CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts in Barcelona, Spain

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If you’re an advanced level Spanish student ready to immerse yourself in the culture of a vibrant metropolis and develop fluency through direct enrollment in a Spanish university, Barcelona awaits.

Study abroad in Spain and live the language by studying alongside Spanish classmates, living with a local family, and exploring the city and country through a variety of cultural activities and excursions. Study abroad in Barcelona and discover a unique, fully immersive intercultural experience.

Study abroad in Barcelona and you will:

- Immerse yourself in Spanish academic culture by enrolling in regular University classes in a wide range of disciplines, from Spanish language and literature to geography, international relations, and political science
- Participate in cultural and educational activities, including lectures and visits to museums; explore Barcelona, Catalonia, and Spain through excursions

Questions & Answers


based on 30 reviews
  • Academics 8.8
  • Support 9.8
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 9.7
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 30
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Best program in the best study abroad city

Barcelona is far and away the best city for an American student to study abroad in at any level of Spanish proficiency. The following are just a few of things that make the city so great for anyone: gorgeous architecture, delicious, diverse, and reasonably priced food, the city is walkable and public transportation is clean and efficient, the city is safe, you have easy access to the beach, mountains and a major international airport, the people are friendly, exciting nightlife, its warm, and the pace of the culture makes every day feel like a vacation. Consequentially, there are thousands of students who study in the city and even more that come to visit with limited command of the native tongues and have a great time. Being a student in CIEE's ALA program is amazing because you surround yourself with students who are looking to and able to get (due to their language ability and commitment to improving it) the most out of the experience by having a true cultural immersion experience in addition to the more tourist like cultural experiences that other programs provide to low level Spanish speakers. With the cultural and communication abilities that ALA helped me improve and gain confidence in, I managed to immerse myself in the culture by joining a neighborhood basketball team, enjoying bocadillos (Tasty Spanish sandwiches) and cañas (lunch time brews) with local and fellow CIEE students (and on one occasion a professor) after class. Further, I was fortunate enough to live with a Catalan family who was deeply involved in the local community both socially and politically. Living with Anna and Kike, whom I grew very close to and now write to regularly, I had opportunities to discuss the politics of Catalan independence and American policies with educated Catalan professionals, attend local Sunday mass, participate in family functions, and even engage in local dogs' rights protests. Inside and outside of class I was learning new things and honing my language abilities. Despite the true cultural immersion, ALA still allows you to have plenty of opportunity to get the more stereotypical study abroad experience with plenty of opportunities to hang out with, party, and travel with other Americans- which which while less enriching is a very fun time. In conclusion, despite going to Vanderbilt, a school consistently ranked at the top as having the happiest students, I have never seen so many kids having the times of their lives of their lives as I did during this semester in Barcelona.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Wish I could do all over again!

Barcelona is easily one of the most amazing cities in the world, and CIEE helps students experience it to the fullest. From immersive classes with local students to trips around Spain, CIEE gave me the full experience of actually living in a different country, not just being a visitor for 4 months. The program manager, Alberto, is incredibly accommodating and kind, and he genuinely wants all of his students to have the best semester possible. I highly recommend studying abroad through ALA Barcelona, and I wish I could go back in time and do it all over again!

Yes, I recommend this program
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ALA Barcelona - Best decision I made in college

Let me just start off by saying that I didn't chose to study abroad because I wanted to travel and party. I wanted to learn more about the Spanish culture and immures myself in a place that I knew I could learn the most about Spanish, and that is exactly what CIEE's ALA program in Barcelona offered me.

I not only got to taste some amazing Spanish food, and see the amazing architecture of some of the most historically praised buildings but I got to do it as the locals did. I learned how to use public transportation and went to school with students that had been learning in Spanish their whole lives. Yes it was a little scary, but ALA helped me through every step of the way.

They took us out to trips almost every week where we could learn more and more about Spain! I linked a video bellow with the activities and experiences I had in JUST THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER. I made a video for every month I was there along with some extra ones because I couldn't squeeze to much activity into 3 minutes.

