professor
Elsa Ubeda

This professor has earned a CULPA gold nugget

Nov 2020

Elsa is hands down one of the best professors I have had during my time at Columbia. She absolutely deserves the praise and the gold nugget. While her classes are hard, some of the hardest I've taken at Columbia, she makes you want to learn and speak the language. I started in Beginning Catalan and ended up taking all the way through Advanced and applied for a Fulbright in a Catalan speaking country because of Elsa. She cares about her students deeply. Even during COVID, when classes were not in session, she corresponded with me and my (one other) classmate regularly. Her classes are small, the largest I had was 4 people, but they feel like family and are a nice refuge from the rest of your courses. Elsa wants to see you learn and succeed, so if you put in the effort and go to her for help, you will succeed. Even if you don't continue, take one class with her. You won't regret it!!!

Sep 2018

Elsa is an absolute gem and 150% deserves the gold nugget. She is incredibly warm, accommodating, and an overall excellent professor-- she structures her lessons in a way that feels easy and natural but you definitely learn a lot. Comprehensive beginning is taught more or less in the immersion method, which I prefer for language classes; however, if you have not studied a romance language before, you may have a bit of difficulty. I cannot recommend Elsa enough-- she will become your best friend by the end of the semester!

Aug 2017

Elsa is the absolute best!!! Make sure you take any class possible that she teaches-- you will not regret it! Yes, you have to put in the work, but it is beyond worth it! When I graduated, I regretted not taking more classes with her! You are lucky to have this opportunity!

Oct 2016

I enjoyed Elsa's Catalan language classes so much that I decided to take her Spanish elective on Intro Catalan Cultures too. Her classes are small, three to ten people, so be prepared to be engaged--and actually learn things that will help you gain a more nuanced, realistic picture of Barcelona and the surrounding Catalonia, plus Valencia, the Balearic Islands and Andorra. To those who say her courses are too much work, all I can say is you get out what you put in. Do the language work and you'll be having legit conversations by the end of one semester of beginning Catalan. Not even kidding. Elsa gives you all the attention you need to succeed, without ever putting you on the spot. She is kind and motivates you to express yourself, which keeps you on your toes and learning in every moment. Same goes for the Spanish elective, though the material is denser by nature. Do the readings and assignments and you'll be surprised by how much they actually connect to life in Barcelona and Catalonia, should you ever have the chance to visit or study abroad there. Sometimes Elsa assigns books, other times movies... either way, it's standard fare for a discussion course, and she's more than happy to guide you and answer questions along the way. She is Catalan and thus cares deeply about the material. If you dedicate time to learning about it, you just might care deeply about it too... And then decide to move to Barcelona.

May 2016

This class was definitely not what I was expecting. I was sold and set on taking this class because of Elsa’s CULPA reviews, but I wish I would have dropped it early in the semester. The first day of class there was about 20 people, but by about week 5 we were down to 4 people. Four people. Elsa said her class was going to be really hard the first day, and she really meant it. She assigns these “paquete de deberes” which are work packets that are due every class, and oh my god do these take so long to do. They can take anywhere from 2 to 4 hours to do. Sometimes she would assign full documentaries, movies, or her giving an online 2-hour lecture and then you still had to answer questions on the packets. The work for these was excessive, we asked several times if she could assign less work and she promised the class would become easier by halfway through the semester. It never did. Class time is always fun, which is probably the reason why I stayed. During class all we do is talk to a classmate about what we learned doing the paquete and she would answer questions we had. It would get slightly uncomfortable since there was only 4 of us and she could easily hear what we were saying, and every time we said something incorrectly she would write the correct word on the board. In such a small class you could not get away with not doing the assigned work. Her questions during class were so specific that it required doing the homework with extra attention. There are no quizzes or exams for this class, but there were 3 essays and 2 projects which required lots of time to do. The essays were short compositions, and she allowed 1 rewrite after giving you corrections. The corrections she gave back usually included 2 pages of her comments in red ink, which didn’t always seem constructive and bordered on being too harsh. Her midterm project and final were very tedious and took days to complete. Elsa is a great instructor. She really does mean well and she wants you to learn. She’s kind and engaging, but I think she’s too eager and has unrealistic expectations for her students. This might have been her first time teaching in Spanish, and even though it’s a 3300 level-course, it was just too much. If you’re still interested in taking this class try it out for 2 weeks, and if it seems like a lot, drop it. The work will only get harder during the semester.

