult because in Italy we learn British English. For instance, I used to say accommodation instead of housing, which would always result in blank stares.”

It was gratifying to be able to share with someone from a different culture our parallel experiences. In this moment, I realized how much living in Spain had changed me. It opened my eyes to an expansive world, and showed me the excitement of finding commonality despite different backgrounds. I feel exhilarated to be returning to the U.S. with these insights and look forward to applying them to my life.

Spanish translation:

Antes de esta experiencia, mi mayor temor era que mi español me fallara. Planeaba una carrera en estudios hispánicos porque en mi generación la habilidad de hablar en español es útil. A pesar de mi compromiso con este viaje, al principio dudaba que pudiera adquirir un español fluido.

Durante estos tres meses, he enfrentado este temor directamente. Al principio, me frustraba mucho porque no podía charlar con hablantes nativos. Sin embargo, para finales de septiembre podía oír la distinción entre las palabras repentinamente; es decir, aunque no podía contestar rápidamente, vi una mejora en mi comprensión.  

En las semanas que siguieron, también noté una mejora drástica en mi español hablado. El 3 de noviembre fue el día en que todo cambió. Por el mucho vocabulario que había adquirido, de pronto tenía la habilidad de comunicarme con más fluidez. Cuando iba de compras o comía en un restaurante, sabía qué quería decir. Empecé a charlar con desconocidos mientras esperaba el autobús. Parecía que todo el mundo quedaba impresionado por mi español.

A pesar de esta mejora en mi español hablado, como soy muy perfeccionista me sentía cada vez más desalentada.

Un día hablaba con Andrés, uno de mis profesores favoritos. Desde el principio, Andrés me ha inspirado. Evidentemente le importa mucho el éxito de sus estudiantes, y nunca hay un momento en que él no esté pletórico de entusiasmo, y por eso me sentía cómoda hablando con él. “Quiero hablar contigo porque algo me está molestando”, le dije.

- “Pasa”.

- “A menudo tengo vergüenza de mi acento porque todo el mundo me contesta en inglés, dándome la sensación de que soy incapaz de hablar en castellano”.

Andrés me tranquilizó: “Es común sentirse así, pero si alguien te contesta en inglés, usualmente es que quiere practicar su inglés. Entonces cuando esto ocurre, no pasa nada – puedes continuar hablando en español mientras la otra persona habla en inglés. Muchas veces, cuando alguien oye por tu acento que eres americana, piensa, ‘¡Ah, una americana, salida de las películas!”

Me reí. Andrés tiene una forma de mantener el humor en una situación como esa, y me sentía mucho mejor.

Empecé a ver cuánto había logrado. Como el director del programa nos dijo la semana pasada en la comida de despedida, después de cuatro meses hemos llegado a ser capaces de comunicarnos en español con un nivel académico avanzado.

El sábado me dirigía al aeropuerto por la madrugada con mis dos pesadas maletas. Sentía una mezcla de emociones mientras admiraba la última vista de las pintorescas calles de Barcelona.

Mi primer vuelo fue desde Barcelona a Newark. Después de diez horas de viajar sin descanso, me senté –lánguida– en un café cerca de la terminal para esperar el último vuelo. Una chica de mi edad se sentó a la misma mesa muy animada. “Me encanta tu sombrero”, le dije.

Otra chica se sentó.

- “¡Gracias! No me había dado cuenta de que todavía estaba llevándolo”, me contestó mientras se quitaba su sombrero de San Nicolás.

- “¿A dónde viajas?”

- “Viajo a Italia, y mi amiga viaja a India. Llevo un año y medio en los Estados Unidos, y tengo muchas granas de ver a mi familia.”

- “¡Que casualidad! ¡Acabo de regresar del extranjero también! Es una locura escuchar inglés por todos lados”.

Riendo, me respondió, “Yo sentía lo mismo cuando llegué por primera vez a América. Apenas podía hablar en inglés, y fue aun más difícil porque en Italia aprendemos el inglés británico. Por ejemplo, solía decir “accommodation” en vez de “housing” y siempre provocaba miradas vacías”. 

Fue increíble relacionarme con alguien de otra cultura a través de una experiencia compartida. En aquel momento, me di cuenta de que Barcelona me había cambiado muchísimo. Abrió mis ojos a un mundo expansivo, y me reveló que es emocionante descubrir aspectos comunes a pesar de las diferencias innatas. Me entusiasma regresar a los Estados Unidos con estas perspicacias para aplicarlas a mi vida. 

If you want to know more about her experiences abroad, take a look at her blog Aventuras de Char.