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51 posts categorized "Advanced Liberal Arts"




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!





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)





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.


Advanced Liberal Arts, Fall 2015, Newsletter III




A new term has just ended and many of the participants of the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program in the University of Barcelona are now heading home to celebrate the holidays with their families; others, however, are taking advantage of these last days of 2015 and will greet their families and friends visiting them to celebrate Christmas and New Years traveling through Spain and Europe. 

This difficult balance between being far from home, and at the same time, enjoying the opportunities that a study abroad experience can offer, finds a happy solution on Thanksgiving day. Being far from home on this day may be difficult, especially staying in a country where the references of this holiday are scarce, and the majority of the Spanish people only have references of this holiday through movies and television. But this unfamiliarity may turn into a perfect example of the intercultural component that our students experiment with while here. Charlotte (Carnegie Mellon University) and Maddie (Barnard College) celebrate with Lorena (her local flatmate in Barcelona with whom they shared an apartment during fall term) which was her first Thanksgiving in her life. Here you have some photos and a video of the dinner.


We end with Allie's story, from Vanderbilt University, who made a balance of her time here in Barcelona as a participant of the Advanced Liberal Arts program.

¡Felices Navidades a todos!

Allie, Vanderbildt University

My study abroad experience in Barcelona has been one I will never forget. Ever since I was a freshman in college I knew I wanted to study abroad in Spain and have been so excited gearing up for this semester, but once I landed in Barcelona I was surprisingly nervous about the semester that I had ahead of me. There were several girls from Vanderbilt in the Advanced Liberal Arts program Barcelona, but I knew none of them and with the initial language barrier I felt like an outsider and was unsure how my ‘dream’ semester was going to play out. Now, looking back on my semester, I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. I had the opportunity to take classes and interact with students at the University of Barcelona, making for a challenging but very rewarding outcome, drastically improving my Spanish. Living with a family in Barcelona has given me an insight to the Catalán culture and made me feel right at home. In addition, over the course of the semester, I worked as an English tutor to 5 kids and genuinely feel like I have become part of the Vega family. But most importantly, my biggest worry was completely dissolved. CIEE gave me the opportunity to make friends from all over the United States that I never would have met otherwise. From Barça games to weekend excursions around Europe to simply sitting around a table laughing for hours about nothing, we have shared countless unforgettable memories. These are people that I can honestly say are some of my best friends. CIEE and Barcelona have given me an amazing semester that I will always treasure. ¡Viva Barcelona! 





The University of Barcelona (UB) is the host institution of the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts (ALA) program. The UB is, above all, an urban university, outward-reaching and cosmopolitan just like the city where the campuses reside. And because of this, it plays a direct and active part in the urban fabric of Barcelona, becoming a hub of cultural activity for the city itself that our students take advantage of: music concerts, academic lectures or art expositions, are just some of the many resources that the UB offers to our students. The CIEE participants in the ALA program take direct enrollment courses with local students facing a new academic culture that sometimes needs time and necessary personal adjustments, but at the same time, it is a key factor to our students’ success at the end of their study abroad experience.

In this newsletter, I want to share with you the testimonial of Sarah and Maddie where they explain some of these difficulties and challenges, but also some of the rewards that they are already experiencing.

Warm regards from Barcelona!


Sarah, Indiana University

Studying abroad in the Advanced Liberal Arts program of CIEE in Barcelona, Spain has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I chose this program for the immersion opportunity it provides to integrate myself into the culture of the city and university lifestyle, but it has brought me so much more than that.

