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8 posts categorized "Volunteering"


Advanced Liberal Arts, Spring 2018, Newsletter I



Libertas perfundet omnia luce
When new students arrive at the Barcelona airport after a long transoceanic journey and make their way to the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program orientation, upon arrival they find students wearing CIEE shirts that welcome them, help them with their luggage and accompany them on the bus to the orientation location. These students, of the same age as the recent arrivals, are in fact, students of the same institution that will host the participants of this CIEE program: The University of Barcelona. Minutes later, after the bus has taken them from the airport to the center of the city, the students will get off at Hotel H10 Universidad, situated on the corner of Plaza de la Universidad. The hotel and plaza are named Universidad because both are in front of the historical University of Barcelona building. Founded in 1450, it is an institution without which you could not easily understand the history of this city or the country over the past 568 years. At CIEE, we want our students in the program to familiarize themselves with their new university from the very beginning. On the second day, they undergo the academic session and language assessment, which are administered by professors of the Philology Department at the UB.

(ALA students visiting the UB Old Main with Dr. Anna Vallugera, Professor of the CIEE course "Masterworks of Catalan Art"

What I’m trying to say is that for CIEE the relationship that we want our students to establish with the host institution is key for many reasons: it guarantees quality and indisputable academic rigor while also guaranteeing the level of integration and immersion of our students for whom, in any other way, it would be much more complicated. The professors that teach the ALA program courses are also professors of the UB. The university students that attend the linguistic exchanges are the same students that our students will cross paths with and share classes with in the different departments of the UB. And through the possibility of internship positions, or volunteer programs, our students may further strengthen their sense of belonging and expand their circle of contacts.

(Students after taking the Spanish language placement test in the UB Philology Department during the orientation)

The motto of the UB is “Libertas perfundet omnia luce” (Liberty fills everything with light). A few days ago, I wrote a brief message of gratitude to our new students for their attention and excellent behavior during the orientation. To it I attached this picture that I took during our visit to the UB Old Main, in the Rector’s office, where the Barcelona winter light was shining down on them. I sincerely wish them a term where libertas perfundet omnia luce…

SP181a(CIEE ALA students in University of Barcelona Rector's office)




Advanced Liberal Arts, Fall 2017, Newsletter III


F3-0(CIEE ALA and UB students in the streets of Barcelona)

End of the term
Owen, Reed College
I will always remember my semester abroad with CIEE in Barcelona as a time of great personal growth.  As a study abroad experience, having to overcome the challenge of adapting to a whole new culture comes with the territory.  But in addition to that, having to conduct my personal and academic lives in a second language (and sometimes even a little of a third) proved to be a significant complicating factor at first.  During my first few weeks of classes at the University of Barcelona, I’d leave each class deeply concerned that I wouldn’t be able to pass the classes because I couldn’t understand the professors.  However insurmountable it all appeared at first, I discovered that with time came more comfort.  Now at the end of my semester, I feel almost like I’ve always been running around the city and taking my classes at the university with the friends I’ve made here.  It’s strange to remember that, in reality, I’ve only known them all for four short months.  Building a whole new life in a completely different country and language was something that all of my study abroad classmates and I have mentioned to one another as an incredible rewarding accomplishment.

F3-01(Owen –Reed College–, Florencia –University of La Verne–, Allison –Vanderbilt University–, and Lucía –Wellesley College– riding a bike...)

Give and Receive

Living and studying in another country inevitably involves being exposed to something different: a new language (of course), new customs and time tables that could be radically different from what one is used to, a different way to understand life, education, or even human relationships. The students of the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program in the University of Barcelona (UB) have the opportunity – and the good fortune, I would say – to be exposed to these differences from the very beginning of their stay in Barcelona: in their regular classes in the different departments of the UB, as well as in many diverse activities organized by CIEE through the term such as linguistic exchanges, cultural or volunteer activities, or through study groups at the CIEE Barcelona site led by UB local students. These personal relationships between American and Spanish students are not always easy, nor do they necessarily appear spontaneously. Like other aspects of life, personal relationships require time and dedication; it is necessary to accept from the first moment that what you give is also what you receive, but also that a person naturally receives what they give. It is the magical balance between giving and receiving.

