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5 posts from March 2014

03/31/2014

WEEKEND EXCURSION: SEVILLA

By Laura Bulman

Villanova University

_MG_9466This weekend we had our second group excursion. We spent two nights in the beautiful city of Sevilla enjoying the warm weather, incredible sights, and great company. As always, traveling together meant a lot of laughs and very little sleep. We started our journey on Friday morning. When we arrived in Sevilla our brilliant tour guides Paco and Patricia led us through the center of the city, showing us Las Setas, La Alameda de Hércules and some other very “guay” sites. After a delicious meal of typical dishes from Sevilla we headed to the Museo Flamenco. We all had a blast taking a Flamenco lesson from Victor Bravo, a prominent Flamenco dancer (just one of the many perks of having Paco, a Sevilla native, as our director and tour guide!). Although not everyone picked up the moves as quickly as Derek and Erin, everyone had a lot of fun.   _MG_9491That night we headed to a great restaurant, Casa Paco, for some traditional, delicious tapas. After dinner Sheila, a Spanish student from our Red de Estudiantes, lead us on one of her infamous “walking tours,” allowing us to see even more of the city and to get a taste of the nightlife in Sevilla.

_MG_9553The next morning we started our day with a visit to the incredibly beautiful cathedral, which used to be a mosque. We climbed the Giralda, and saw some incredible views of the city before taking a tour of the inside of the cathedral with our wonderful tour guide, Paco. After walking through the picturesque barrio de Santa Cruz, we headed to an amazing pizza place.

We ended our second day in Sevilla with a visit to Plaza de España. We immediately understood why multiple filmmakers choose this impressive spot to put in their movies. Everyone enjoyed the sunshine, the stunning architecture, and watching rowboats circle the plaza. Walking through the Parque de María Luisa to get ice cream was the perfect end to a great day.

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On Sunday, our final day in Sevilla, we visited Reales Alcazares, a set of palaces occupied at different times by Arabic and Spanish royalty. The influence of both cultures made the site interesting and gorgeous.

 As we waited for the train back to Madrid, we reflected on a memorable weekend with a great group of people. We all felt indescribably lucky to be able to have such amazing experiences with a group of such interesting and fun people. On the train ride back, I realized how happy I was with my decision to study abroad. I’ve made some of my best friends through this experience, as well as some unforgettable memories. The excursion to Sevilla was a weekend full of everything I love about studying abroad: new experiences, adventures, and great friends.

 

FLAMENCO EN SEVILLA

by Erin Delaney

University of Illinois, Chicago

 

Two weekends ago I had the pleasure of travelling with my fantastic CIEE Liberal Arts group to Sevilla, which may actually be my favorite city that I´ve visited in Spain yet. I´ll be honest though - I  really didn´t expect to enjoy the trip anywhere near as much as I did. What does that mean? Well, I was really excited about obnoxiously humming the Star Wars theme song while running about the Plaza de España, but not really much else in particular. . . Truth is, I really didn´t know what else makes Sevilla so special. But actually, it turns out there´s a lot to enjoy in Sevilla! Especially when you are with friends. I enjoyed the beautiful sights, la Giralda, the plaza de España (of course), finding late night dinners with companions, and dancing flamenco. Yes, we danced flamenco! I really like dancing so getting a flamenco lesson from Victor Bravo at the Museo del baile flamenco superexceeded my expectations for what was to me the "Star Wars city".

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The Museo del Baile Flamenco is a truely unique museum dedicated to the dance of flamenco. According to the brochure (which I´m looking at right now), the museum is the only flamenco dance museum in the world. An interactive museum, I allowed us to experience a bit of this essential part of Andalusian culture and heritage.

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We arrived at the museum after lunch and immediately started with our first lesson. We start with clapping, as anyone who´s ever seen flamenco can tell you, an important part of the dance. Victor showed us four basic clapping rhythms. We proceeded then to add steps and stomps. Later, after we had - more or less - mastered the number he was teaching us, he showed us the wrist motions that make the dance much more sensual. Men and women had different styles for the wrist rolls. While he was doing this, he told us some of the history behind the incorporation of the hand motions in flamenco. Apparently, this part of the dance comes from hindu influences. I was fascinated to learn about the many different influences in flamenco. Flamenco is what it is today thanks to hindu culture, ballet, arabic, and even some African culture.

