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Tuesday, July 23, 2019
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Students Learn About Sports, PR, Culture in Barcelona

Greg Payne, left, chair of the Communication Studies Department, and Elias Romanos '17 hang out with a statue of President Obama in Barcelona. Photo courtesy of Maya Savino '18

A group of Emerson students who traveled to Spain and Portugal over spring break to attend a public relations workshop talked about their experiences and what they learned in the Bordy Theater on March 29.

Over two dozen students and faculty members came to hear highlights of the trip, including photographs and a short video.  A reception followed the seminar at Fajitas and ‘Ritas with Enric Ordeix Rigo, a faculty member at Blanquerna University, Emerson’s sister school in Barcelona.

The students spent the majority of their trip at Blanquerna in a sports communication and global public relations workshop with Gregory Payne, chair of Emerson’s Communication Studies Department.

“We didn’t feel like tourists,” said Maya Savino ’18 of the trip. “The students at Blanquerna made us feel at home right away.”

Emerson students visit the Catalan Parliament. Top, left to right: Elias Romanos '17, Sean Duffy '16, Jared Kortsen '18, Tyson Hallowell '17, Ethan Michaud '19, and Shepard Vargo (Blanquerna). Bottom, left to right: Seong Pak '19, Paige Lopez '19, Amelia Semprebon '19, Camila Cayere Diaz '18, Maya Savino '18, Dorothy Wigon '19, and Molly Caron '17. Photo courtesy of Maya Savino '18

Students shared stories from their trip: cable car rides across the city, the Barcelona v. CSK Moscow European Basketball League game, the FC Barcelona soccer match at Camp Nou, their visit to the Motorcycle Museum.

Elias Romanos ’17 spoke about a lecture he co-taught with Payne about the Iowa caucuses and American politics. In their two days in Lisbon, students said they went surfing, toured historic castles, and ate the best burgers.

“There’s a real historical background, especially when you think about discovering America,” Payne said. “…You had the great explorers coming from [Portugal] and Spain, so it’s exciting.”

Several students noted the cultural differences at sporting events in Barcelona. They described the fiery passion of the fans and their relentless optimism no matter what the outcome of the match. All the students agreed that the fans were an integral part of the sporting experience, which is much different than the relationship between fans and teams here in the United States.

“It’s eye opening to go somewhere and see there’s a global economy for sports that we as Americans can contribute to and learn from,” said Tyson Hallowell ’16.

But the lessons learned from this trip extended beyond sports and marketing.

“I think it’s easy, at Emerson, to just get caught up in yourself,” Savino said. “I think all of us realized that there’s more to life than just Emerson. It was the first time that I traveled internationally, and just being able to see the culture and learn that there are a lot of differences from America.”

But Emerson students weren’t the only ones who took away powerful lessons from the trip. Rigo and Payne told the crowd about one Blanquerna student who was reluctant to work with Americans for the week because of the stereotypes she had learned. However, they all grew so close by the end of the week that she cried when they left, and even sent small gifts personalized for each student with Rigo. Rigo said his students’ pride in their culture was reaffirmed by the Emerson students they met during their trip.

“They learned another perspective of understanding life,” he said. “When they see American students interested in what we do, how we organize our society, they feel proud of themselves. So they learned a little of themselves by having met them.”

Emerson and Blanquerna’s relationship dates back to 1992, when Emerson students visited to cover the Barcelona Olympics. The faculty at the event announced a new semester-long study abroad opportunity at Blanquerna, where students’ financial aid and course credit will be directly transferrable.

The next study abroad opportunity in Barcelona will be this summer for the four-week Barcelona Art, Theater, and Culture program.