Nearly nine months has passed since I left Barcelona, and my love for the city has only grown stronger. I won't fill this review will cliche remarks that you'll find on most reviews, and I'll do my best to convey to you realistic expectations for the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program. I'll first talk about the city, for the should be the principal consideration when deciding where to study abroad, and then I'll discuss the CIEE Advanced Liberal Arts program.
Barcelona is a vibrant city defined by its unique architecture, coastal orientation and unique culture. More fast-paced than the rest of Spain, Barcelona infuses Spanish and Catalan culture to create a truly international city. For this reason, many people find Barcelona easier to acclimate to than other Spanish cities (most people speak English as well). Right on the Mediterranean, Barcelona has a long beach, which people flock to in the warmer months. Whether you're playing volleyball or just relaxing, the beach is a fun place to go that's a short walk from CIEE. Some of the best beaches in Spain (perhaps Europe) are located just a train ride up the coast from Barcelona. When you're not on the beach, you'll waste no time exploring the neighborhoods of El Born, El Raval, Barre Gotico, and Gracia. Located outside of the America study abroad bubble, these neighborhoods have tons of great restaurants and authentic bars. Except for when I cooked myself, I never once ate a bad meal in Barcelona.
The nightlife in Barcelona is without equal in the rest of Europe. Most Americans flock to the beach clubs (Opium, Pacha, etc.), which definitely are a great time. However, there's also tons of authentic Spanish bars and clubs. Simply, there is ALWAYS something going on in Barcelona. Get to know the club promoters and you'll have something to do every night of the week (often for free).
You will never find yourself bored in Barcelona. Even if you choose not to travel, there is so much to do in Barcelona. The city boasts an incredible number of attractions such as Arc de Triomphe, Parque Guell, the Sagrada Familia, Monserrat, Tibidabo, and La Pedrera. If Barca is not playing at Camp Nou, likely there's a concert at the Olympic Stadium or a festival at the Estrella factory. Everyone always says that study abroad is about the experience, and I really doubt that you'll find a better experience anywhere else.
Upon arrival in Barcelona, CIEE does a great job of getting you acquainted with the city. Your week long orientation gives you plenty of free time to explore on your own. When classes began, I found that the University of Barcelona classes were challenging but not overly difficult. Attendance is not mandatory. Each class will have 2-3 exams throughout the semester, and these exams will comprise your entire grade. The CIEE instructors will recommend classes with professors that worked well with CIEE students in the past. Also, you don't have Friday classes, which frees you up to travel. The CIEE classes require mandatory attendance, but are also not difficult. The majority of the improvement of my Spanish speaking, however, occurred outside the classroom. Do not worry about Catalan, everyone in Barcelona speaks Spanish. Yes, you'll have to work a little harder than in Madrid or Sevilla, but it is not all that difficult.
The CIEE staff will quickly become your good friends. They're always willing to help, whether its to find a gym, offer a restaurant suggestion or advise on fun day trips. I couldn't praise the CIEE staff more highly.
GO TO BARCELONA!