About Us

What’s Barcelona SAE All About?

With our exclusive focus on this Mediterranean city, Barcelona SAE is a boutique study abroad and internship program that provides personalized attention. Ask any of our alumni and you’ll learn about their unforgettable academic, cultural, and professional experience – one that was beneficial not only during their time in Barcelona, but has given them a personal and professional advantage for the rest of their lives.

“The Barcelona SAE staff are absolutely incredible! They are so involved with the students, while at the same time, eager to share their knowledge and passion of the lifestyle and culture here in Barcelona.” -Kristen Bathan, California State University – Fullerton

What Sets Us Apart

We are the Barcelona experts, and connect our students to people and places. We value cultural immersion and believe that interacting with locals is just as important as seeing the sites. We have become a supportive member of the community in Barcelona and pride ourselves in working with locals – all the way from our cooking classes to Barcelona’s finest medical staff. We are proud of our participants and believe they represent Barcelona SAE as well as their home country.


Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (SAE) is the leader in Barcelona Study and Intern Abroad. We provide superior quality study and intern abroad program options in Barcelona that incorporate a strong intercultural element for our students. All aspects of the programs incorporate experiential learning and cultural immersion in order to open the eyes of the next generation of leaders to a global world.

Barcelona SAE provides the opportunities for students to grow personally, academically and globally utilizing the city of Barcelona and its components as the classroom.

Barcelona SAE strives to embed elements of social responsibility into our study and intern abroad programs. We encourage intensive intercultural immersion and the acquisition of critical language skills, while cultivating an appreciation for cultural differences and increased global awareness. We hire local staff whenever possible and encourage students to participate in sustainable service learning and volunteer opportunities and assist them in finding these opportunities.

We encourage our students to:

  • Fully immerse themselves in the culture of Barcelona
  • Limit energy usage and recycle
  • Take public transportation or walk
  • Purchase carbon offsets for air travel
  • Look for locally produced and environmentally friendly products


Barcelona SAE combines the preeminent aspects of U.S. higher education with the empirical cultural elements embedded with life in a different country to provide top services to our clients. In this sense, our clients include the students, their parents, and the sending universities. We make sure our programs meet the needs of all parties involved to ensure satisfaction and success.

Our Team

Year after year, Barcelona SAE students rate “interaction with the staff” as one of the highlights of their Barcelona experience. Our staff is multilingual and composed of Spanish, Catalan, and American study abroad experts. Our passion for international education, our commitment to individualized service to our students, and our expertise in Barcelona facilitates the strongest combination of cultural, academic, and professional experiences for our students.


Core Values

As Barcelona SAE continues to grow, it has become increasingly important for us to define the core values from which we develop our culture, our brand, and the overall student experience. Here are the core values that we live by here at Barcelona SAE:


Barcelona Staff

Rich Kurtzman, Founder & Director

Currently based in Barcelona, Rich grew up in the great city of Chicago, Illinois, but has been lucky to call Barcelona his home for 15 years. His studies in Spanish and Russian Language and Culture led him on a path toward study abroad ever since high school. Starting with a summer in St. Petersburg, Russia then a semester in Madrid, Spain, there is no doubt that his study abroad experiences shaped his future. He later did an internship in Milan, Italy, led student groups through Spain, and volunteered in the Philippines. After earning his M.A. in Spanish Applied Linguistics, Rich taught Spanish History and Culture to study abroad students in Barcelona. Since 2002, Rich has organized and directed all aspects of study abroad in Barcelona. Rich regularly presents at International Education conferences on various topics and also works as an intercultural consultant for multinationals in Spain.



Elena Villaescusa, Assistant On-Site Director & Director of Internships and Cultural Integration

Currently based in Barcelona, Elena was born in Girona (north of Barcelona), but has lived in a variety of cities in Spain. She has her B.A. in Advertising and Public Relations from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) in Barcelona and a M.A. in Communication, Tourism and New Technologies (e-Tourism) from the University of Barcelona. Her work experience is focused on Place Branding Online and she is the co-founder of the association International Exchange Erasmus Student Network at UPF, which helps to welcome university students to Barcelona. She worked and studied in various countries throughout Europe and is a world traveler. Elena enjoys introducing students to the dynamic city of Barcelona and loves languages, dancing, traveling, culture and, above all, people.



Darcy York, Director of Academics & Customized Programs

Currently based in Barcelona, Darcy hails from a small island in Maine. She has a B.A. in History from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and a M.A. in Cultural Management from the University of Barcelona (UB). She first participated in an exchange program with Japan when she was 13 years old and fell in love with traveling and study abroad. During her undergrad she managed to study for short periods in France, Ecuador and London. Seeing the impact it had played in her life, breaking into study abroad industry seemed an obvious career choice and she began working in the field soon after graduating. A few years ago she moved to Barcelona for what was meant to be a one year position, but she fell in love with the city and is still here more than five years later! Her favorite thing about study abroad is the moment when a student stops being a tourist and starts to understand the complexity of a local culture.