Jan 2014

As a senior, I can say I have taken my fair share of classes at Columbia University. And Elsa is, by far, the best teacher/professor I have ever had. Comprehensive Beg Catalan with Elsa was unlike attending class. It was like coming home to a group of friends after a long day. However, that is not to say it was all fun and games because serious learning did occur. There is a lot of material covered throughout this class and it is important to keep up - but learning with Elsa is so much fun that reviewing for class is exciting, not taxing. A 1:50 block of class FLIES by. Never once did I watch the clock (except maybe during the midterm and final). I'm not one of those students who locks themselves in the library and goes above and beyond in all of their classes. I'm your average joe, so trust me, this class is inspiring. Elsa is amazing. She responds promptly to emails and encourages class participation. No questions are ever stupid and no email is ever ignored. She has an innate ability to inspire a genuine desire for learning within her students. All of my friends and family know Elsa's name because I constantly talk about how much I love her. She is truly one of a kind - the Hispanic Studies department needs more Elsas! Although I have a few regrets from my time here at Columbia, perhaps my biggest regret is not discovering Elsa and her classes sooner. I took Catalan as a last ditch effort when some of my other classes did not work out...and it was the best decision of my Columbia career! I have learned so much about a culture and language I onced disliked. I have completely fallen in love with Catalan and Catalonia. And Elsa has 100% stollen my heart as the sweetest and best instructor on Columbia's campus.

Jun 2013

Elsa is by far my favorite professor at Columbia. Because classes tend to be small, her teaching style is very interactive and personalized. She always finds engaging ways to present the material, so class is never boring. Even if you hadn't heard of Catalan before, you'll find yourself picking it up in no time. I look forward to class each week, and the two hours always seem to fly by. It's obvious how much Elsa cares about her students. She genuinely tries to get to know each person, and will always take time to ask if you're okay when you seem like you're having a bad day. She's also super cool and funny, and I'm pretty sure everyone secretly wants to be her best friend. I highly recommend taking Catalan with Elsa. Not only will you get to know a great professor and bond with classmates, but you'll also learn a lot about Catalan and Spanish culture. Whether you're a Hispanic Studies major or have never taken a Spanish class in your life, you won't regret taking this class!

May 2013

If you're going to study abroad in Barcelona, it is IMPERATIVE that you take a semester or two (actually, you really should take both Comprehensive Beginning Catalan and Intermediate I) of Catalan. You won't regret it, I promise you. Even if you have an interest in Spain (and you want to study abroad in Madrid, Sevilla, or somewhere), I highly recommend taking Catalan because you'll be able to have a greater understanding of Spanish culture through studying Catalan. Catalan is amazing, especially with ELSA, who makes the two-hour classes worthwhile. As it has been said in the last review, Catalan is NOT a dialect of Spanish; it's its own language which is fundamental in order to really get to appreciate Barcelona. Elsa is one of the best professors that I've ever had at Columbia, and they will be the most fun two hours of class you'll have that day. After two semesters, I have been able to pick up a lot of the language (full disclosure: I am fully fluent in Spanish) and have had the opportunity to become confident in my speaking abilities by going to Cafè Català in Casa Hispánica and meeting Catalan expats in the city. In addition, if you want to be in a class where you really get to know your classmates and professor (and feel like family), this is the class for you. While my first semester had 8 students, my second semester had 4, and the classes generally tend to be smaller (more like 4, 5, 6 or sometimes there are even 2). Estudiu català, si us plau! (Study Catalan, please!)

May 2013

If you want a professor who is always smiling, genuinely cares about you, and loves the language she teaches, THIS IS THE CLASS FOR YOU! If you want to learn the most beautiful language in the world, this is the class for you. (Fine, debatable. You should take this class and judge for yourself.) If you're an intimidated freshman looking for that bff professor, take Catalan. If you're a spanish major, take Catalan. *The comprehensive class will count towards your major/concentration. If you're planning to study abroad in Barcelona, take Catalan!! (Believe it or not, spanish is NOT the only language spoken there. Barcelonins may or may not love you a little bit more if you show off your Catalan skills.) If you're looking for a foreign language for your core, take Catalan. Elsa will make the class fun and I promise you'll love her. PS. Catalan is not a dialect of Spanish. And Barça is the abbrev for FC Barcelona, not the city. PPS. Culpa, you should modify spanish+port to span+port+catl. Just saying.

Dec 2010

After 3 semesters of Catalan with Elsa, I still can't get enough. Class with her is always fun and engaging, and I've never had the experience of picking up a language so easily. It helps to have studied Spanish in the past, which all of my classmates and I had, but being a fluent Spanish speaker doesn't give anyone an edge over the other students-- just having a solid understanding of a romance language is enough, and Elsa does the rest. She's my favorite professor at Columbia by far; everyone should do themselves the favor of taking a class with her.