Learn about CU Denver’s Maymester study abroad program in Barcelona and how students found inspiration in the city’s lively entrepreneurial ecosystem.
By Sarah Soenke, Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications at the Jake Jabs Center for Entrepreneurship
This Maymester, I had the exciting opportunity to join the Business School’s Entrepreneurship in Barcelona program. What an experience! For two-and-a-half weeks, a group of 20 undergraduate and graduate students—led by Jim LoPresti, PhD, and organized by Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (SAE)—explored the startup ecosystem thriving in the beautiful capital of Catalonia, Spain.
Did you know that Barcelona is the second-most popular city among startup founders in Europe, and since 2016, the number of startups in Catalonia has grown by 75%? This study abroad program introduced us to some of the city’s small businesses, incubators, and entrepreneurial networks making it happen. In the mornings, students attended lectures that dove deep into topics on international entrepreneurship, leading across cultures, financial resources, and factors critical to building a winning global team. During the afternoons and evenings, we got to sightsee and experience the local culture hands-on!
Part of the academic program featured three guest speakers from the Barcelona business community.
One of them was Alex Bastardas Liberfield, managing partner at Liberfield Capital and CEO at TrendUp Finance. As both a serial entrepreneur and investor, he shared the lessons learned from his international career and unique perspective on the importance of diversifying your sources of income. Everyone should organize their life in five-year cycles, he advised, and constantly seek change. He shared his favorite quote with the class: “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.”
There’s no better way to learn about entrepreneurship in Barcelona than by visiting local small businesses in-person. The group stopped by the offices of The Collider, a tech transfer initiative that creates high-performance teams for disruptive startups; Reby, a micro-mobility platform for ridesharing electric vehicles; and the 3D Incubator, the first European high-tech incubator in 3D printing located in the Zona Franca Industrial Estate.
We had no problem hitting 20,000+ steps on day trips! These excursions allowed us to get outside the hustle and bustle of Barcelona and see notable destinations in the surrounding area. One day was spent hiking Montserrat, a jagged mountain range home to a Benedictine monastery, museum, and gorgeous panoramic views from the funicular and cable cars leading up to the top.
Another day was spent visiting the Codorníu Winery, the oldest and second-largest producer of cava, a Spanish sparkling wine. We toured the grounds of the family business (one of the oldest companies in Spain, founded in 1551!) and took a “train ride” through the underground cellars, or “caves,” where the cava is aged at least nine months. Afterward, we spent the afternoon shopping, dining, and lounging in the coastal town of Sitges.
There were almost (almost) too many activities to list out:
- Touring the 22@ District;
- Racing through a scavenger hunt at the Santa Caterina Market;
- Visiting Park Güell;
- Marveling at La Sagrada Familia;
- Hiking to the Bunkers of Carmel;
- Networking at a Startup Grind Barcelona event;
- Seeing the city from atop Montjuïc;
- Watching the practice session of a local Castellers group;
- And sharing plenty of delicious group meals!
One clear favorite of the group was participating in a hands-on Spanish and Catalan cooking class, hosted by Cook&Taste. The group learned more about the local gastronomy from a professional chef and how to prepare crema catalana, paella valenciana, tortilla española, and gazpacho andaluz. Then we enjoyed a feast of the finished dishes. Bon profit!
I already miss exploring the winding streets, beautiful beaches, and enchanting buildings of Barcelona. I walked everywhere, learned a bit of Catalan, ate a ton of tapas, and had many mind-opening conversations. There’s something to be said about the diverse perspectives and way of life in Barcelona—plus, I’m now convinced they have the best coffee!
I am so grateful to have had the pleasure of joining this CU Denver study abroad experience. I only hope more students take advantage of this unique opportunity to travel, learn outside the classroom, and experience international entrepreneurship first-hand. Salut i força al canut!
Interested in joining the next trip? Find out more information at studyabroad.ucdenver.edu and keep an eye out for when applications open!
CU DENVER IN SPAIN: Entrepreneurship in Barcelona
DATES: Maymester 2023 TBD
COURSE: ENTP 4028/6028, 3 credits