Get to know your Summerfuel BCN staff!

Summerfuel BCN staff cannot wait to meet you!  Here is a little bit of information about ourselves:

Director: Alyssa Holan


Originally from Chicago, Alyssa now calls Sevilla, Spain her home. She has been working with Summerfuel Barcelona since 2008, and is always thrilled to return to the Mediterranean city in which she, as a university student at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, first fell in love with Spain.  During the academic year, Alyssa teaches Spanish language, cultures and literatures at the university level. In her free time, she enjoys long walks along the Guadalquivir River, visiting art museums, and exploring Andalusian countryside. Alyssa earned her Masters degree in Spanish from Loyola University of Chicago and her Ph.D. in Hispanic Cultural Studies from Michigan State University.


Assistant Director: Will Burress


Hailing from Mason, Ohio, Will Burress is a graduate of The Ohio State University from and holds a B.A. in Spanish language and literature and a B.S. in biology. He has six years of teaching experience at the high school level, having taught in both public and private schools in Madrid, Spain and Quito, Ecuador. This past year, Will taught 8th grade science at a junior high school in Lebanon, Ohio. In the fall, he will be pursuing a Masters degree in international education at Universidad de Alcalá in Alcalá de Henares, Spain. A long-time fan of game shows, Will appeared on Family Feud’s College Tournament and has hosted trivia nights at restaurants in Cincinnati, Madrid and Quito. He is delighted to be returning to Summerfuel for his fourth summer, and looks forward to working with what he is sure will be a great group of students for Summerfuel BCN 2017.


Assistant Director: Annie Gillingham


My name is Annie Gillingham and I am from San Diego, CA. I went to college at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA where I studied Latin American Studies and Spanish. After graduating, I lived in Madrid, Spain for three years teaching English as a second language. Now, I am a first grade, Spanish-immersion teacher in San Diego. This is my fourth year with Summerfuel, working previously in the Barcelona, Florence and Georgetown programs. I am looking forward to a great summer!


Resident Advisor: Eugenio Hernandez


Eugenio, also known as Chito, graduated from the University of New England with a degree in Environmental Studies. While at the University of New England, Chito studied abroad in Tangier, Morocco as a Resident Advisor. While in Morocco Chito led an excursion to Seville for everyone studying abroad in Morocco. Chito worked as a resident advisor in an undergraduate residence hall at UNE for two and a half years. Chito is currently working in Residence Life at Bard College at Simon’s Rock as a Residence Director. In the Fall, Chito will begin his Masters program in International Higher Education through Loyola University Chicago. In his free time, Chito enjoys listening to EDM music, exploring old cities, hiking, learning Arabic, nature photography and trying new cuisines.


Resident Advisor: Robert Mayak

Photo Summerfuel Myak

Robert is a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame, with majors in Spanish Language and Culture and Pre-medicine. While at Notre Dame, Robert studied abroad in Spain and México, and he also returned to Spain to research for his senior thesis. Furthermore, he completed a service immersion in Guatemala. He also has taught English and citizenship classes and worked at a local hospital. Robert worked as a resident assistant in an undergraduate residence hall at ND. In the Fall, Robert is returning to Notre Dame to complete his M.A in Iberian and Latin American Studies and to work as a teaching fellow. In his free time, Robert enjoys listening to NPR, finding local coffee shops, reading Spanish literature, visiting art museums, learning languages, and playing with his three dogs.


Resident Advisor: Lily Rodríguez


Hi my name is Lily, I am from Los Angeles but I’ve been living in Madrid for the past 2 years teaching English in a Spanish high school. I graduated from UCLA in 2014 with a degree in psychology. This will be my second year as an RA with Summerfuel Barcelona, and I’m excited to conclude my life in Spain with Summerfuel. After summer I am moving back to Los Angeles to prepare for graduate school and a degree in developmental psychology.


Resident Advisor: Elizabeth Stallard


Elizabeth (Liz) Stallard is a returning Summerfuel RA from Greenwich, CT. She graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in political science, communications, and Spanish, and currently teaches English in Spain. As an alumni of Summerfuel in Spain and a former study abroad student in Barcelona, Elizabeth is passionate about planning cultural activities for our students and sharing her restaurant recommendations. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys baking, traveling, and talking politics.


Barcelona in two weeks!



Are you ready to fuel your summer? Within two short weeks we will all be in Barcelona! An amazing summer experience awaits you, and we can’t wait! Here are some fun facts about our temporary home:

–Amazing architecture. Barcelona is home to perhaps the most famous architectural masterpiece of Antonio Gaudí — the Sagrada Familia (image above). Although it is still under construction, the basilica attracts about 3 million visitors a year! Each of its facade tells a different story, and blurs the lines between architecture, sculpture and symbolism. A magic square of fifteen numbers decorates the Passion Facade… will you be able to crack the code?