Barcelona offers all that you could want in a big city with a mix of gothic and modernist architecture, relaxing beaches, stunning mountain views, hidden parks, museums of every kind, and a rich history that leads to more chances for adventure everyday. I have realized that this environment is the perfect place to improve my Spanish fluency while living with a host family and taking classes at the University of Barcelona. Although tasks like finding my way around the city without a map, forcing myself to talk to local students, and comprehending 400-level Spanish lectures seemed impossible at first, now I have confidence to do them all. This program has helped me understand how to overcome any type of challenge, and because of that I have discovered more about myself than I ever thought possible. I have not only improved my Spanish speaking and comprehension, but have also opened my eyes to a new way of life and recognized the beauty in other cultures. It is safe to say that because of CIEE and the Advanced Liberal Arts program, I am now a stronger person, student, and Spanish speaker.


Maddie, Barnard College

When I first touched down in Barcelona, a bit travel-weary and nervous, I walked out into the terminal and found the large group of young people in neon orange shirts that I was searching for. These young people—our CIEE Guardian Angels are local, Spanish speaking students that join us CIEE students for various activities throughout the semester—introduced themselves, and I quickly felt at ease. After meeting them, my nervousness was dispelled, and I knew that it would be a great semester

After the two-week orientation that followed, my friends in the Advanced Liberal Arts Program and I began the process of choosing our classes at both CIEE and University of Barcelona. When I first laid eyes on the extensive course catalog that offered classes in Spanish on topics from economics to photography to poetry, I was a bit daunted by all of the choices I had laid out before me. However, yet again, CIEE knew what they were doing.  My advisers guided me through the process and helped me figure out an ideal schedule. Because of this help that CIEE provided, I have found a balance in a challenging, applicable course load full of Spanish language and culture that also allows for time to experience first hand this country that I am studying!

And CIEE certainly fosters this exploration outside the classroom as well. Two weekends ago, we took our CIEE organized weekend trip to Sevilla and Córdoba. As a group, we toured la Catedral de Sevilla, la Mezquita de Córdoba, and el Real Alcázar de Sevilla. At night, we attended a flamenco performance that blew us away with its combination of skill and emotion, and we were even left with free time to wander the crowded, lively streets of the cities. While on this trip, it amazed me how incredibly different the culture—both present and historical—of these two cities could be from that of Barcelona. With this trip, the program allowed us to see for ourselves the incredible cultural contrast that exists within Spain because of the varying historical influences in each of its regions.

Without these hands-on experiences that CIEE provides me with, subjects that I learn about in the classroom like the grandeur of Arabic architecture in Andalucía, the independence movement of Cataluña, or the ancient roman influence in Barcelona would remain abstract concepts for me. However, through the stellar classes, mentors, field trips, day excursions, and trips that CIEE has integrated into my study abroad program, I am now able to see, learn, and experience everything for myself.




6a010536fa9ded970b01b8d10b2fe0970c-800wiEMPIEZAN LAS CLASES

WP_20150907_002Finally, the moment has arrived and this week classes commence. This term, 20 students from 15 different universities will have their first contact with new professors, new classmates and new material. But for all of them, they will share the biggest new experience in their lives: different from their previous years on campus, this fall, they will encounter an academic culture that is completely new. We have been busy preparing the students during these past 10 days in an intense orientation in Barcelona where we have discussed at length the differences that exist between the American university system, the European university system in general, and the Spanish university system in particular. They know that they need to be patient that they must be flexible and mold themselves to the different requirements and expectations that this new endeavor demands. However, what is the study abroad program if not this exactly? 

Some examples: Miles (Tufts University) will take courses such as “Statistics I” and “International Economic Organization” in the University of Barcelona Economics department; Amy (University of La Verne) “Psychology of Work," " Psychology of Sexuality,” and “Witness Remembrance” in the Psychology department –in addition to “Arabic I” in the Modern Language department–; Elizabeth (Vanderbilt University) will try “Latin American Literature until Modernism” and “Spanish Narrative of the XX Century” in the Spanish Literature department; Kyle (George Washington University) has opted for “Online Communications,” “Contemporary Spain” and “Contemporary Spanish Theatre”; Anna will take “Anthropology and Feminism” and also “Literature and Cinema in Spain”; and Catalina (University of Minnesota) will concentrate in her major in Biology and will take, amongst other courses, “Cellular Biology” and “Experimental Design and Analysis of Data.” 

