Exploring Europe

In the Classroom

Although I have been in Spain for four weeks now, we just started “real” classes a week ago. The first two weeks in Spain were an adjustment period- adjusting to the time change, diets, social life, living situations, and the city.  During this two week time, we also took a three hour Spanish class five days a week (basically a WT. fun, yet dangerous in terms of freedom and excess of time).

The first day of “WT” Spanish class, I of course was the girl who threw up and was sent home after ten minutes of class. This was a the result of my genius idea of trying cafe con leche and chugging it before entering the classroom. Normally, I am a coffee addict, but this was the first time since my arrival that I had tried anything where one of the main ingredients was milk.  Within three hours, the entire CIEE business program knew, which isn’t a huge feat considering there are maybe 60 something of us. Still, I clearly branded myself within the first week. Classic.

Despite this first-day disaster, it has not defined my experience in the class. I am not usually one for language classes, but I particularly enjoy my Spanish class here because everything I learn (or refresh my memory on) I can use outside of the classroom.  These past four weeks have already made me more confident in using my Spanish with locals.

After two weeks of running around Spain, I think everyone in my program was anxious about figuring out the expectations for other classes to come.

For some reason, the CIEE Business and Culture program requires their students to take four classes at CIEE and one at UPF, ESCI. Five classes is a tough load, especially when we are abroad and also want to make time for exploring, traveling, and embracing the culture.

The following are observations of my first two weeks of class:


Las Casas, where all of our CIEE classes are located, via CIEE blog page

We take all of our CIEE classes in Las Casas, in a really cute neighborhood off of Passeig de Gracia.

Branding and Culture: I am obsessed with this class. It is by far my favorite class here in Spain.  Our teacher is INCREDIBLE and gorgeous.  How she wears pumps everyday to class, I do not know. And she’s from Naples. And she’s really smart. In other words, I want to be her.

Not only this, but the class material is extremely interesting.  The entire class is based around how cities brand themselves.  We are focusing on different aspects of the ways Barcelona has branded itself and their strategies over the past 30 or so years.  We are looking into architecture, history, sports, food, events, and fashion.  Our term project is to create a branding strategy for any city in the world.  I could literally sit in this class for hours.


Past and Present Barcelona’s History:  I signed up for this class because it was recommended to me. Although I am usually more of an art history fan, the class is interesting because we go on field trips once a week to different museums, neighborhoods, and monuments in the city.  It’s very cool living in a city with so much history and unique architecture, and I really appreciate learning about it in a classroom setting.

This past week we took a field trip to a museum, and in the basement of the museum are Roman ruins.  Outlines of a church, a fish factory, a cloth dying area, shops, and wineries are all in take.  It was eerie looking at the foundations and walking around something that was built hundreds of years ago.


International Marketing:  We have not really gotten into any material yet, but our teacher is extremely smart and experienced.  One of our first days he spent the day talking to us about the current economic situation in Spain and how Catalonia’s desire to be independent and separate from Spain plays a role in the crisis.  I think we will all be able to learn a lot from him.



ESCI, the business school of UPF located between Juame I and Arc de Triomf, via UPF’s website

We are only required to take one business class here, and I thank God for that.

I am taking Ecommerce and Marketing, which I am extremely interested in, but it is hard being an international student at the school. UPF already has expectations of us, which is fine, except most of the teachers there ( I am assuming) think that American students are disrespectful. I say this because during our “welcoming” assembly, we were lectured AT about what to do and not do for 45 minutes. Don’t be late to class because the doors lock, don’t eat in class, don’t use social networks in class, don’t leave the class to use the bathroom, don’t chew gum.  Most of these are common sense, thank you. Oh and insert scary facts here: He also shared with us that at least 20% of his students fail the class. Oh okay, thanks. Let us all now freak out about how we won’t pass our class. He also gave us a “suggested” number of hours we should spend per semester working on our assignments and studying outside the classroom.  For the majority of classes, they recommend 110 to 150 hours outside the classroom for a good grade…which may I also add, is a C. So if I had any doubts or anxiety about taking a class at a university with Spanish professors and students, it was just doubled and put on steroids. We must have all looked petrified by this talk because our director at CIEE stepped in afterwards to assure us that most of the American students in the past at ESCI have gotten As and Bs and no one failed their classes here last year.

So after this talk, going into class the second day was terrifying. The most annoying part was that generally of the Spanish students in my class talked or online shopped the entire class and our teacher just did not say anything to them.  Whoever said we were rude, maybe they should look at their own students.  I have never had more trouble concentrating in a class in my life. Not only this, but I am not use to being in lectures with over 30 students. There are easily at least 50 kids in my class (all talking, Facebooking, shopping, or texting. cool). This is the largest class I have ever been in, and I can’t even focus.

I really shouldn’t complain because I honestly have it better than most of the other kids in my program.  I enjoy the content of the class (or at least I will eventually when we start working on our marketing plans), while most are struggling with theirs. And my teacher speaks better English than most.


Overall, I am extremely lucky.  I enjoy most of my classes, some even more than the ones I have taken at Elon. Not only this, but I get to apply what I am learning and I get to see the city from different perspectives. This is why I am here, right?


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