Study abroad with CIEE in Barcelona through the ALA program and I guarantee it will be life changing if you let it be. And by that I mean, don't speak english with your friends, practice your Spanish as much as you can (not just in class)! Don't go to touristy clubs, go to local bars and restaurants. You can experience some of the most magical moments in your life if you allow yourself to truly experience what Spain in Barcelona are all about!

Yes, I recommend this program
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A fun and rewarding experience!

The ALA program at CIEE is an incredible and unique experience in the heart of Barcelona. This program allowed me take all my classes in Spanish while splitting my time between CIEE and the University of Barcelona. The program brought together a small group of about thirty students dedicated to improving their Spanish. What makes the program unique is the high level of Spanish shared by all of the participants, something that is hard to find. The program director, Alberto, has a ton of knowledge on how the University of Barcelona functions and helped us integrate into the university with minimal issues. What I did not know before arriving in Spain was how special this program truly is. It is extremely rare for American students to have to opportunity to take classes alongside Spanish students at a European university. Being one of just thirty students made the program extremely special and personally tailored to my needs. I took classes that I never imagined I would. I enjoyed a small seminar on Don Quijote with the amazing professor Elena Losada, which opened my eyes to historical literature that I never would've read otherwise!

The accommodations provided by the program from housing to personal tutoring to academic advising were incredible. I was amazed by my beautiful private room in the heart of Barcelona, just steps away from Plaza Catalunya and Las Ramblas. Living steps away from the University and walking distance of anywhere that I wanted to go made my time in Barcelona much more fun. The small nature of the program allowed me to make amazing and life long friends during my semester abroad. Living in Barcelona was an incredible experience and was made better by the people that I met on the program. The personal support from CIEE staff was helpful as well. We had two interns just for our program who were available to tutor us and help with whatever we needed. I frequently went to them for help editing a paper or to study for an exam. The professors at CIEE were constantly available and willing to help us succeed at the challenging courses at the University of Barcelona. The differences in academics were vast, but made easier by the help of those at CIEE. There was always someone there to help us whenever we were struggling with the differences of the Spanish academic system.

I'll always remember my time in Barcelona and the amazing friends that I met thanks to CIEE. I learned about a completely new culture and was able to experience academics in a truly Spanish way. It was an unforgettable experience, and I can't wait to return to the country that I called home for the last four months!

Yes, I recommend this program
Cyrus Beschloss

A boundlessly outstanding experience

As a rising college Junior looking out onto the horizon of a study abroad experience, expectations are often set unreasonably high. Mine were no exception – I searched for the most culturally, academically and socially fulfilling experience of my life.

When recounting my experience with CIEE in Barcelona it will be challenging to characterize the memories as anything but outstanding. From the classes to the housing options to the staff, CIEE did nothing but exceed all expectations I had going into this experience.

I communicated with the CIEE Barcelona team extensively before setting foot East of the Atlantic, largely in the context of making arrangements to accommodate my surgically repaired left shoulder. As a college-athlete, it was a priority of mine to rehab the injury to the best of my ability while chasing every opportunity I had originally set out to experience pre-injury.

With the help of CIEE’s staff – especially Professor Alberto delRio – I received support throughout the rehab process. I was able to customize my ideal class schedule, while completing physical therapy and still leaving large chunks of time to explore the city and beyond.

One of the truly remarkable features of CIEE is its excellent and diverse slate of housing options. Students are offered the chance to live in a homestay, a shared apartment or a dorm-style residencia. My close friends ended up in each of the three housing options, and I have heard nothing but phenomenal reviews. The homestays were wonderful matches, and added a uniquely local touch to the experience. The apartments allowed for extra autonomy, and the residencias provided ample space and resources.

I should note: my residencia was less than a year old, and was double the size of my dorm at college in the states – complete with a personal bathroom, bed, futon and two desks. I even had a full kitchen with 4 stoves and 2 ovens at my disposal; however, one of the few things I did not improve was my cooking.

From the weekend excursions to sought-after destinations such as Bilbao, San Sebastian and Tarágona, CIEE offers unmatched opportunities to access the expertise of the staff outside the classroom setting.