Blanca Egido, Cultural Activities & Customized Programs Coordinator

Currently based in Barcelona, Blanca was raised in Fuenlabrada – a town in the suburbs of Madrid. She first moved abroad for her Erasmus Programme in Holland, where she later received her B.B.A in Tourism Management and Consultancy. She discovered her passion for travelling and cross-cultural experiences while doing a university project in Thailand and Cambodia. She afterwards worked as Au-pair and volunteered one year in Switzerland, coordinating volunteers from all over the world and organising camps and events. She just moved from Munich, where she was doing a six-month internship for her Online Marketing studies. During her free time, Blanca loves meeting international people and playing volleyball, frisbee, table tennis or any other activity under the sun!


Jordi Juncà, Academics & Customized Programs Coordinator

Currently based in Barcelona, Jordi was born and raised in the city that he still calls home. Passionate about culture since he was a child, he holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Humanities from UPF, where he got in touch with everything related to culture; from history and literature, to philosophy and art. Later on, he gradually leaned towards literature, and so decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Literary Creation, again at UPF. Jordi has travelled to several countries in Europe (from the warm islands in the Mediterranean sea to the ice-cold and volcanic Iceland), and worked during the past few summers both in England and the USA helping Spanish students have a safe and wonderful experience abroad. Jordi loves strolling around the city and the countryside alike, playing football, reading about anything that may have something to do with the Roman Empire, and most of all, writing stories.



Alba Orgilés, Customized Programs Coordinator

Currently based in Barcelona, Alba is a Barcelona native that first did an exchange in Dieppe, France when she was 14 years old and loved meeting different people and experiencing new cultures. Alba then went on to pursue her Associate’s Degree in Tourism and did an Erasmus in Cork, Ireland. While in Cork, she fell in love with the Irish culture and spent time working and living with international students for nearly three years. Alba has recently moved back to her hometown of Barcelona where she loves the international vibe of the city. In her free time, Alba loves traveling, learning new languages, and meeting new people!



Danny Childs, Customized Programs & Onsite University Relations Coordinator

Currently based in Barcelona, Danny is originally from Los Angeles. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California – San Diego in Economics, after living with international students for two years. Danny studied abroad in Costa Rica during his second year of university, where he realized that he loved being surrounded by the open minds and genuine curiosity of study abroad students. After graduation he spent a year living in New Zealand, where he found himself surrounded by more international students! He is now a masters candidate at the SIT Graduate Institute, majoring in International Education, and is excited to be working alongside more creative, young minds as they begin their journey toward global awareness. In his free time, Danny enjoys playing music, salsa dancing, and exploring new places.


Alba Guillen, Cultural Activities & Customized Programs Assistant

Currently based in Barcelona, Alba is a Barcelona native that just came back from an exchange program on Communication Science at the University of Amsterdam in Holland. She did her studies in Event Management and Protocol in the Barcelona School of Management – UPF where she fell in love with the idea of making a living out of creating live experiences and WOW moments for others. Alba is a cultural nerd so you will either find her cheking out a new museum exhibit or attending a play at the theater. In her free time, Alba enjoys hiking, photography and traveling.



Sol Alonso, Senior Housing & Risk Management Coordinator and Office Manager

Currently based in Barcelona, Sol is originally from Argentina. She discovered the world of international education when she worked as a Housing Coordinator for a program in Buenos Aires. Her love for traveling, and those years aiding international students to achieve a wonderful experience abroad, made her want to have the experience on her own, so she moved to England and lived there for a few years. To pursue the sunshine and new challenges (and the great food!), she moved to Barcelona and joined the Barcelona SAE team. In her free time, Sol enjoys listening to music, watching films, photography, and trying new restaurants for tapas. Sol is excited to help you get to know this fantastic city, as she fell in love with the city herself! 



Guillem Paredes, Internship Program Coordinator

Currently based in Barcelona, Guillem is very excited to be living in the neighborhood of Sants which is located in the south of the city. After graduating with a degree in Hotel Management and Tourism at CETT University, he decided to do an internship in New York, where he discovered the American culture and fell in love with the city. Since then, he has travelled to the USA several times and tries to spend as much time as possible with the local people. Guillem doesn’t have a lot of time to be bored as he is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Human Resources; but when he does have some free time some of his hobbies include cycling and playing video games.



Núria Planas, Internship Program Coordinator

Currently based in Barcelona, Núria was born and raised in the city that she still calls home. Núria received her B.A in Political Science and Public Administration from Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF) and her M.A in Tourism Management from the State University of Moscow (MGU). During her undergraduate years, she had the opportunity to study abroad twice – first on a summer faculty-led program in Tallinn, Estonia and then during a semester studying in Cork, Ireland. Soon after Núria graduated, she moved to Moscow to pursue her dream of learning Russian.  During her three years there, Núria worked as and Spanish teacher and focused her extracurricular experience in promoting Barcelona and Catalan culture. In her free time, Núria enjoys blogging, cooking for her friends and traveling whenever she can. 