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After the class we proceeded to a quick tour of the museum, where we saw videos of flamenco artists, costume displays, and artwork, and learned about the various styles of flamenco and the various sentiments it portrays. I think some of the categories I saw were happy, passionate, sad, death. I really enjoyed learning more about this beautiful, rich. It´s very captivating, the music, the dance, the intensity! Learning about and experiencing the flamenco of Sevilla really was such a rich experience! I enjoyed very much :)

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03/19/2014

SPRING 2014, NEWSLETTER #2

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US COLLEGE & UNIVERSITY ADVISORS VISIT CIEE MADRID

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This past  month, CIEE Madrid staff was pleased to welcome a group of advisors from different American Universities and colleges interested in learning about the four study programs offered in Madrid. The visit, organized by CIEE headquarters in Portland, ME proposed a variety of activities to allow the group to learn about the experience of their students in Madrid. Visiting homestays, attending presentations, learning about the content of each program and meeting with host university representatives. In addition to informal meetings with staff and faculty provided a full program where this group was able to ask questions about those elements that appeared more interesting and appealing to their students. 

At the end of this highly satisfactory visit we all agreed that meeting with university partners in person, having them knowing everything about the program and establishing a closer relationship that, undoubtedly, improves the protocols and advising for a students' experience abroad. We encourage all advisors interested in visiting us, to contact the CIEE representative in the U.S., we will be happy to welcome you in Madrid! 
 

PRACTICING SPANISH AND MEETING PEOPLE

 

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Practicing Spanish is the main goal for the Liberal Arts Group. Being students with an advanced level of Spanish, they look for new opportunities to practice the language and use new vocabulary, and expressions. They all want to reach a level of proficiency that is only possible with a lot of practice and effort which needs not only to respect our "only Spanish" language pledge but also break the American bubble and make Spanish friends.

In order to do so, CIEE organizes every semester an event that is one of the students' favorites: Meet & Talk. It consists on an informal meeting at the university where a group of Spanish students meet with CIEE students and exchange ideas through informal conversation. This CIEE ice breaker creates a closer relationship that often leads to semester long friendships. Many Spanish students are interested in learning about American culture and show our students around, thus this event is often a turning point in our students' integration into Madrid. After exchanging emails and phone numbers, many of the participants start going out and doing activities with Spaniards after the "Meet and Talk" and practicing their Spanish becomes an easy thing to do.

 

SUPPORTING THE SPANISH SOCCER TEAM

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When two national soccer teams play one against the other it is always a big cultural event no one wants to miss. If these two teams are world champions the event becomes a must. A group of the Liberal Arts students took note of it and went to the Real Madrid stadium to support the Spanish team against Italy. Equipped with flags, painted faces and great energy, our students were accompanied by our CIEE Madrid Red de Estudiantes (Spanish Students Network) who helped them to understand the game rules, teach the way Spaniards in the bleechers interact during a game, identify and point out the famous players and enjoy the fun while Spain beat Italy.  An unforgettable social experience that many expressed will remain with them forever.

 

A DAY IN THE MOUNTAINS

 

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Our students are very impressed when they learn that Madrid has mountains. They especially like it that it is possible to practice snow sports just half an hour away from the city and that there are great hiking routes along the mountains with some roman ruins, streams of natural water and breathtaking views of nature.
In order to give them a first approach to the mountains we invite them to join our activity "Come Around Sunday," a great opportunity to hike and mingle with Spanish families. During a sunny Sunday morning, a group of enthusiastic students joined three families who took them on a trail showing them a path along the Madrid sierra and the hidden treasures of the area (such as an old Roman bridge that is more than twenty centuries old). Families provided our students an opportunity to practice their Spanish but also teach them (indirectly) about one of the most important values in Spanish society: The priority of family in many social relations. Students could observe how family members interact with one another, seeing the differences and similarities with American families during a day out in nature.  In addition, our students were able to ask lots of questions about Spanish culture while getting interesting insights from the young Spanish adults who participated in this activity.
Next month we will repeat this activity again by popular student demand. 
 

LIVING AND LEARNING IN MADRID

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A visit to the Royal Palace, led by the RD, was the excuse to explore the concept of status and hierarchy in Spain, a well ingrained value of Spanish society that also brings cultural misunderstandings to many of ours students. Exploring the interior of the largest royal palace in Western Europe, the group was able to learn about power status in Spanish history and its importance of hierarchy. The group of students visiting the Palace also reflected on how it influences social relationships and people´s behavior of people in different situations (like addressing others in a formal or informal speech, ways to address professors, or the role of the elderly, for instance).

