Robyn and Joel's Blog: Chronicling our Copenhagen Adventures

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Montserrat, Spain

I am writing from Montserrat, Spain, near Barcelona. I am here teaching for an education program that offers Master’s level education in partnership with 17 European Business Universities. I am teaching as part of a “block” seminar where students gather at one location – away from any host schools – for one full week of intensive instruction. There are several teachers with different areas of expertise. The students give presentations or take exams at the end of the week. I was a censor (second grader) for the exam for the course offered by CBS in August. This time I was a presenter – a teacher. I covered communicative approaches to understanding organizational culture.

The students are from all over Europe and very smart (the program is quite competitive to get into). They know several languages and are very motivated. That said, I do, at times, miss the more well-roundedness of the American students. Students in Europe take fewer “electives” and their studies focus primarily on their chosen “major.” Therefore, students don’t usually take history, math, science, philosophy etc. As smart and devoted as these students are, I do notice that they tend to have a more narrow academic approach to their studies and therefore their understanding of communication.

The students and the course was a lot of fun and I hope I have the opportunity to do this again, in part, because the location is absolutely amazing. I am here in Montserrat, Spain, which is an hour from Barcelona. I can never adequately describe the environment, but Montserrat, or the “serrated mountains” are beautiful. Nearly 1000 years ago a monastery was built at the top of the mountains (that look like giant rocks protruding from the earth!). It is a functioning monastery (which is why they begin to ring the church bells at 5am! – first Mass is at 5!), but they’ve added a museum, hotel, restaurants, and dorms (where the students stayed) and it now functions as a conference center as well. The land around the monastery is also the Spanish equivalent to a national park.

All of the buildings are beautiful, but the church is especially moving. While much of the church suffered destruction at the hands of Napoleon’s troops, Franco’s soldiers and others, there are parts that date back to the early 12th century! And, the church has been beautifully restored. They also have a world renowned boy’s choir and we were fortunate enough to attend one of their concerts.

I took a taxi from the Barcelona airport to the monastery, which is near the very top of the mountains. You would not believe the drive – I am very grateful for guardrails, but the ride is not for those afraid of heights. I am glad the driver knew where he was going because after winding and weaving our way up the mountains for about 20 minutes, I knew I could never find my way out. The first thing I heard as I got out of the taxi when we arrived in Montserrat was three cats screeching and fighting. There are any number of feral cats (and lots of very cute kittens) that live in the mountains. They are, apparently, quite territorial and willing to fight for their space, food, or whatever.
If you are ever in Spain you must visit Montserrat. Spend the night in the hotel so you have enough time to visit the museum and church as well as hike the trails. You won’t be disappointed!

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