F3-1(Sasha –George Washington University–, Nicole –Tulane University–, Maya –UC San Diego–, Kassandra –University of La Verne–, and Ralitsa –Columbia University–, in front of Bilbao Guggenheim Museum during the CIEE weekend trip)

When Samia and Dani, two students from the Philology department of the University of Barcelona, started their academic internships in October at CIEE Barcelona, I knew that, in their contact with the American students from our different study programs, they would quickly find this balance of giving and receiving. The tasks and goals of these two students were quite clear: take their first steps as educators taking the hands of some students that specifically needed these other “local” hands to guide them, and to improve their comprehension and integration into this new life and new educational system. But, I am not sure if Samia and Dani were aware during those first days of October that their generosity and fantastic work with the students would go in two directions. As I said before, they face the fortunate cycle of giving and receiving. These testimonials will better explain what I am trying to say…

Dani, UB Student
My name is Daniel Cuní Díez. This semester I collaborated with CIEE during my external curricular internship. I am currently seeking study a Master’s degree in Spanish as a Foreign Language in Professional Environments at the University of Barcelona. Because of my connection with the UB, I participated in some activities for the Advanced Liberal Arts program.

I have been able to improve my teaching practice by organizing tutoring sessions for the students that were taking Spanish language courses in CIEE Barcelona, but also leading study groups for the ALA students that were taking direct enrolment courses in the Spanish Philology Department at the UB. I assisted them, most especially on literary themes, since many of them do not have academic training in this area. In addition, I presented them with a general panorama of literature in Spain and in Europe, and I also resolved specific doubts they had about the topics. In my case, I focused on Spanish Illustration and I explained the contents through text analyses.

My experience has been really positive in several aspects, given that the relationship with the students was really close and rewarding. I have increased my overall competence in relation to Spanish as a foreign language and, most importantly, I learned new things about the American educational system, which is really different from the Spanish one.

F3-2(Alicia –Carnegie Mellon University–, Rocio –Wingate University–, and Emma –Columbia University– with Dani)

Samia, UB student
My name is Samia Aderdouch and I am a student intern seeking a Master's Degree in Spanish as a Foreign Language in Professional Environments at the University of Barcelona. I have completed my internship at CIEE and my experience in tutoring American students of the ALA program has been fantastic.

Typically, the tutoring sessions covered subjects that I had already studied while majoring in Hispanic Philology, so I was able to explain my own experiences with the subjects and professors and give them lots of advice as well. It has also been a great opportunity to see how American students are and what aspects are more difficult for them. For example, when discussing literature, they often did not know all the historical or literary context of the novels.

And since I had never given classes before, I discovered how they work, what things I have to improve on and what subjects are easier for me... And I've always tried to do my best by getting involved a lot and helping them to the fullest. My goal was that they pass their exams successfully–something I think I have achieved.

Additionally, the students were always very nice, so during the various classes I always felt very comfortable and that I had a good rapport with them, likely because our ages were very similar.

F3-3(Sophie –Princeton University–, Haley and Allison –Vanderbilt University–, and Emma –Columbia University–, with Samia)

Emma, Columbia University
Samia’s and Dani’s “tutorías” completely eased my transition into Spanish academic life. The classes I enrolled in at the University of Barcelona – Spanish narrative in the 20th Century and Spanish Enlightenment literature – took some adjusting to, especially because Spanish isn’t my native language. During the tutorías, I was able to ask Samia and Dani questions I hadn’t been able to pose in class, as well as have engaging discussions to supplement the UB’s more lecture-oriented style. Samia and Dani were quite knowledgeable about the subject matter and they were able to explain complex literary and philosophical concepts in a way that I could understand despite the language barrier. It was also nice to spend time with Spanish students whose interests are similar to mine. Overall, the tutorías were an academic highlight of my time in Barcelona!



Mi vida en Barcelona

Ibrahima Host family

I was very nervous as I sat down at the hotel waiting for my host mom to come and pick me up. I did not know what to expect neither did I know what to do or say to greet her. Few minutes later, my host mom came and met me. She greeted me with two kisses on each cheek and said “Hola Ibrahima, Soy Piti”. I wasn’t very used to greeting people with kisses but from the kisses I knew she is very caring, kind and awesome. We took a cab and talked all the way to her house. When we got home, I met my host brother, Oriol and my host sister, Eulàlia. My host mom gave me a tour of the house and later showed me my room. Few minutes later I felt like I was at my own house in New York. Living with my host family has been an awesome journey. During dinner, we talk about everything. We talk about politics, social issues, cultures, and most importantly we always joke around. We always have fun. The food bonds and unites us. We usually start by asking how everyone’s day went and later kept the conversation going. I always leave dinner feeling satisfied, happy and ready for the next day. My host mom also does laundry for me at least twice a week and cleans my room once a week. She takes care of me well, and I couldn’t be happier. I had never lived in someone’s home before and the thought of it had made me nervous despite the fact that I am a very outgoing individual. However living with my host family in Barcelona made me more confident about myself and taught me how to interact with others, and I think these skills that I have gained will be very useful in the near future when I enter the professional world.