This visit was part of a full program of activities in the CIEE course "Spanish Cultural Studies - Seminar on Living and Learning" which explores different elements of Spanish culture aiming to develop the students' intercultural skills. Through a continuous reflection on the experience, students in this class are able to better understand  how they face their daily life conflicts and come to a better understanding of the ways Spanish society and culture work.
 

LUNCH WITH RESIDENT DIRECTOR

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As a way to meet informally, the Resident Director for the Liberal Arts Madrid Program has begun to hold lunches at the university cafetería in what is called "Brown bags meetings".
Every week, students join the RD to lunch together and talk about different things having the opportunity to provide feedback on their experience. The purpose of these informal meetings is to see the students, talk to them out of the office in a relaxed environment, and ask them about different aspects of their study abroad experience assuring that they are satisfied, they don't have problems with classes, and are enjoying their time here participating in social events. The meetings are also a good way to catch up with those students that are more independent and do not require help regularly. During the meetings is always surprising their improvement in Spanish and the progress in their levels which is always the (good) sign of an important achievement
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FLAMENCO LESSON WITH FLAMENCO STAR

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When Victor Bravo, flamenco dancer and director of the Flamenco Museum, agreed on teaching a class to the students we did not know how valuable the experience was going to be. At first, the group was hesitant. They thought they wouldn´t be able to learn the steps, move their arms, hands and hips at the same time that they clap and tap the floor with their feet.  However, Victor Bravo's mastery and his experience teaching flamenco to beginners made the process an easy one. Starting with basic movements, introducing new elements  little by little to end with a complete and skilled dance that astonished our students. When the class ended, the group continued clapping and tapping the floor with their feet. Many of them wished to continue with this cultural activity. Hopefully they keep up their newly gained confidence and keep practicing what they have learned once they return home in the US!

See the LA students learning flamenco:

 

 To see Victor Bravo dancing:

03/11/2014

VIVIENDO LA VIDA MADRILEÑA

Por Isabella Ulloa

Tufts University

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Tengo que ser honesta. Siempre he querido estudiar fuera de los Estados Unidos por un semestre y afortunadamente he tenido la oportunidad de pasar cinco meses haciendo eso en Madrid. Unos cuantos meses antes de venir, estuve solicitando a varios programas en diferentes ciudades europeas. La verdad es que durante ese proceso me puse a pensar bastante sobre un nuevo estilo de vida, si quería vivir con una familia, si quería vivir sola o con amigos. Cuando fui aceptada y elegí estudiar en Madrid con el programa de CIEE, pensaba que no me interesaba el concepto de un ‘homestay’. Ya hablaba el idioma, me sentia comoda viajando sola a una ciudad que no conocía y sabía que tenía amigos en otros programas por si acaso los necesitaba. Me llegaron los datos sobre mi anfitriona unos días antes de irme de Miami y verdaderamente no sabía como sentirme. No fue hasta que llegué a la casa de mi anfitriona que me dí cuenta de la suerte que tuve. Este sentimiento fue más amplificado cuando empecé a comparar mi alojamiento en Madrid con el de mis amigos en otros programas. Fue muy claro que CIEE se esmera para encontrar anfitriones excepcionales.

Yo vivo con Patricia y sus dos chihuahuas (Sofi y Coco) en Plaza de España. La ubicación del apartamento es perfecto porque muchos barrios me quedan cerca, tengo una parada de metro bastante grande a menos de dos cuadras y me tarda apenas cinco minutos en llegar al Templo de Debod, lo cual tiene unos atardeceres espectaculares. Patri es joven, cariñosa e inteligente. La podría describir con mil adjetivos, pero creo que un cuento breve sería mejor.