Classes themselves were stimulating, lively and pushed me to take calculated risks within the comfortable confines of the CIEE home base. I took classes on topics I’d always been enamored with, but felt hesitant to explore prior to arriving in Barcelona such as Literature and Film, and Romanticism & Literature. I also made noticeable strides in my verbal and written proficiency in my language class with Professor Mar Forment, who pushed me academically, and made coming to class an absolute delight.

I arrived in Barcelona a month before elections were to take place, as the city’s status within the country precariously hung in the balance. Rather than a stressful situation, CIEE helped me navigate it in a way that allowed me to feel 100% safe, and still experience the situation for what it was – an historic juncture in Spain’s history.

These few months in Barcelona with CIEE have undoubtedly been the best of my life. I’ll recommend CIEE – and specifically Advanced Liberal Arts – to anyone searching for a cultural and academically stimulating 3.5 months.

Yes, I recommend this program
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CIEE ALA: Great Balance for First Time Abroad

First, Barcelona is the perfect city to study abroad in; it's beautiful, safe, culturally vibrant, well-situated for travel to other major European cities, geographically diverse, the list goes on. If you're still deciding where to study in Spain, the choice is simple: Barcelona all the way.

You also can't beat CIEE's ALA program. CIEE provides a tight-knit community and an academic/social support network to facilitate your overseas transition.

ALA courses are completed with both local students at the University of Barcelona and other international students through CIEE. This track is more academically challenging than other CIEE programs, but I found coursework to be very manageable. Do not be intimidated!

I also highly recommend selecting to live with a host family. This was a highlight of my abroad experience. CIEE works hard to make sure students are comfortable with their living situations, and will make necessary adjustments throughout the semester. I personally had a terrific housing experience, so my advice it to take the risk - it will pay off.

Improving your language skills is directly correlated to the amount of effort you put into communicating in Spanish. It is possible to get by with doing very little, or you may work to consistently speak, write, and think in Spanish. The level you improve by the end of the semester is up to you.

I returned to the US in June and I'm already nostalgic. CIEE played a key role in my abroad experience. I recommend CIEE's ALA program to anyone looking for a balance of academic rigor, social activity, cultural immersion, and travel. As a first-timer in Spain (and Europe in general), you can't do any better than CIEE ALA!

Yes, I recommend this program
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You can't go wrong with CIEE ALA

Barcelona is a great, approachable city to get to know during a semester abroad, and choosing CIEE's Advanced Liberal Arts program definitely made my experience the best it could be. I lived with a host family, and my Spanish improved astronomically. It was great to have a home away from home to come back to every day, and it was cool to see how families in another country live. I also really enjoyed taking classes at the Universitat de Barcelona and with CIEE. It was nice to be immersed in local university life while also having the CIEE Casa as a home base.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Barcelona Fall '16 - Spring '17

My time in Barcelona was a fun and unforgettable learning experience in more ways than one. Academically, I would say that this study abroad experience was crucial for my confidence as a language major. I finally got over my fear of using my Spanish with native speakers and reached a point of fluency where not only am I able to read and write at a competent college level in Spanish, but I now am able to have meaningful conversations in my second language, thanks to study abroad. Personally I felt I was able to grow in my confidence to get around in a big city and travel through Europe, as well as make friends of all different ages, cultures and backgrounds. Barcelona is a fun, vibrant, international city full of art and good food.

Program-wise, I could not have been happier with the choice I made. I was in Barcelona with CIEE for the full academic year, so I got to know the staff at the center pretty well. They were wonderful, laid back, helpful people that I always know that I can come back and visit if I'm in the city. The ALA program was a great fit for me because it had a good mix of challenging literature classes at the University of Barcelona and smaller cultural classes at the program center that helped me get to see and understand the city at a deeper level. All of the classes were taught completely in Spanish by knowledgeable and friendly professors.

