One of the most special experiences of my life. January 11, 2019

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 09/03/2018 to 12/21/2018 with

CIEE: Barcelona - Advanced Liberal Arts

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I think I grew a lot because studying abroad comes with challenges (especially if you are traveling alone or with friends). I have never lived in a big city, much less with so much independence.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

ALA's academic program consists of classes at CIEE's study center and classes at the University of Barcelona. I enjoyed my CIEE courses because I was surrounded by academically motivated people, was in a small classroom setting, and had lots of attention from my professors and mentors (which CIEE provides). I absolutely did not enjoy my UB courses. It was difficult to find classes that didn't overlap with CIEE courses and were in Spanish not Catalan, so in the end I had few options to choose from. Many of the local students don't care about academics (they don't even show up), so the learning experience isn't very positive. I also encountered a level of disorganization I am not used to at all. For example, I had a professor who'd give a day's notice for examinations, whereas students from American colleges tend to be used to having all exams listed out on syllabus on the first day of school. Keep in mind that this all varies by class. My other UB course was much more organized, but the professor was extremely not understanding and unhelpful to American students.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

CIEE offers many opportunities to get to know local students. I loved the outings that CIEE would set up. Every weekend there is something to do and explore, oftentimes there are trips to parts of Catalonia outside of Barcelona (already included in program fees). Also, if you ever have any questions, concerns, or need help in any way, CIEE is ready and able to help. I felt very supported.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I absolutely loved my homestay, it was the absolute highlight of my abroad experience. The lady I lived with was incredible. She is an amazing cook (like Michelin Star level!) and really cares about the students who stay in her home. I also lived with another student in my program, which was a great way to have a friend right off the bat. Also, living with a local is such a unique opportunity to truly delve into the culture and practice Spanish. If you get a homestay that you are unhappy with, please let CIEE know! They can help and you can switch.

* Food:

Amazing! I honestly never went out to eat in Barcelona because the lady I lived with cooked soooo well. Again, like a Michelin Star chef. And she gave us so much food, she kept us well fed.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

CIEE does a great job of connecting us with local students, and showing us things to do that a typical tourist wouldn't know about.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

They respond very quickly to appointment requests, and you can usually go that same day. My friends all had positive experiences, never heard any complaints. However, I fortunately didn't have to use this service.

* Safety:

You don't have to worry about being attacked or robbed violently. However, there is petty crime and you have to take very good care of your belongings. Pick pocketing is extremely common, and if you have an iPhone, be extremely careful. Also, as a woman, I did often encounter catcalling and street harassment, but this is the case anywhere around the world. It does make walking around at night alone uncomfortable.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

Barcelona is an incredible city. Mountains and beaches and bustling city life. The weather is amazing. Easy access through budget airlines to the rest of Europe. Also, CIEE really cares about you! I felt so supported.

Finances

* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

If you live in a homestay, you save a lot of money. You only have to worry about lunch and that's less than 5 euros a day if you choose to go to a coffee shop and even less if you just buy some ingredients to keep at home.Going to the grocery store in Barcelona is much less expensive than in Massachusetts.

Language

* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Fluent
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Fluent
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? AP Spanish Language
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Choose a homestay.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Homestay
  • City
  • CIEE classes
* What could be improved?
  • I wish there were more fellow POC. Could be more diverse.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Buy the T-Jove pass if you take train/bus every day. Travelling is super exhausting and expensive, maybe just do three of four trips outside Spain max. But everyone is different. Bring a second form of card payment! My debit card stopped working, and it would have been great to have a credit card.