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.
Nina 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.