As far as my housing experience went, I highly recommend the host family option. I lived with a host family first semester, then changed to the student "residencia" so that I could experience both options. I really connected with my host family while I was there. Not only were they great friends, but having dinner together most nights really helped my ability and confidence with using Spanish. I also met some great friends through knowing them with whom I kept in contact. The residencia was also a good option, although I had much less interaction with locals living there. It was, however, in a great location where I discovered many of what would become my favorite bars and restaurants, as well as having very nice facilities.

Overall, I would highly recommend Barcelona, and specifically CIEE to anyone looking to study abroad in Europe. I am very thankful for my time spent there and know I will return in the future!

Yes, I recommend this program
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An Unforgettable Experience

My time in Barcelona has been an experience I will never forget. Whenever I reflect upon the last few months, a nostalgic happiness fills my heart as I remember all the moments that have pieced together a beautifully vivid painting of unforgettable memories. 

With respect to academics, I could not be more grateful for all I have learned in Barcelona. Largely facilitated by the teaching competence of my professors, I feel as though I have greatly increased my knowledge of some of the most important works in the canon of Spanish literature. However, what has made this learning experience particularly unique is the fact that I was able to study these groundbreaking and intellectually stimulating writings in the original Spanish tongue of their creators.

My favorite class of the semester was "Literatura hispanoamericana del siglo XX", or "20th Century Spanish-American Literature", thanks to Bernat Castany Prado, the phenomenally erudite professor who teaches it. With his vast and impressively deep knowledge of literature and philosophy, Bernat inspired me with his lectures, which skillfully interweaved both of these fields. In fact, my Spanish friends and I would often joke that Bernat is immortal, as though he has somehow lived through every century in human history. In Bernat's class, we covered five principal topics: The Avant-garde literary movement, Vicente Huidobro and Creationism, Pablo Neruda, César Vallejo and, finally, a portion of Borges. Bernat was so effective as a professor that I now feel not only comfortable with, but also interested in discussing and learning more about each of these five themes. 

Apart from the academic experience, I will remember Barcelona for its impeccable food. I noticed that, in general, the quality and affordability of food in Barcelona is impressive. Because of my enthusiasm, I quickly compiled a list of my favorite restaurants, and whenever anybody visited me, I made certain to take them to some of my preferred spots. Concretely, my favorite breakfast/brunch restaurant was Can Dendê, with its pulled pork pancakes and fried green tomatoes, my favorite lunch restaurant was Norte, with its pheasant burger, and my favorite place for dinner and tapas was Vinitus, especially for its paella del día (paella of the day), its pescaditos fritos (fried little fish), and torrija for dessert. If interested, I will be happy to share the restaurant list I compiled upon request!

But most importantly, Barcelona has a special place in my heart because of the unique individuals with whom I have been fortunate enough to cross paths. From the moment I arrived in Barcelona, I remained focused on one all-important question: what can I do to ensure I get the most out of this opportunity? For me the answer was always clear: I need to integrate myself into the local culture. With this in mind, my overarching objective was to befriend at least one or two local students with whom I would be able to keep in contact upon returning to the United States. While I certainly relished the ease with which I could travel to other countries while in Europe, I had always considered that a friendship with a local Spanish student would be more valuable to me than all the traveling and sightseeing I could possibly do. While memories of things seen are trapped in time, friendships have the potential to last a lifetime and may become fountains from which new memories continually spring to life.

Conscious of this objective, and also of the preciousness of my limited time abroad, I decided to be proactive in meeting local students at the University of Barcelona. During the first few days of classes, I made the intention to introduce myself to some of my classmates and, slowly but surely, I began to become familiar with many students. Little could I have known how much these efforts would pay off. While I had always thought I would be fortunate to befriend even one or two local student, I ended up meeting someone who has become one of my closest friends. One day before my 8am Sociolinguistics class, I met a girl named Anna Del Valle, and we immediately hit it off. To add to our excitement, Anna had always wanted a friend from the United States, and I from Spain. 

During the course of the semester, Anna and I kept closely in touch, and I hung out with her and her friends on multiple occasions. At the end of the program, I introduced Anna to my parents and my brother when they came to visit, and, on my second to last day in Barcelona, Anna's parents even invited me to their house for an exceptional good-bye dinner. I could not be more grateful for this friendship, especially in light of the fact that whenever either of us decides to visit the other's country, we will have someone with whom to spend time and "pasarlo bien.”  