Al final del programa de orientación de CIEE, los estudiantes y anfitriones fueron invitados a comer con los directores del programa. Yo le había mencionado a Patri que necesitaba comprar un teléfono de prepago para tener aquí en España. Ella ofreció acompañarme para asegurarse de que me vendieran el teléfono apropiado al precio más económico. Creo que ya habían pasado unos cuantos días desde que yo había llegado a Madrid y ella yá me había dicho varias veces que tuviera cuidado con el ‘pickpocketing’ que ocurre por toda la ciudad, específicamente en barrios turísticos. Después de que comimos, Patri, su amiga y yo fuimos a la Puerta del Sol para conseguir el teléfono. Yo estuve caminando más adelante con la amiga de Patri mientras que ella estuvo hablando con unos anfitriones que por casualidad estaban caminando en la misma dirección. De repente siento que alguien me ha agarrado el bolso (que tenía por dentro todas mis tarjetas de crédito, un dinero en efectivo y mi pasaporte) y me viro para no solamente agarrarlo bien, pero también para ver quién era a la persona. Me doy cuenta de que la persona quién me ha agarrado el bolso es Patri, quién está casi muerta de la risa y me dice, “Te he dicho 50 veces que no cargues el bolso con la cerradura por detrás que te van a robar!!” Pues me dió un ataque de risa que ní lo puedo describir. Pero desde ese día en adelante, siempre cargo el bolso con la cerradura por delante y lo agarro bien. A veces me pongo a reir cuando me acuerdo porque tengo tanta precaución.

Lo importante de este cuento es que describe muy bien a Patri. Es lista, cariñosa, tiene un buen humor y es muy fácil sentirse cómoda con ella. Siempre está disponible por cualquier cosa que necesite, pero también respeta lo independiente que soy. Ofrece ayudarme con deberes de la universidad y llevarme a cosas como el Rastro en La Latina o Mercado Fuencarral para pasar unas cuantas horas del día. Adicionalmente, es muy inteligente, lo cual la hace interesante. En fin, me siento muy agradecida por poder vivir con Patri durante los meses que estaré en Madrid.

03/04/2014

MOROCCO: ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE WEEKENDS OF MY LIFE

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By Benjamin Donarun

Providence College

After spending a month traveling only around Spain, it was about time to dust off the passport and set sail for a new continent and an even greater adventure. So on a chilly Thursday night almost 20 CIEE students alongside some new friends boarded our tour bus headed to Africa. Eager with anticipation and barely able to sleep, we made the overnight journey to Tarifa and then boarded the ferry the next morning to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. With the sun high in the sky that Friday afternoon, I anxiously took my first step onto Africa and began what would become one of the most memorable weekends of my life. Finally stepping off the boat into Tangier, Morocco, everyone was a bit tired from a long trip, but knowing we were minutes away from riding camels along the African coast, no one was complaining.

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We boarded the busses for a quick tour through Tangier that quickly changed every expectation I’ve ever had about Africa. We drove through downtown before embarking up into the hills scattered with beautiful estates and unbelievable ocean views. Before I knew it, we had arrived. Stepping off the bus the scenery was amazing but even better was the threesome of camels there to greet us. After some once-in-a-lifetime camel selfies, we headed down the cliffs to the moment we had all been waiting for. Studying abroad allows one to experience so many new things, but for me riding a camel down the beaches of Morocco takes the cake as the all-time greatest (so far). It was sitting atop a camel that I realized how different a lifestyle from back home I was living. Following that camel ride I hit an all-time high even though we had only been in Morocco for two hours. We finally left the beach and headed down the street to Hercules Cave to catch some incredible views of the ocean as the waves crashed up against the rocky cliff. In addition to that some kids took advantage of the opportunity to buy from the venders selling their souvenirs inside the cave. As the day drew to a close, the group headed back into town for a traditional Moroccan meal where we could listen to Moroccan music, relax, and reflect on an incredible first day in Morocco.

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We were up by 7 am sharp the next morning and ready to do some bargain shopping in Tangier’s Bazaar. We started off on a walking tour through the neighborhoods of Tangier, stopped to watch a snake charmer, and then headed into a Moroccan spice shop where we could buy some tea, oil, and traditional Moroccan spices. That set the pace of the day as we bopped from shop to shop only stopping to make a quick deal with the street vendors along the way. As we began to get hungry, our tour headed to Asilah, a small coastal town, where we enjoyed lunch, beautiful ocean views and architecture, and some more shopping. Finally as our second day in Morocco came to a close we started heading back to Tangier. Back at our hotel, we had time to explore on our own and grab a bite to eat before our tour guides took us out to celebrate an incredible trip.

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Boarding the bus the next morning, the daunting 8 hour bus and ferry ride did not seem so bad with hundreds of new pictures to look through, incredible experiences to look back on, and a ton of new memories to share. On that bus ride home, I finally realized that I am currently living those “unforgettable experiences” that drew me to study abroad in the first place.

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