Ibrahima voluntariado

I was also lucky to be provided with a once a week volunteering opportunity at a local school called INS Ernest Lluch. At this school, I work with students who are about 14 years old on average. I am very happy to have been given this opportunity because I learn so much from them. They are very intelligent students who have so much potential and are very respectful as well. The volunteering opportunity is very flexible, and I was asked to have a conversation with these students in English so that they could practice their English skills. It was up to me how I wanted to go about this process. So, I decided to teach them things about the American culture and asked them about their interest, hobbies, goals and just life and not textbook lessons or whatnot. Since the volunteering was every Monday, I would always start off the conversation by asking how their weekends went and then follow wherever the conversation lead us to. The students always make me laugh. We always have great times. And, I think this is a great way of learning.  The students never want to stop the conversations. They always want to share their thoughts and this makes me feel great. Whenever I go to the school, they run to me to give me a hug and are always excited to talk. This has been a great opportunity as I got to immerse myself to the Spanish culture by learning these students’ daily lives in Barcelona.


Becoming an active member of the Barcelona community

Foto Sara C_BC

Sara Condon, BC'15 student
University of Colorado Boulder

Since moving to Barcelona and becoming an active member of the Barcelona community- I felt that I needed to give back and felt a great achieve this was through volunteering. I decided to volunteer at INS Ernest Lluch secondary school because I love working with other students and I felt that this would be a great way to learn more about the Spanish culture. My role at INS Ernest Lluch was to help local students, ages 14-16, with their English. On my first day of volunteering I felt nervous and didn’t know what to expect- I ended up showing up about 35 minutes early because I didn’t want to be late! However, my nerves quickly diminished the minute I started talking to the teacher that was in charge of the class I was going to volunteer with. She was incredibly nice and so grateful that I found the time in my life to help students with their learning. The students were as great as the teacher was. Everybody was so interested as to where I was from- they were very intrigued and a little bit confused when I told them I lived in the mountains (Breckenridge, CO). They were also very confused by the fact that I went to school 16 hours away from my parents and family and that I lived in a house with a bunch of my friends. I loved getting to know the students and telling them stuff about myself and where I’m from. Some of my favorite moments thus far have been when I explained that in America we eat eggs for breakfast (to which they were extremely shocked and very very confused- I suggest telling any Spaniard this and watching their reaction) and when I ask them about their thoughts and feelings about America. The responses the students provided me when I asked about America and Americans in general were that they thought it was a cool and fun places inhabited by, the like, cool and fun people. Repeating words that came up when I asked the students about America have been; hamburgers, Los Angeles, New York, Modern Family, movies and television. All in all, my experience volunteering has been an amazing one so far. I’ve not only learned a lot about the Spanish culture and the people, but I’ve also learned a lot about myself through this experience! I would recommend volunteering in some way or another to anybody that wants to contribute to the greater good of society and learn more about the culture they are living in!  


Summer Business Internship Program, 2014 :: Part II

Katrina, Student on our Summer Business Internship Program. Summer 2014


Mi experiencia con mi practica ha sido una que no puedo duplicar. Mi practica aquí era con niños españoles en una escuela local.  No puedo tener una experiencia como esta en los estados unidos donde yo vivo porque no hay muchas españoles. Estoy estudiando español y es muy difícil para me in Nueva Hampshire para hacer una practica en español. 

Los niños eran un grupo de edades variedades.  Yo hablaba en Ingles a los mayores para practicar “speaking” para sus exámenes finales cuando ellos estaban en sus clases de la semestre.  Hablábamos sobre la moda, la tele, las universidades, el red, y los móviles.  Ellos estaban muy interesados con mi iPhone porque en España los iPhones no son común.