While there is so much more I would love to share about these months abroad in Barcelona, I wanted to emphasize these particular factors, since, from a personal standpoint, they represent what I will remember most about the experience. As I write, I am enjoying my last 12 hours in Barcelona taking in final impressions of Plaza Catalunya, delighting in some of the incredible food I will dearly miss, and playing paddle with Anna before saying goodbye. Nonetheless, despite the sadness that has accompanied these final moments, I can rest easier with the hope that I will soon return to this city and reconnect with the culture and people who now hold a very intimate place in my heart.

Yes, I recommend this program
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A Welcome Break from Campus Life

I have just returned from CIEE Barcelona - Advanced Liberal Arts and already want to return. There's a magic about studying about in Barcelona that is unparalleled anywhere else. The weather, the people, the language, the culture, and the program all have created this incredible environment that I would not trade for anything else. The support of the program staff such as Director Alberto Del Rio and Andres Taberez was incredible. I could go to them from quick questions about where to buy a toaster to academic issues and personal issues. They are the heart and soul of the administrative side of the program, and I am lucky to have met them and got to know them on an academic and personal level.
The program provides frequent activities and trips for students to attend, all voluntary. The best trip was the overnight trip to Basque Country because the entire program got together for trips. The weekly trips are with the other programs studying abroad through CIEE. These programs include cultural events and activities, tours through Barcelona, day trips to nearby towns and cities, yoga, etc. I went on nearly every day trip and found them interesting, as I got to see different parts of Catalonia that I never would have thought of going to. For example, we went to a dairy farm called La Fageda. We got to meet the cows (they were pampered with daily massages and classical music) and got to sample the products afterwards. I'm really going to miss the yogurt from La Fageda (it's only sold in Catalonia).
CIEE and UB were not too academically challenging. I've come out of the program having learned a lot about Spanish history, cinema, and writing (these were the classes I took), but the workload didn't inhibit me from traveling on the weekends. I traveled outside of Barcelona about half of the weekends during the semester, as did many of my friends who wanted to travel a lot. The program is very understanding of our desire to see Europe and have a generous absence policy from classes.
What I loved about being in Barcelona was that my days could vary from going to the beach, hiking through Tibidabo or Park Guell, going to a museum, walking the streets of the Gothic Quarter, El Raval, Poble Sec, Gracia, etc., stumbling upon street markets, and cheap restaurants. Barcelona is a city ripe for exploration. It's teeming with life and activity, and it's safe.

How can this program be improved?
The program's day trips were not organized well, in that the morning tour ended just before siesta, when we were given free time to explore the town/city we were in.
Yes, I recommend this program
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An experience I would definitely recommend!

CIEE ALA is a great well-rounded program for many reasons. First, Barcelona is an amazing city with so much to offer. CIEE helps students get to know the city and gave us different opportunities to get more involved with cultural events in and around Barcelona. CIEE staff was very supportive academically. Personally, I was pretty nervous to be taking five 300/400 level courses all in Spanish some at the university with Spanish professors and students. But the CIEE professors were really wonderful, patient and there to help the students in any way possible. Also I found it really useful that CIEE provided study groups or individual tutoring sessions in order to prepare for exams. CIEE was also very supportive in other areas of the abroad experience such as issues or questions with housing or health, for example. There was never a moment where I did not feel like I had the resources I needed to answer a question or doubt of mine.

One of my favorite memories while being abroad was the CIEE ALA planned trip to San Sebastian where our entire program and some of our professors traveled to Northern Spain for the weekend and got to visit cool sites, eat great food, and enjoy a pre-planned trip in different cities in Pías Vasco. It was such a fun time and a great way to get to know people in my program and spend some quality time with our professors who, like I said, were really great and supportive!