Rocío Torres, Bookkeeper

Currently based in Barcelona, Rocío grew up in La Seu d’Urgell – a little city close to the border of France. Rocío studied Accounting Administration and Work Relations, and has strong experience in different types of companies, specifically in retail. In her spare time, Rocío loves exploring the city of Barcelona, traveling, architecture, playing video games, and experiencing other cultures and people.


United States Staff

Kristin Uyl, Assistant Director of University Relations & Marketing

Kristin is the University Relations Representative for institutions in the West and South.
Looking for the Barcelona SAE University Relations Representative for your region? Click here!

Currently based in California, Kristin is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan where she was bitten by the travel bug early after a trip to England with her high school orchestra. During her time at Grand Valley State University, she studied abroad both in Italy and Thailand. A few years later, Kristin moved to Auckland, New Zealand to pursue a career in higher education before completing her M.S. in College Student Personnel at the University of Tennessee. In her spare time, Kristin enjoys hanging out with her dog (a Chihuahua/Jack Russell mix named Bella…her pride and joy!), cheering for her beloved Detroit Tigers and Michigan Wolverines (GO BLUE!), live music, and playing tennis.


Mike Nelson, University Relations Coordinator & Marketing Assistant

Mike is the University Relations Representative for institutions in the Midwest and New England.
Looking for the Barcelona SAE University Relations Representative for your region? Click here!

Currently based in Minnesota, Mike is originally from Fargo, North Dakota and has spent the last 13 years using his passion for mentorship, quality academics, and study abroad as a campus outreach specialist for several very reputable providers including CET Academic Programs and IFSA-Butler. As a citizen of both the U.S. and Italy, one of Mike’s most avid hobbies is reading about the history of Mediterranean people over the millennia through authors from Ferdinand Braudel to Roberto Saviano. Mike is an avid language learner, and in addition to teaching Italian several terms at North Dakota State University, he has also studied German, French, Castillian, Czech, and Modern Greek.


Hailey Gouza, University Relations Coordinator & Marketing Assistant

Hailey is the University Relations Representative for institutions in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Looking for the Barcelona SAE University Relations Representative for your region? Click here!

Currently based in Pennsylvania, Hailey is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and has a bachelor’s degree in History & International Studies from Susquehanna University. During her time as an undergraduate, she had the opportunity to work with Somali Bantu refugees in Lewiston, Maine by aiding them in securing employment and adjusting to American life while immersing herself in their lifestyle and observing their traditions. Hailey realized that working across cultures and learning about others was her passion, so international education was an obvious career choice. Soon after, she had the chance to study abroad in Barcelona and immediately fell in love with the culture, history, and gastronomy of the city.


Rachael Peden, Manager of Student Advising & Partner Relations

Rachael is the University Relations Representative for institutions in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming.
Looking for the Barcelona SAE University Relations Representative for your region? Click here!

Currently based in Colorado, Rachael is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She spent her undergraduate days at Michigan State University (GO GREEN!), and she also studied abroad through MSU in Greece for a summer. Rachael worked in the social work field for three years before deciding to pursue her master’s degree in Intercultural Relations at Lesley University. Rachael has traveled to many places in Europe, with Austria and Iceland being her 2 favorite countries…until now, since Spain has captured her heart! She is passionate about traveling, studying, and living abroad in order to gain different perspectives and to enjoy new people and places. In Rachael’s free time she likes to run, read, hike, go to the beach, and watch live music.


Christina Thompson, University Relations & Diversity Initiatives Coordinator

Christina is the University Relations Representative for institutions in the Southeast.
Looking for the Barcelona SAE University Relations Representative for your region? Click here!

Currently based in North Carolina, Christina is originally from Oxford, North Carolina and studied for her undergraduate degree in Political Science and graduate degree in Liberal Studies at UNC Greensboro.  She studied abroad in graduate school at Mannheim University in Germany.  For over a decade, Christina has worked a variety of roles in International Education from study abroad and international student advising, office management, teaching intercultural  competency courses, leading faculty-led programs abroad, and last directing a study abroad program.  Christina has traveled extensively in Europe but Barcelona holds a special place for Christina after several visits over the years.  In her free time, Christina enjoys traveling, art, volunteering, networking, and learning new things (most recently karate). 


Jessica Sokol, Senior Study Abroad Advisor

Currently based in Massachusetts, Jessica is originally from Northampton, Massachusetts and earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration at Lynn University. Jessica studied abroad in Dublin and traveled throughout Europe, visiting Barcelona twice (her favorite city!) After graduating, she opened a women’s jewelry and accessories boutique…and when her lease was up, she sold everything in the store and took advantage of an opportunity to hike through Israel. It was an eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Upon returning to the states, she packed three suitcases and moved to Portland, Oregon, for a new adventure. After a few years there, working as an office manager for a property management conglomerate, she realized her heart was back in Massachusetts and returned to the East Coast. Jessica has written a book about her time in Portland, and she loves to travel, go to concerts, and cook delicious vegan food.