These are just some examples of the courses that the students from the ALA of CIEE program have selected, and without a doubt, will contribute in acquiring a new academic perspective in their lives as students. And, as I have repeated to our students so many times during orientation, when they go back home in December, they will see that Spanish isn't just a second language used for communication, but also an academic language. It is a great gift…



ALA students in a Bread-making workshop




Ala301The 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.

Buen regreso a todos y hasta muy pronto.Ala302Mateo Llosa, Yale University

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.Ala303Tatiana 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.Ala304





For our students, being in Barcelona means being in Europe. For many of them, it is the first time that they visit the old continent, and living in Spain is a unique opportunity –it is the unrepeatable combination of youth and the desire to explore new territories– to walk the streets of Berlin, London, Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Dublin… And the desire is so great to see Europe that sometimes our students forget that it is not necessary to cross the invisible European borders to encounter diverse landscapes, accents, customs, climate... Sometimes they forget that they can discover all of this right here in Spain.

In CIEE we are conscious of the importance of this, and it is for this reason that, amongst other cultural activities and field trips, we organize a weekend trip in one of the many corners of Spain that, in other circumstances, is not a priority destination for our students. Last week, we took a plane from Barcelona and, in less than an hour, we arrived in the Basque Country. It was fantastic to see our student’s reactions when they realized that at such a short distance –Far away but so close!– they can find such an important contrast in landscape, in customs, in language, and gastronomy. It was an unexpected discovery for them: sometimes, to travel far, it is not necessary to leave home…

Danielle, from Vanderbilt University, and Steven, from George Washington University, wanted to share with us in this Newsletter their impressions of last week’s trip.


Danielle Serphos, Vanderbilt University

The opportunity to travel throughout Europe during my time abroad is something that I will never take for granted. Upon arriving in Barcelona, I was beyond excited to find out that our Advanced Liberal Arts group would be traveling to Bilbao and San Sabastián towards the end of our program. I was looking forward to this trip from day one, and now that it is over, the Basque Country (País Vasco) certainly did not disappoint. Spending time with our intimate, small and close-knit CIEE program was filled with new experiences, food and culture.

We were accompanied by three separate tour guides as we were educated about Bilbao, San Sabastián and the ever so famous Guggenheim Museum. Without a doubt we managed to fit in the famous “pintxos” the typical regional food taking over restaurants in the Basque Country. Additionally, there was a well planned balance of structure and free time on the trip as I was simultaneously educated about all that Bilbao and San Sabastián had to offer and was given the time to explore and relax with friends. Whether it was the grey and cultural town of Bilbao or the blue beach town of San Sabastián, the weekend away from Barcelona was all I could have expected and more.

Ala1Stephen Conley, George Washington University

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to travel with my Advanced Liberal Arts Program to Bilbao and San Sebastian with the CIEE staff. I found the trip to be very interesting and engaging and everything from plane tickets, to the hotel, to our schedule was extremely organized. I particularly enjoyed this trip because of the opportunity to see parts of the Basque Region of Spain that I would not normally be able to visit independently. We stayed in Bilbao and got a walking tour, which was extremely informative and intriguing due to the industrial past of the city.

That night, our directors took us out to a great pintxos restaurant about a half a block from our hotel to watch a soccer game. The food was delicious and the restaurant was very cool! The next day we took a bus to San Sebastian where we had a walking tour of the city and had about five hours to both explore the beautiful coastline of San Sebastian and to try the local food. The final day we toured the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and learned about the relation between modernist museum and Bilbao. I enjoyed this trip and am grateful for the opportunity to experience Bilbao and San Sebastian! 




