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CEA Barcelona - Cultural Immersion and Integration With Local Students

Thanks to Professor Michael Kennedy’s efforts, this Spring 2013 CEA Barcelona has established an internship program for local undergraduate students from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Our internship offers UAB students first-hand experience in the administration of study abroad and language learning programs, training in intercultural communication as well as knowledge of American college students’ idiosyncrasies. The interns reinforce CEA’s Experiential Learning education philosophy by providing immersion opportunities and integration channels in Catalan and Spanish culture. Rebeca Esparza, Sofia Blanco and Gabriela Marengo were carefully selected for this new initiative based on their experience with diversity and cultural sensitivity, international education and outgoing personalities. They have participated in the student arrival, orientation sessions, welcome reception, CEA organized co-curricular activities and language exchanges. They have also designed additional activities, which have given our students a unique perspective on the local culture. A few examples of these initiatives include the dijous gras, a typical lunch in Valencia and a flamenco show in Madrid.

To celebrate Carnival Rebeca organized a visit to the Centre Municipal de Cultura Popular de Sant Andreu for dijous gras (Fat Thursday). Six students practiced their Spanish with the cultural center members and learned about the gastronomic traditions associated with the holiday by tasting typical foods such as tortilla, botifarra and coca de llardons. “When we arrived I was a little worried that the students would be bored because all of the cultural center members were senior citizens. To my surprise, they were very excited, asked a lot of questions and tried all the food. I was so happy that they could participate in a local non touristic carnival activity as most foreigners are only familiar with the celebrations in Sitges.”

Sofia took advantage of the weekend trip to Valencia to arrange an authentic paella lunch. She took twelve students to the Restaurante El Trompo which had great views of the beach and the Mediterranean Sea. She had the opportunity to explain the various types of paella on the menu (vegetable, mixed seafood, chicken, rabbit, lobster) and why there is a two person minimum rule when ordering paella in a restaurant. When the bill came she taught the students the “Spanish way” of paying, meaning that the total is divided equally among the group instead of only paying for what you ordered. “It was really fun sharing one of the most typical Spanish traditions like a Sunday paella lunch with the students. I thought it was funny that they didn’t want to eat conejo (rabbit) because for them it is like a pet.”


During the CEA weekend trip to Madrid, Gabriela proposed to see a flamenco show at Cafetín Quimera. She met up with our students in the hotel lobby and they went by metro to see a well-known part of Spain’s cultural heritage. She found it interesting that “before the show [the group of students] thought that all Spanish people could dance some flamenco. However, after they watched the performance and spoke with some of the flamenco company members, they learned that it is actually a tradition rooted in southern Spain. We were lucky we had the chance to witness a very intimate and traditional flamenco show…with just a guitar, a pair of castanets, the dance of a couple of ‘bailaores’ and the voice of a ‘cantaora’, they managed to convey the essential meaning of flamenco’s poetry.”

This new initiative with UAB students has given our students the opportunity to interact with locals their age in natural and spontaneous ways. We wish to thank Rebeca, Sofia and Gabriela for their enthusiasm and commitment as CEA interns this spring semester. We know our students have appreciated the added value they have brought to their experience.

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