How can this program be improved?
While I loved studying abroad in Barcelona it is a very touristy city where it can be hard to learn Spanish because of the amount of English (and Catalan) spoken. This is not so much a recommendation for the program but for students wanting to study in Barcelona... take advantage of the cultural opportunities provided by CIEE and also recommendations given to you by locals (i.e. a local flatmate, host family, local friends you might meet) to improve your Spanish speaking skills and also to not get trapped only doing all the touristy things because Barcelona has so much more to offer.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Unparalleled Experience

Choosing to study abroad through CIEE Barcelona’s Advanced Liberals Arts Program was one of the best decisions I’ve made throughout my college experience. Barcelona is an incredibly lively city with a unique cultural history. ALA ensures that each student is given the support and access to take full advantage of all that Barcelona has to offer.

Through ALA’s academic program, I was able to take classes at both CIEE’s La Casa and the University of Barcelona. The set-up was ideal; I had the confidence and support from my professors at CIEE to challenge myself and succeed at the UB, one of the top universities in Spain.

Electing to live in a homestay was maybe the hardest decision I had to make but also the most rewarding. I was afraid that living with a family would mean some sort of curtailment of my independence or personal freedom. However, my homestay family was the highlight of my abroad experience – I was treated like another son, exposed to exciting family dinner conversations and able to make meaningful relationships that far exceeded my expectation. I know that when I return to Barcelona, I’ll get a hot meal and a place to stay.

Barcelona is the apex of the European experience. You live next to some of the most famous architectural buildings in the world, you witness firsthand the vigor of the Catalan independence movement and you get to experience a gastronomical culture like no other. There’s no better place in the world to study, grow and live.

Barcelona has become my second home and the Catalan people my second family. It has been a semester I will never forget. I can’t wait to come back.

Fins aviat, Barca!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Would recommend this program to anyone interested in Spain!

CIEE ALA is a fun and rewarding learning experience! The program structure and directors are fantastic and there are tons of opportunities to explore Barcelona and all over Spain with the programs vast amount of day and weekend trips. The academics are rigorous and challenging as you will be taking various classes at the University of Barcelona in Spanish, while it can be tough in the moment the professor are very understanding and have a lot of experience with exchange students. In the end it is very rewarding as you will see your Spanish skills improve greatly over the course of your semester.

How can this program be improved?
Although the program tries very hard to encourage students to immerse themselves with Spanish culture, it is very easy to hang out with only people from your program and country. I would have liked the program to try and provide more support and forwardness in helping students find organizations or sports clubs that student's might take part in back home.
Yes, I recommend this program
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A fun. rewarding experience!

This is a wonderful program. The structure is great and the directors are fantastic. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the local culture provided by CIEE. Academically, this is a challenging program. While all of my professors at the Universitat de Barcelona were very understanding, I still had to put in a lot of effort to succeed. It is not so rigorous that you can't have fun though; I managed to travel on 6 different weekends and was able to spend many nights out in the city, especially in the first few weeks. All of my professors except for one were exceptional, the excursions provided by CIEE were great and their resources were helpful.

How can this program be improved?
I recommend that there is a stronger emphasis on students join outside organizations or finding other activities. It is very easy to speak exclusively English in Barcelona, so students interested in becoming fluent really need to go out of their way to practice outside of the classroom. It is super easy to get caught up in the bubble of American students and never branch out. Some of the students in the program improved less than they had expected because they didn't seek out opportunities outside the classroom.
Yes, I recommend this program
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I miss it everyday

Studying abroad in Barcelona changed my life. It was the best decision I ever made. I studied for an academic year with the CIEE ALA program, living with a host family and enrolling with local students at the University of Barcelona. The CIEE building is located in a great location--a beautiful cobblestone side street. The staff were friendly and helpful, and the people on my program and the local students in my classes were great. I had made friendships that will last a lifetime! Barcelona is such a beautiful city and this program has everything anyone could want: the beach, Spanish and Catalan culture, great food, historical nearby cities, awesome activities, and language immersion. For anyone that likes any of these things, this is the place and program for you! I miss it everyday and cannot wait to go back. It is truly an amazing experience.

Yes, I recommend this program


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