The students, John, and I right before we departed UIC for the last time before Barcelona.

I am writing this post as I sit in the terminal at Chicago O’Hare and it still hasn’t hit me that I will be in Barcelona in 10 short hours. Time sure does fly!

Yesterday was our final class here in Chicago and it is exciting to know the next time we meet will be in Barcelona. I already knew we had a great group of students in the program, but this past week they have surpassed my expectations. From the selfie project to starting and completing their first group project to community building to posting their first blog, it was a busy, but fantastic week!

Tuesday was our second day of class after having a week off to complete the selfie project. As we all settled into our seats, we had a town hall, checking in with the students. This our way to see how everyone is doing, what they are up too, and to reconnect as a group. Right away the students started sharing their awesome, funny, and/or awkward encounters of being a tourist in their own city. However, they also shared how the project led them to actually notice and observe the city many of them have lived in for years. Afterwards, the students were separated into four groups and given a statement to explore. These statements were, (1) How built design on campus might influence student health (2) How student food choices on campus might influence student health (3) The spaces on campus that might influence the mood of students (4) How east campus promotes physical activity in students. When you open each of those links, it will take you to the blog the students completed as a group for their first project. The students started the project at 10:45 a.m. and completed it by 3 p.m. Through this project, the students were able to get a grasp of how we will be working in Barcelona. For many students, it seemed to make them excited knowing they wouldn’t be stuck in a typical classroom in Barcelona.

The students are learning how to navigate WordPress and post their own blogs at UIC.

The students working on their first exploratory project together after taking photos, writing notes, and interviewing students at UIC.

Thursday morning was a bit different from our previous days as we started the morning by community building led by Viviana Kabbabe-Thompson. Viviana led the students through activities that allowed the students to dig deeper and learn more about each other outside of the academic setting. During this session, the students built their mission statement and guidelines for the program. All of the students were very receptive and seemed to feel better after communicating their needs, wants, goals, and desires with each other. Since they will be living together in apartments, it was good to talk and get to know one another a little better before arriving. We even learned who likes ice cream over cake and who prefers to iron over washing the dishes. We also learned that no one in our group prefers soda for their beverage choice – I guess we are sticking to tea and coffee here!

After the morning session, the students shared their first of many, 1-minute photo story. This is where the students choose one photo they have taken and tell the story behind the photo. While most of them shared interesting tales of meeting a stranger, they all had personal and meaningful stories behind their photos. The goal of the orientation week was to get the students acclimated to the process of how we will be working in Barcelona.

The goal of the orientation week was to get the students acclimated to the process of how we will be working together in Barcelona as well as to get to know and start to become comfortable with one another. The first week and a half has shown me how much potential all of the students have and I am thrilled to see the work they complete in Barcelona. Check out the student’s profiles to keep up to date with what they are doing!

I board in ten minutes so it is time for me to sign off, until the next post, seguir brillant en (keep shining on)!