In the Advanced Liberal Arts program, we organized different linguistic exchanges throughout the semester in order to give ALA students the chance to meet locals of the same age, but also to meet people that are in similar fields of studies. Local students are always from the University of Barcelona, so in addition to the linguistic exchange per se, they also help with tips about courses, or even give them an introduction to the Catalan language. We always program the first encounter during orientation week. This way, ALA students meet locals literally a few hours after they have landed in the city, and some of these acquaintances quickly turn into friendships permitting both Spanish and English speakers to meet all throughout the semester to practice using the new language on their own in private language meetings. We believe that ALA students appreciate the chance to start practicing Spanish at such an early stage of their stay.

In this newsletter, two of the program participants explain to us their experience with this exchange: Paige with a young cinema director and professor of film studies in the UB, and Lauren with a Modern Language student.

Paige Polk, Rice University:

As a study abroad student, I anticipated that my semester in Spain would no doubt be filled with plenty of new and exciting opportunities. Just going to the grocery store is a linguistic and cultural exchange! However, I stumbled upon a more formal opportunity when I met with a friend over tapas. After a long day in class, I wasn´t sure how I´d feel about an organized meeting at the end of the day. However, I´m so glad that I said yes! It´s pretty easy to assume that a language exchange will be an awkward encounter with a stranger as you rattle off interesting facts about your perspective countries. But just like studying abroad in general, it´s best to enter without any expectations and an open mind. Only that way will you get the most out of your experience with a language exchange.  It turned out that we have far more in common that our different cultures would have us to believe. Even though we live on opposite sides of the world, we were able to have a conversation about pretty specific interests of ours that had some definite overlap. From portrait documentary film to the trials of long-distance relationships, it was almost too easy finding things to talk about!

01Lauren Pach, Indiana University:

It is sometimes difficult to make friends and meet new people when you are living in a city as large as Barcelona. Though we go to class every day with local students at the university here, it is still a challenge to initiate conversation with a classmate. The CIEE intercambios have been the best way for me to meet local students during my time in Barcelona. Both the local students and we CIEE students attend the intercambios because we want to meet people and we want to practice our language skills, so the conversation always flows easily. I have enjoyed getting to know local students from Barcelona, Catalonia, and all of Spain.

Beyond making friends, though, the intercambios provide a great environment for improving my language skills. I find that on any given day in Barcelona, I hear plenty of Spanish, but I don’t necessarily speak as much Spanish as I would like to. However, the intercambios force me to step outside of my comfort zone and initiate conversation in Spanish. It is always fun as well to help the local students with their English. When I listen to them speak English to me, I suddenly understand more or less how I sound to them when I speak Spanish. Both we and the local students are always modest in describing our language of abilities, but the intercambios have taught me that we are all better at communicating than we lead ourselves to believe. Overall, I am very grateful for the opportunity to get to understand the culture and people of Barcelona better by participating in the CIEE intercambios.


By Mar Modolell, Student Services

02One of the best ways to to get in touch with a culture is by being familiar with its gastronomy.

El pa de pagès (peasants bread) is one of the typical types of bread from Catalunya and is what is typically used to make the pa amb tomàquet (bread with tomato). It is a rustic and aromatic bread with a crunchy crust that preserves the bread perfectly for days. In fact, it is even better the day after it is baked and at two days later, when it has had time to sit  “asentado” and the bread is more firm, this is the optimal time to eat it.

In CIEE we did a bread workshop for the students in a way that they could get to know the main ingredients of the bread, so that they can learn to make this delicious bread at home but also, so that at the same time, they can learn all the relevant vocabulary in Spanish.




As the end of this term falls upon us, the days of this year having passed by almost imperceptibly, we wanted to make a holiday toast with all the students participating in the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program in the University of Barcelona to celebrate all the new friendships made, the old friendships made stronger, to remember the good moments shared, but also to reflect on these experiences in Barcelona. If there is something that they all share, it is that they are all going home a different person. As this is one of CIEE's main objectives, I think that we have accomplished our mission.