–A fan of soccer? The FC Barcelona Museum is the most visited museum of Barcelona, and the club’s home stadium, Camp Nou, is the biggest stadium in Europe with capacity for 100,000 people.

–Beach time. There were no beaches in Barcelona until 1992 — the year in which the Catalonian capital hosted the Olympic Games. Now BCN is considered one of the best beach cities in the world. According to National Geographic and the Discovery Channel, Barceloneta beach in the city is the best urban beach in the world. Get ready for some fun in the sun!

–¿Hablas español? ¿Parla català? Both Spanish and Catalán are official languages in Barcelona. Many people around the city understand some English as well, as Barcelona is one of the most international cities in Spain!

¡Hasta pronto!


Summerfuel Language and Cultural Immersion Programs

Summerfuel’s Immersion Programs Deliver Amazing Experiences

It’s no secret that learning another language is difficult. The subtle nuances, dialects, and slang of a language are often hard to capture in a classroom setting and, because of this, students may feel that they are not learning a language as well as they could be. Luckily, Summerfuel language and cultural immersion programs are available to provide students with a summer study abroad trip that will not only help to develop their chosen language skill, but will also help them to experience the cultural aspects of the language that they are studying. In today’s post, we wanted to go into some more detail about our summer study abroad programs in order to give you, the reader, a better idea of what you or your child can expect from these programs. Continue reading below to learn more!

Study Spanish in Bustling Barcelona

One of our most popular study abroad trips brings students to the beautiful city of Barcelona located in the northwest region of Spain near the French border. Barcelona is regarded as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, boasting some of the finest architecture and cuisine that the continent has to offer while also enjoying a temperate climate thanks to its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. During this summer study abroad program, students will be given three weeks of Spanish language immersion instruction from ESADE, Spain’s top ranked private university, in an urban environment to better provide them with the language skills that they need to effectively communicate with native Spanish speakers. Before the program begins, students are placed in groups based upon their proficiency with Spanish language, however, it is not necessary for a student to be able to speak Spanish in order to enroll in the program. Supplementing the academic aspect of the program, students are also given ample opportunities to explore the city of Barcelona and experience a unique twist on traditional Spanish culture. For those individuals looking to experience the Spanish language in a new way, our Barcelona program is the perfect choice.

Immerse Yourself in Nice, France

Located along the pristine coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, Nice, France is the perfect place to study the French language in a natural, urban setting. During this program, students are able to enjoy one-of-a-kind opportunities to combine their academic knowledge of the French language with day-to-day life in France, improving their comprehension of the language while simultaneously experiencing the culture that birthed it. Under the tutorage of professors from the University of Nice, students are able to perfect their French language skills in a dynamic learning environment geared toward the study of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary as well as focussing on improving student’s listening and speaking skills. Like all of our language immersion programs, students are divided into groups based upon their personal skill level with the French language and it is not necessary for a student to be fluent in French before signing up. To supplement their language classes, students are able to pick between four separate electives during the program including International Relations, Art History, Photography, or fashion Design. In addition to all of this, multiple excursions are available to students, allowing them to explore the rich historical and cultural offerings that the city of Nice has to offer. This program not only increases students’ proficiency levels in the French language, but also allows them to experience French culture, architecture, and cuisine.

Experience Authentic Spanish Culture With a Homestay Program

The last summer study abroad program that we offer for our high school level students looking to increase their Spanish language skills is also one of the most rewarding programs that we offer. Over the past 30 years, Summerfuel has diligently worked to develop relationships with carefully selected homestay families to provide students with an experience unlike any other. The two towns selected for this program, Cádiz and Conil, are located in the Andalusian area of Spain along the country’s southern Atlantic Coast. Both of these towns can trace their heritage all the way back to the 5th century and offer students a fun, unfiltered way to immerse themselves in Spanish culture. During this program, students will stay with a preselected family and attend daily Spanish classes with a focus on grammar, vocabulary, and idiomatic expressions. In addition to daily classes, students are offered specialized workshops that are held one to two times a week and focus on either Community Service, Spanish Cooking, Soccer, Surfing, Watercolor Painting, or Photography. Supplementing the academic workload, daily excursions are planned to allow students the opportunity to experience the surrounding beauty of the Spanish countryside. If you or your child are looking for an authentic Spanish study abroad program, this program is the perfect choice.