 El segundo parte de mi practica estaba sobre que ayude con un campo del verano, se llama “casal”. Ellos tienen edades desde tres a siete anos.  Ellos aprenden tres idiomas: Español, Catalán, y Ingles. Es increíble para oír tres idiomas en la mezcla de nuestro día para todo el día.  Hablábamos sobre todo y he aprendido como arreglar problemas en Español, una cosa que los profesores en su escuela no te enseña.  Este experiencia fue muy increíble y provechoso y yo no lo cambiaria.

Briana, Student on our Summer Business Internship Program, University of Evansville. Summer 2014 


Durante los dos últimos meses he trabajado en Audiconsultores, una empresa de auditorías. Aquí trabajé con el departamento de la contabilidad. Durante mi tiempo allí, he aprendido muchas partes distintas que se juntan para crear el departamento de la contabilidad. También he conocido personas muy ambles que trabajan conmigo. Siempre cuando tengo preguntas sobre cualquier caso están listos para explicar y ayudar si es posible. Me ha gustado hablar inglés a veces con ellos. Les gusta practicar para entender un poco mejor cuáles son las frases más usadas. Es en estos momentos, me siento en realidad parte del equipo. Mis colegas ya me han preguntado si iré a visitarles en Audi la próxima vez que estoy en Barcelona.

Es diferente trabajar aquí, porque las expectativas son muy diferentes. En los Estados Unidos, los becarios usualmente no tienen mucha responsabilidad y es más común que reciben muchas instrucciones y están “micro-managed”. Pero para mi experiencia, creo que he recibido mucha responsabilidad. He hecho proyectos en los que chequé los números de diferentes tipos de contabilidad. También he preparado unos documentos que estaban usando para los archivos de la empresa y para el uso de mis colegas. Durante este proceso me explicaron qué necesitaba hacer y me dejaron hacerlo sin muchas interrupciones. A veces me preguntaban si todo iba bien, pero nada más.

En general mi práctica era una buena oportunidad para aprender más de la contabilidad y para aplicar lo que he aprendido en la universidad, pero también cómo funciona la empresa y consultoría en España. Ha sido una gran experiencia y no la cambiaría para nada.



Liberal Arts, Spring 2014, Issue II


IMG_2801Service Learning Project

“Why do you eat turkey at Thanksgiving?” asked a 10 year old boy during a presentation by Amelia, from Barnard College, on the American festivity. Amelia explained that there were a lot of wild turkeys in America so they ate the animals that were available. Amelia and six other students participated in a service learning project in an elementary school, Escola Collserola, with children from 3 to 12 years old.  Sarah, of University of Colorado Boulder, read the story The Big Enormous Turnip  to the 3 years old kids. “You missed my picture with all the kids hugging me” Laura from University of Minnesota Twin Cities, told me after she read The Wheels on the Bus story to first graders who also sang the song and drew their own busses.

LA Service LearningSarah, University of Colorado; Alisha, Brandeis Unviersity; Makenzie, University of Colorado, and Amelia, Barnard College at English Day in Collserola school.

The service learning project is part of the CIEE Advanced Grammar, Composition and Conversation II class, and after volunteering the students interviewed the school principal and the Academic Committee to learn about the educational system and compare it to the US. After the event we had an in class discussion about it and it and will base some composition and a cultural oral presentation assignments around the visit. This project is also part of the intercultural competence component that we are using to enhance our CIEE classes.

LA Service Learning-001Erika, University of Wisconsin Madison and various photos of the students at the Collserola School.

L'escola Collserola millora el seu anglès amb universitaris nord-americans - Mozilla Firefox 12032014 110416.bmp

The visit even made the local newspaper! You can see the article “Collserola School Improves Its English With American Students” here: “

Phonetics Laboratory

Students in the Spanish Linguistics class visited the Phonetics Laboratory at the Universidad de Barcelona.  They learned how different sounds are made and they practiced with the lab's software that analyzes sounds. Students recorded their Spanish and compared it to the sounds produced by native speakers. They also found out about the work the phonetics laboratory does with speech therapy and forensics.



Weekend trip to Madrid and Toledo

This semester we visited Madrid and Toledo for our weekend trip. Students toured the Madrid of the Habsburgs, downtown Toledo and were able to admire some of the most important paintings in the art history such as Guernica by Picasso, Las Meninas by Velázquez or El Entierro del Conde Orgaz by el Greco.  They also enjoyed taking pictures with a matador in Plaza Mayor and dipping a churro in a hot chocolate in the  famous Chocolatería San Ginés.LA MadridYou can read more about the food in Spain in Christina’s, from Colby College, blog post:



amazing opportunities

Name: Emma
CIEE Barcelona Program: Language & Culture
Semester: Spring 2014
Home School: University of Iowa

amazing opportunities

These past few weeks in Barcelona have somewhat been a blur.  Not only is it truly amazing how many things I have seen and done here, but it is also amazing how many things I have not yet seen or done.  Before I left for this trip, four months seemed like a perfectly adequate amount of time to do everything I wanted to do, but now, I realize that it is not nearly enough time (though I can always use this as an excuse to come back!). 