ALA1Because it is true that living and studying in another country and in another language contributes like no other experience in broadening horizons and incorporating new perspectives on life. If you have also had the fortune to be able to do volunteer work, your local knowledge about the city and the Spanish culture is multiplied. And this is what happened with some of the ALA students this term. One of them, Rebecca, wants to explain to us (in Spanish!) something that we all know: one always gives what they receive and sometimes they receive even more than they give.

Thank you so much Rebecca for sharing with us your Intercambio de Experiencias

¡Feliz Navidad y próspero año nuevo! 

Mi voluntario con ASSIS: Un intercambio de experiencias

Rebecca Henríquez, Northeastern University

            Mi llegada aquí en Barcelona vino acompañada con la sensación de oportunidades infinitas. Una de las primeras semanas tuve la oportunidad a asistir la reunión de voluntario. Ya tenía una idea en mi mente de qué quería hacer. Laura mencionó ASSIS como una posibilidad para mí. ASSIS es una organización que ayuda a las personas sin hogar. Los voluntarios trabajan con la organización para crear un ambiente de tolerancia y seguridad donde los clientes pueden ir, comer y reencontrar su dignidad.

Foto 3            Mis primeros días con la organización fueron un gran éxito y comencé a acostumbrarme al sistema y a la gente. Roger, el director de ASSIS, me ayudó mucho y siempre me preguntaba si necesitaba algo o si tenía preguntas para él. Yo empecé ayudando en la cocina y sirviendo el desayuno. Así, conocí a mucha de la gente regular de ASSIS. Hay hombres de varias partes de España y Europa, pero también conocí a un hombre de Kansas, EE.UU. y cada persona tiene una historia impresionante. Para mí el servicio funciona en dos direcciones. Estoy allí ayudando porque es importante en un sociedad apoyar y dar una mano a mis prójimos. Me llena de felicidad cuando veo que estoy parte del cambio de una vida. Por otro lado, estoy aprendiendo mucho. Es una forma muy buena para practicar castellano. Hablo con la gente y compartimos nuestras experiencias y lenguas. Ahora cada martes paso la mañana con algunas de las personas que asisten a ASSIS y sencillamente no sentamos y hablamos. A veces creo que lo que más me gusta es la compañía de ellos, pero seguro que es un intercambio beneficioso para cada de nosotros. Hablamos de sus vidas o de mis estudios y de los Estados Unidos. Uno de mis conocidos, Jesús, le encanta la poesía entonces hablamos de literatura y poesía mucho. Hablamos de su hija y de la vida. Otro hombre con quien yo hablo le gusta traducir canciones inglesas a castellano para practicar su inglés. Es un viaje de aprendizajes para mí. Cada persona tiene un personalidad única y cada vez que yo voy, experimento algo diferente.

ALA3            Una vez, experimenté un aprendizaje que nunca voy a olvidar. Llegué temprano un martes y me pusieron en un departamento nuevo, la distribución de la ropa. Me enseñó cómo organizar la ropa y cómo entregársela a la gente. Con las primeras personas fue muy fácil y tuve confianza. Un hombre acercó la mesa y comenzó a hablar, pero no entendí lo que quería. El empezó a gritar y lanzar sus brazos al aire. Yo nunca había visto a aquel hombre y no sabía su caso. Me sentí muy mal porque no supe cómo ayudarle. Empecé a sentirme incómoda. Después hablé con Roger y él me explicó la historia de ese hombre. También me ayudó a poner la experiencia en un perspectiva positiva. Ahora entiendo la importancia de la paciencia con otros y conmigo misma. Específicamente, en una institución como ASSIS, es cierto que vas a encontrar a gente con problemas mentales y otros problemas. No es que tengo que temer algo, sino que lo importante es estar preparada y actuar de forma profesional cuando me enfrento a una situación adversa.    

            Me siento como una parte de una familia allá. Observo la gente cada vez que yo voy a trabajar y cada vez me fascina la cantidad de cariño y de compasión que los otros voluntarios tienen para estas personas. Y estas personas encuentran allí un hogar, mucho