If you would like to learn more about our summer study abroad programs, please do not hesitate to contact us today or visit our website. At Summerfuel, we leverage our decades of experience to provide high school students with study programs that help improve their academic performance while also providing them with a once-in-a-lifetime-experience. Contact us today and let’s get started!

This is the End

Well, we’ve reached the end of our Barcelona journey. All students have passed through security and are on their way home or onto other adventures (except for our evening departure).

On their last day at ESADE, students gave their final presentations and said goodbye to their professors. We were really impressed with the detailed business plans that they came up with!

Last night, we enjoyed our final dinner together, where the students tried pimientos de Padrón for the first time. Statistics say that one in twenty is very spicy, but no one got a hot one!

It has been a true pleasure being able to see the students experience this city together. As a group, they’ve seen the modernist artistry of Gaudí and the musical artistry of Rihanna, explored monasteries and mountains, and hunted both clothing sales and rare Pokémon. They’ve made friendships that bridge oceans, cultures and, as they’ll soon discover, time zones. They haven’t been just living in Barcelona, but they’ve been living Barcelona.

And so, it’s adiós to another year of Summerfuel BCN. See you next year!


All’s Güell That Ends Güell

Monday at Summerfuel was all about modern art, moda and mocha. Students headed to Las Ramblas, where they shopped, indulged with artisanal chocolates and sampled cheeses and fresh fruit at La Boquería.

Other students headed to MACBA, the contemporary art center of Barcelona. Afterwards, they explored El Raval, a hip neighborhood where they found Chök, a chocolate bakery that serves pistachio-mocha cronuts.


Of course, we had a large group of Summerfuelers head to the beach as well!

Later, the students got more free time to enjoy dinner in the city before heading back to the residence.

On Tuesday, the business students had their exam for their afternoon course before heading out for one of their last Barcelona adventures.

A group went to Parc Güell, taking in the great panoramic views of the Mediterranean and appreciating Antoní Gaudí’s intricate mosaic work and architecture.

Another group explored El Born, with some students taking the opportunity to visit the Picasso museum as well.

On Wednesday, we had students out in the Gràcia neighborhood, as well as on Passeig de Gràcia. They visited Casa Batlló, went shopping and saw Finding Dory (in Spanish!). They returned to the residence to finish up final projects and continue the packing process.

Today is the last day in BCN, and the students are trying to do as much as they can before they leave! We’ll head to the beach and Plaça Catalunya so they can get some last minute sun and shopping in!

Weekend Warriors

On Saturday, the group headed out to Platja d’Aro, a small town on the Costa Brava. The air was cool, but the students enjoyed the fresh ocean breeze and a relaxing afternoon.

When we returned to the residence, it was time to get ready for our last Saturday night dinner at Port Olímpic! The students dressed up for a fancy evening and ate at oceanfront restaurants.

The next day, an amusement park was in the cards! This time, we went south down the coast to PortAventura to ride roller coasters, watch shows and enjoy the day in the sun! PortAventura boasts Shambhala, the tallest and fastest coaster in Europe, which was a big hit!

As far as the evenings go, poker night has become the most popular activity at the residence. Some of the games get pretty intense, as you can see here:

Poker Night

As we head into the fourth week of the program, we can’t believe how fast the month has gone! Only four more days of Barcelona until the students head home or onto different adventures!

Keep Your Eye on the Ball

On Friday, the students (and staff) got to sleep in a bit before our tour of Camp Nou, the FC Barcelona football stadium. The students got to shop in the FC Barcelona store, see the team’s trophies and visit the team locker rooms!

Meanwhile, RA Liz took a small group of students visited MNAC (the Catalán art museum) and Fundació Miró, a museum dedicated to the Catalán artist.

After the visits, we took shelter from our first rainstorm this month in Las Arenas, the old bullring that is now a shopping mall. The students decided to spend a relaxing evening in the residence watching films and playing poker with Quinton and Lily.

Live Your Life

Thursday was a big day for Summerfuel Barcelona students. At ESADE, the business students presented the projects they’ve been working on all summer for their entrepreneurship class, while the Spanish students worked on deciphering the meaning behind the lyrics of popular Spanish music.

After class, the cooking class headed to el Barri Gótic for their last class of the program, where they learned how to make tortilla española (Spanish omelette), albóndigas (meatballs) and crema catalana (crème brûlée with a lemony twist).

While other students headed to El Born in search of arepas, small cafés and winding streets, another  group went to Montjuïc to see Rihanna bring down the Palau Sant Jordi on her Anti World Tour. The Barbadian star sang all of her big hits, and it was a great experience for our students.

Exhausted, everyone headed back to the residence to rest up for their last ESADE excursion!