I’ve already done and seen so many incredible things and have gotten to take advantage of amazing opportunities.  For example, last weekend, we traveled as a program to Madrid and took a day trip to Toledo, an ancient Spanish city with incredible views and amazing historical exhibits.  Another highlight of the trip was our visit to the Reina Sofia Museum, which is home to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, an incredibly moving mural and one of Picasso’s most famous works.

Guernica (


 Palacio Real de Madrid


These opportunities have been amazing, but I think the opportunity I’m most thankful for and that I think will be the most rewarding is the opportunity to volunteer as a student teacher.  Every Wednesday, starting this past week, I get to act as a student teaching assistant at a school called Escola Pia, which is only a block away from CIEE.  There, for an hour, I get to help ten Spanish students learn and practice their English.  After one session, I can already tell that it will be my most rewarding experience here.  On Wednesday, we talked the entire session with almost no gaps in conversation.  We spent the hour introducing ourselves and talking about the various cultural differences between the United States and Spain/Catalonia. 

My teaching partner, Vivian (who’s also in my program) and I were impressed with the students’ English speaking abilities and intrigued by their impressions of American culture.  We had interesting discussions about the differences in our two countries’ education and health systems; a small conversation about American slang, of which we will expand on next week; and the Greek system in American universities (Vivian led this conversation, as I am not in a sorority).  I’m incredibly glad that I chose to take part in this wonderful volunteering opportunity and am excited for the rest of the semester to unfold!


Vivian, my teaching partner, and I in Madrid


Economics & Culture, Spring 2014, Issue I


King´s Day Cakes


I can already tell that the EC Spring group will get along just fine!  Though having spent only two days together, albeit very intensively in terms of activities and time during the Orientation period, it seems that these new students have known each other from the very beginning.  At the start of our first lunch as a group, EC students were asking each other many questions and by the time the desserts and coffee had come around, they had begun to poke fun at each other´s idiosyncrasies and exchanged jokes about each other´s home schools. Another sign that indicated to me that they were becoming a well-bonded group was their decision to make their first week-end trip together: 11 out of the 12 students (the remaining one could not join as he had previously set plans to travel to another city with other CIEE students in the Business and Culture Program) flew to Madrid and all survived and many had explained that they had “an amazing time”.

I have little doubt that the rest of the semester will progress as harmoniously for our Spring EC students.

EC Group SPRING 14


One way in which we encourage our students to venture out and to start conversing with local Catalan and Spanish people is via a scavenger hunt that is organized in one of Barcelona's most festive and authentic barrios called “Gracia”.   Rachel from Tufts University found the scavenger hunt in Gracia to be “a great way to get to know the neighborhood and explore the area” and “felt accomplished that I could make my way around using a map and asking locals for help!”  Another EC participant, Zachary from Texas Christian University had commented that “spending the late morning in Gracia was an enlightening experience as it revealed a historical and lively side of Barcelona.”  He added that “while I had seen the main sights already, I felt truly immersed in the Catalan capital during my exploration of Gracia.”  We anticipate that these students will apply their newly gained skills and confidence the next time they find themselves in an unfamiliar area of Barcelona.

DSC_1565  IMG_2305


We have seen in recent semesters an increasing interest from our students to do volunteer work during their study abroad semester.  The option to do a one-time volunteering “stint”, from activities such as distributing donated food, handing out water during a fund-raising marathon, etc. is particularly popular.  Laura, CIEE´s staff member who organizes volunteering opportunities, cites that these activities “immensely enrich the overall study abroad experience for our students by getting them involved in Barcelona in ways that they normal would not do on their own.”  At the beginning of every semester Laura holds a volunteering presentation to inform all students the organizations with whom we collaborate and how they can participate.  She stresses to them that “volunteering is an ideal way to practice their Spanish and to interact with people in the local communities while at the same time lending a hand to children, schools and/or different immigrant groups in the city.”